Path of Exile - Xbox One Review

Path of Exile has been out on PC for a little while now, but I have only just taken the time to play it since its release on the Xbox One. With it being a free game, I had previously found myself wondering: Just how good can this be? The answer surprised me: Very, very good.

Path of Exile works as well as it does because the developers have found an almost masterful blend of familiar elements, polished presentation and unique qualities that many big budget AAA titles fail to provide.

It all starts with the character customization process.and really, that creativity permeates through the game itself. The skill tree is made up of so many numerous nodes that it actually kind of boggles the mind at times. Layer these skills against gems and loot, and you start to get some really unique combinations out in the playing field.

And speaking of the playing field, I was surprised to see just how much Path of Exile resembled a very old friend of mine. While the world of Wraeclast is obviously a creation of the developers, there is a moody darkness that reminds me a bit of Diablo II or Demon's Souls. The story takes a backseat to the gameplay, looting and character progression - not unlike those aforementioned titles. NPC characters are there to add a bit of flavor through their dialog, but seldom are the things they are saying terribly important. However, there is a sort of ever-encroaching darkness in this world, constantly pushing at your senses that helps to elevate the world into something a little creepy and pretty fantastic to explore. Think lots of inky black shadows and fiery orange hellfire. It just happens that I am a tremendous fan of dark fantasy, and while there is no denying that Diablo II is an inspiration here, the world of Wraeclast is a pretty fascinating one in its own right.

When the game kicks off with its introduction, I found myself clicking away at enemies as though I had been playing the game forever, not for seconds. Still, it takes advantage of what has commonly worked in the action/RPG genre over the years, and creates an approachable sense of familiarity right out of the gates. That makes Path of Exile incredibly approachable, and it is only as you start to play the game longer and peel back its layers that you realize just how much depth there is to the character progression and skill systems.

Of course, most action/RPG titles hang their hat on the cycle of all things loot. Kill critter, get a piece of gear, maybe it's a marginal amount better, maybe not. It creates a fantastic carrot to dangle in front of a player and games like Diablo have long since mastered it. To its credit, Path of Exile has some pretty familiar class types and weapons, but they still have just enough nuance to make this feel like much more than a Diablo II.5.

It helps that there is a pretty large community around this game on both PC and apparently already on Xbox One. I had no difficulty in finding groups and while I am more of a solo player myself, it is nice to know that the option is there if I wish to use it. Combat is not necessarily easy, even if I found it approachable. Working in a group certainly makes the sledding a good deal easier, even if the group is not necessarily the best coordinated out there. The combat is really well balanced however, which is a key here considering that is how you will spend the majority of your time.

I found myself having to think through the best skills and armor, and certainly I had to pay attention while fighting, because the combat can be a little forgiving, but it is also possible to find yourself greatly outnumbered if you do not develop some core strategies around your skills and how to handle the waves of opponents. I do not tend to die in Diablo titles very much either, and to that end Path of Exile is rather similar. There is always the threat that you will die if you begin to take things for granted, but I seldom do because I pay attention to my gear and upgrades along the way. It is a careful balancing act, but one that the devs really seem to have a good handle on.

Still, what really blows me away is that this truly feels like a free-to-play game. Sure, there are cosmetic items and additional stash tabs (full disclosure, I was sent the First Blood Bundle so I could kick the tires on a few things more quickly for this review - something of a 'starter pack'), but considering that free price tag, this is a really high quality game. That being said, games like this can be a little bit grindy, and I think that is the case for Path of Exile as well. It is really easy to sink time into, but if you boil it down, there is a good deal of repetition in the core actions you are performing.

The thing that really gets me is that this is a free-to-play title that exudes high quality. The music is really good, and the visuals are equally impressive. They both help convey the sort of dank, dark world you are exploring. It controls really well, making the transition to console a pretty comfortable one with a controller. I do wish the story was a bit more interesting, but it is still propped up by a world that I continually wanted to explore and almost limitless character customization. It's free - give it a try!

Game Information

Xbox One
Grinding Gear Games
Grinding Gear Games
Single Player
Other Platform(s):

Path of Exile First Blood Bundle provided by Publisher

Article by Nick


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