I played Grinding Fear Games’s Path of Exile for a while after it launched. I was a huge fan of the totally bonkers passive skill tree (1325 nodes!!) and a few of the item economies— it’s a very creative action RPG and was definitely worth the time I spent on it. Since then, it’s enjoyed a few updates. I haven’t really followed it too closely over the last year, though.
Now, however, it’s getting an even bigger update, The Fall of Oriath, which adds six chapters to the four-chapter-long game. The amount of content in the new version is enough to have justified a sequel, if this game were a traditional boxed product— but since PoE is a F2P online game, the developers decided to include the new content as an update rather than split the playerbase. The new update is currently in beta and will launch in July.
What’s more interesting to me, however, is that the game in its fully-updated Fall of Oriath state will actually launch on Xbox One later this year. I got a while to check out how the game plays with a controller, and it’s pretty good, actually. If you’re a console player who wanted to play a hack-and-slash RPG but never got a chance to check out Diablo 3 for whatever reason, Path of Exile could be a good free option for you.
The port to gamepad controls is pretty good. Abilities are bound to the face buttons; pressing right trigger shifts those keys to a different ability set, which gives you access to eight abilities at once. I got to try out a melee character, the Duelist, as well as a Templar who’d been specced as a spellcaster. Controlling the spell caster was a little more difficult than the Duelist, since his abilities on PC make use of cursor position for a teleport spell; however, I bet I’d be able to master his controls on gamepad with a little practice. Ever since Diablo 3, I really do expect mouse-original hack-and-slash games on console to have fluid and satisfying controls, and PoE seems like it’s doing a good job.
The console version will also launch with all the content from the Fall of Oriath campaign as well, so that stuff was most of what I saw in my hands-on demo. I fought a giant crab-monster whose boss-battle arena kept shrinking in a ring of crashing waves; I smushed a bunch of lobster swarms, too. I was then hurried off to an environment I more strongly associate with PoE’s main aesthetic: a totally-ruined, blood-drenched palace kind of a thing where everything was drowning in murderous red haze. There, I got my ass kicked by a three-story-high risen god who kept accidentally dropping his heart on the floor. The devs explained that the majority of the new expansion is focused on defeating this fellow; acts six through ten involve traveling back to the game’s original starting areas and gaining the power necessary to defeat him.
This means that the new expansion will take players back to the exact same towns and locations I saw when I first played Path of Exile years ago. And good news: they are no longer a relentless brown morass! One of the things that made me drop away from this game back when it was much shorter was the super-brown and muddy art style. Most of the new expansions over the last few years have moved away from the all-dirt-all-the-time look the game launched with; it was genuinely relieving to see familiar old environments lit up and green.
I’ll probably be checking out Path of Exile’s new expansion on the PC, though as a PS4-haver I probably won’t be able to try the Xbox One version personally. Which is a shame; Diablo 3 convinced me that there ought to be more hack and slash RPGs on console than there currently are. If you agree, and you’re looking for massive crowds of scuttling lobsters to smash, Path of Exile might satisfy.