Hack ‘n’ Slash Brilliance: Path Of Exile’s ‘Race’ Events

By Nathan Grayson on February 21st, 2013 at 4:00 pm.

I imagine that these leagues will be a total bloodbath. But, you know, the other kind. Not with tubs.

You might see the oft-maligned specter of F2P hanging over Path of Exile and fear the worst, but you’d be missing out on what’s quietly becoming the smartest hack ‘n’ slash in the business. Between socketable everything (including maps and skills!) and difficulty that’s not afraid to eat a bowl of nails and steal its powers, PoE’s slowly but surely pushing the needle forward. Which brings us to brand new, ultra-fast-paced “race” events. In short, they toss players into fresh economies – doughy and naked minus whatever quantities of luck and skill they’re dual-wielding – and task them with out-leveling everyone over the course of an hour or a week. And now Grinding Gear’s put together a race league that comes with special, event-only rewards. Of course, the system is not without its flaws, but GG’s got a few plans to work out the kinks.

On the most basic level, leagues work as follows:

“Rather than running self-contained individual races, we’ve now structured the events into seasons. Season One starts this weekend (February 23, NZ time) and runs for just over six weeks (until April 7, NZ time). There are prizes for top-placing people in each race, prizes for people who achieve good results for a set of events in a season and prizes for people who finish at the top of the realm overall in a given season. Seasons of races help encourage players to play in multiple events and allow us to provide prizes that transcend individual events – giving players something meaningful and special to work towards over several days or weeks.”

However, as GG points out, this system very much favors players who’ve got heaps of time to kill – in addition to, you know, monsters. But it’s not all bad news. “We’ve pitched the prizes so that there are still cool things to win even if you can only play in one event per week,” the developer noted.

In the near future, leagues will also expand to encompass all sorts of various secondary factors. While solo, party, and turbo are the main options at the moment, Burning Ground or Blood Magic are in the discussion for future events.

So yes, this sounds quite interesting. And, so long as you’ve got a decent handle on Path of Exile’s ins-and-outs, you can hop right in. Honestly, developers of both ARPGs and F2P games in general could stand to crib a few notes from this setup. I doubt it’ll go off entirely without a hitch, but the philosophy behind it is a very promising one. So then, who’s gonna have a go at the first season?

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64 Comments »

  1. Coriolis says:

    So how is this conceptually different from ladders in D2?

    The boring 1-2 skill gameplay of this game already bored me after I played through on normal, and this doesn’t look like it’s improving that, or the fact that it’s laggier then even D2 was, before and after the open beta.

    I should say, designing a character build in this game is fairly interesting. Playing it, not so much.

    • Premium User Badge

      Martel says:

      That’s exactly how I felt about this game. I could probably spend hours in the skill trees and calculators, but after just a few minutes of playing it I wanted to uninstall it…..which I did.

      • Zorn says:

        I shared the same experience. Path of Exile has a good propaganda apparatus.
        But behind that, everything’s not as brilliant as it’s made out to be.

    • Gorillion says:

      Ditto. Not to mention the AWFUL balancing that hits hard around Act 3 cruel makes so many builds outside of *max armor* *max life regen* *max resistances* almost nonviable. Lots of cool ideas, but I won’t be coming back until I see *balance overhaul* in the notes giving me an idea that the game will actually let me be a little creative.

      • dE says:

        That part surprised me the most. I had preplanned a character, read up on the skilltree prior to playing, had smooth sailing all the way through normal difficulty, happy sailing til Act 3 cruel. At which point it sailed straight into a wall at high speed, literally within one mapchange it became unplayable, with the character turning out to be irreversibly broken. I don’t mind starting a new character, but I’d at least like some sort of warning, some premonition that a build is falling out of balance.
        In Short:
        There’s a massive and rather specific difficulty spike in Act 3 Cruel. I heard friends moan about that, seen complaints in chat and maybe that means there really is an issue. BUT… try getting that across in the POE Community.

        • mackster2289 says:

          The official forums are pretty staunch defenders of the difficulty in the game and will harass anyone who says that the game is too hard, unfair, or unbalanced. I like a difficult game, but I think the difficulty curve could be smoothed a bit.

          • Baines says:

            The people who stick with the game are going to be the people most likely to defend it, flaws or not.

            Plus, there is that whole “We want a difficult game. If you can’t learn to play it or aren’t enough of a man to deal with it, go play XXXXX 3.” mindset.

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          BubuIIC says:

          I noticed the first real difficulty spike in Act III normal… after being frustrated for a while I changed a few minor things on my character and got further through game. Now I’m in Act III cruel and here is the same difficulty spike. Let’s see how it goes…

          • kodjeff1 says:

            This is the first game to get it’s claws into me in such a way for quite a while. I made a couple characters and ran them through Normal to get a feel for things, and stuck with a certain Ranger build after some time. Now I’m level 55 heading into Merciless.

            I understand that me saying that the game is ‘not that hard’ doesn’t mean all that much, as difficulty is based on skill (i.e. my wife, for example, would hate it even on normal). But, for someone who thrives on difficulty in games, I think it’s really well balanced. It doesn’t feel unfair, and at the same time it doesn’t give you a crutch.

            I love the complexity of the passive skill system, and the crafting system is interesting in itself.

            However, the truly dangerous monsters in the game are the frequent lag spikes…

    • UncleLou says:

      The boring 1-2 skill gameplay of this game already bored me after I played through on normal

      The skill gems come into their own pretty quickly. My skillbar is full, and every skill is a combination of main gems and (several) support gems that I am sure is pretty unique. PoE has the most flexible and deepest skill system of the genre by quite some margin, it might not be immediately apparent though. Once you start finding support gems and gear with linked skill slots, the possibilities are pretty enormous.

      • Coriolis says:

        Not really. For alot of different reasons most builds are centered around one or two skills (one aoe, one melee). And then maybe a few addons like curses or auras that aren’t particularly interesting. The support gems are a cute idea but in practice you just put in the best support gems you can equip due to stat descriptions. They don’t actually change the gameplay, which is basically right click until dead.

        Coming from D3, which for all it’s faults actually required you to make a build where you’d actually use 6 different skills, the gameplay is just boring. Same applies to Torchlight 2 of course.

        • d32 says:

          I’m using 4 skills repeatedly on second difficulty and I’m pretty sure I would be less effective with just two.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Wait I thought RPS and its commentators had decided that D3 was terrible and Torchlight 2 and PoE were far superior (before ever playing them in a remotely finished state).

      I mean PoE and Torchlight 2 are ok, but as far as being worth your time D3 kills them, and I didn’t even particularly like D3. I put maybe 100 hours in and I am sure I will never go back, but there is no way PoE is getting 20 out of me as is. Torchlight 2 just seemed like a graphically updated D2, and I tired f that after 2 playthroughs.

      • Baines says:

        Torchlight 2 makes me sad.

        All that work, yet it seems to have more missteps than improvements compared to Torchlight 1. Like those pointlessly large, lifeless, and all around dull overworld maps (which are even more dull on replay). Such a big advertised feature, so badly handled. The pointless multiple hub cities. Enchantments overhauled into boredom. The boring character builds…

        • UncleLou says:

          I really liked act 3, the forest area, it was atmosheric, but acts 1 and 2 are really a bit sterile. Dungeons are better.

          Have they improved the balancing in the meantime? I haven’t checked for a few months.I stopped playing my second playthrough on the next difficulty level because I was an unstoppable force that downed absolutely everything with a combination of 2 skills, and I was already playing on one of the harder difficutly settings. :-/

      • Sic says:

        Pfff D3.

  2. SkittleDiddler says:

    I never thought that an ARPG could make combat boring, but PoE manages to do just that for me. It’s a real pity too because the rest of the game is actually pretty good.

    Until the devs fix the sleep-inducing combat mechanics, no amount of special events is going to draw me back in.

    • Baines says:

      I find combat in pretty much the whole genre to be boring. (Sadly funny that the spambots continue to get through, but saying the “D” game’s name in any context gets your post automatically eaten.)

      The whole genre divorces the player too much from the action, an attempt to make a twitch arcade/console action game without the twitch arcade/console part of the formula, and instead with mouse control. In some ways it is only getting worse as developers try to inject action into the formula, as the additions either lead to more cheapness, more boring encounters, or more skills to ignore.

      • Blackcompany says:

        Perfect summary of the problems with this genre in the modern age. Agree completely.

      • mouton says:

        Yeah, seriously, I can’t see how ARPG fans can criticize this game, seeing how bland and boring such games ultimately are.

        I like PoE, for some reason. Music, perhaps? Will play it for a while until I toss it away on the same pile as other ARPGs.

    • Calabi says:

      I have to agree I was flinging fire arrows and changing every so often to another type when the enemy had resists. I realized wtf am I doing this for. You want high dps because you want the combat to be quicker because its so dull. Players run around in multiplayer like headless chickens because the gameplay is so dull.

      Its not this games fault apart from the fact that it copies the core genres gameplay wholesale.

      I can think of a few things that might make it more interesting. No canned animations, ragdolls, dismemberment, things like that, where you have abilities that can throw enemies and cause them to interact with the environment in interesting ways.

      Some kind of combo system and reward system where the more creative you are with your death dealing the more you are rewarded.

      But they would probably turn it into a different game. I think the requirement for these sorts of games is for them to be dull. The hook is only the items gotta collect the best ones to make it less dull.

      • Baines says:

        To me, mouse move/attack and the underlying genre mechanics are the problem.

        When Torchlight II throws a bunch of enemies and effects at you, you end up fighting the control system as much as the enemies themselves. That the genre needs a button for “stand in place,” just so attempting ranged attacks won’t cause you to repeatedly suicide, shows a limit of the control system. A limit that is promptly ignored as developers try to make the games more interesting with environmental damage, area effects, and the like.

        Tossing in effects like ragdolls and dismemberments will only work for a while. I watched a friend play D3, and he was really impressed with the death effects. For about a day. Then he was bored of them.

        • Vorphalack says:

          You hold down shift to attack in place, and you can hot key skills so you don’t need to use a mouse click. That’s been a standard of Deeablo (so I hear that censor is still a thing) clones for over a decade and it works perfectly.

          • Baines says:

            I know that the shift key is the “stand in place” button. That the genre needs a “stand in place” button shows an issue with its design.

            Combined mouse move/aim is flawed when it comes to action. The whole genre is based on some ideas that have issues meshing with action.

            This comes up more as developers try to push their games to be more active and reactive.

          • Vorphalack says:

            They have the shift key and hot keys to solve the design problem, at which point it stops being a problem.

          • Focksbot says:

            Also: ARPGs are nearly always more fun in multiplayer, and the assumption that PC gamers only player multiplayer through networks is galling. I find PC iterations with no gamepad/co-op support kind of ridiculous, but presumably they’re like that because gamepad players would, for once, have a massive advantage, being able to move and fire in separate directions.

            Currently replaying Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light with a friend just because there are so few other PC games where you can dungeon-quest with a pal around the same computer.

        • mihor_fego says:

          Let’s be honest, the whole click-to-move thing of ARPGs is only a relic of the past. Sadly, with the popularity of DOTA-style games we won’t see it going away for a while more.

          For those who think this would turn ARPGs into action games or anything like that, keep in mind that the only differences between the genres originally were movement/camera angle and leveling.

          Now we can actually have a mix of RPG skill and loot variety, twin-stick shooter aiming and action game movement /dodge mechanics, combined with the classic pseudo-isometric camera view. There’s no reason for having boring ARPGs anymore.

          • UncleLou says:

            The more directly controlled games in the genre (BG:DA, Champions of Norrath) never took off, and mostly served to show how limiting ths control method is compared to click to move/keyboard. There’s nothing dated about stat-based ARPGs, they’re simply a different genre to more skill:/twitch-based games. Arguing they’re a thing of the past is in stark contrast to the enormous success of these games lately. It’s the same as arguing real-time games are better than turn-based ones. You basically admit that yourself when you mention DOTA.

  3. nimzy says:

    That screenshot you used is absolutely gruesome. I’m not normally affected by such things but I cringed a bit.

    • Chalky says:

      Mmmhm, the topless decapitated female body is perhaps a bit much. I’m not sure content like that is actually able to get past censors in the UK.

      • frightlever says:

        You misspelled “US”.

      • noodlecake says:

        Topless decapitated female corpses are worse than topless decapitated male corpses?

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          BEWBS.

        • Chalky says:

          I can’t say I really know what I’m talking about, but I think naked breasts + blood may be something censors in the UK take issue with. I would do some research but I’m at work and I’m not sure googling for those words would be the best idea right now.

          And yeah, topless women and topless men are not the same thing in our society as you are obviously aware.

    • mouton says:

      The whole level is so over-the-top gruesome, it is actually quite depressing. And yet I like it, heh.

    • Reapy says:

      Don’t worry, as long as its not a real life 3d bust it’s not sexist and is a-ok.

      • Gallimaufry says:

        +1
        I see what you did there. Nice!
        In all seriousness though, that place do look quite gruesome.

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      colossalstrikepackage says:

      I second this. Since when is dungeon torture okay? Even COD gets its obligatory torture scenes over with quickly – and they aren’t the poster child for being well adjusted (given the death toll you tend to leave in your wake).

  4. mont3core says:

    They’ve been hosting races for quite some time in the “closed” beta. They are a lot of fun and let you test out that new build you’ve been thinking of without wasting your time.

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  6. aliksy says:

    Yeah, PoE was very much… okay, gameplay-wise.

    What ruined the illusion for me was finding an incredible +100% damage bow, and watching it slowly become less and less effective as I progressed. It just really drove home how much of a treadmill the game is.

  7. JuJuCam says:

    I never thought I’d say this, but the art in this game really lets down the innovative gameplay mechanics. I don’t mean the style, which is frankly neither here nor there (the whole elder god thing is kind of art neutral for me at this point, since I feel like I see it a lot and it never seems all that creative or interesting anymore), but there are some things about the models and animations that just bother me. Like the way the standing pose for the witch looks more appropriate for a ballerina, or speaking of witches, how the minion zombies remind me far too much of undercooked Hank and Dean Venture clones (and seem to be about as effective).

    One thing that really bothered me, though, was that the way two handed melee weapons are handled doesn’t look at all effective. There’s no concept of melee weapon range, so your toon runs right up to the enemy and essentially beats on them with their hands, with a good 75% of the weapon not making any contact at all. It drives me mad, particularly with big axes that may as well not have axe heads.

    I’ve found I’m most satisfied with playing a bow-wielding ranger, but when the momentary gameplay is so lacking in lustre, I become far too keenly aware of the Progress Questishness of the whole thing. Added to that the ridiculous lag I’m getting, and I’d rather reinstall Titan Quest or Depths of Peril.

  8. mollemannen says:

    i absolutely loved this game when i started playing it. all the systems for skills and the passive tree is brilliant. movement is precise and combat feels tactical and fast paced. my only gripe (if i had to chose one) is that the game is a tad bit easy (and boring) on normal and painfully hard once you’ve reached cruel and upwards. i’ve seen many fun, creative and viable builds in their “build of the week” videos and i have myself spent several hours just building and rebuilding characters in the passive tree on the homepage.

  9. SuperNashwanPower says:

    That image is disturbingly beautiful. Red white and gold, good combo. The fact its blood is deliciously manipulative, in an artistic sense. I love it, but feel bad for loving it.

    ART I tell you :)

  10. derbefrier says:

    You are all insane this is the best arpg I have played in a long time. A lot of your complaints are valid though I guess though a little exaggerated in my opinion. It’s not an easy game amd has some tough difficulty spikes such as act 3 in cruel like some have mentioned it can feel a bit uneven at times but I found you just have to play a lot more carefully instead of running head first into a pack of mobs in the later difficulties. It also seems to suffer the same problems as a lot of games in this genre such as a decrease in build viability in the higher difficulties but in spite of all that I am having a great time.

    • rusty5pork says:

      The problem is perception. SITUATION: You walk into Solaris Temple, and get instagibbed. 8 times.

      Normal Gamer: “This game is too hard. /quit”

      Hardcore Gamer: “I must be doing something wrong.” *throws self against wall for 3 hours, quits*

      ARPG Gamer: “…. I should go grind some more levels/gear for a little while.”

      • mouton says:

        It is a sad fact that, “casual-with-no-tolerance-for-failure” is “normal” now.

        But frankly, I have never encountered such a situation in PoE. Even when the difficulty steps up, all it takes is just playing more carefully, maybe tweaking equipment a bit.

  11. Cunning Linguist says:

    WTF is this on this screenshot????

    What is it with all the gore in games?? Is that supposed to make them adult???

    There are some pretty sick people in the scene.

  12. Vorphalack says:

    A surprising amount of negativity in this thread, but I suppose that’s to be expected with a free to play game as people who would otherwise have given it a miss will try it out. Personally i’ve been having a blast with PoE. There are defiantly some problems to work out, but patches have been frequent and it’s already a lot more stable than it was last month. I think the best way to approach this game is to avoid reading build guides and work something interesting out for yourself. You will have to accept that your first character will almost certainly die, but the reward is a game that is stat porn for min-maxers.

  13. Cytrom says:

    I am also surprised about the negative tone of the comments here.

    I’m not much of an arpg fan (mostly play fps-es or “normal” rpgs), but I’m enjoying PoE a lot, I’d rate it pretty high even if it was a traditional pay to play game, but for free (and literally all of the game content is free and availible for everyone, with absolutely 0 p2w elements) its a fucking steal, and everyone should give it a go.

    The difficulty in normal might seem easy to some, but its nowhere near as easy as for example torchlight was, which was so ridiculously easy it just stopped being fun pretty fast.
    Cruel and above is a serious spike in difficulty, and while I don’t entirely agree with it (mainly because higher difficulty is the only way to keep playing the game unless you wanna beat up low level enemies that give no xp), but it makes sense to a degree, and its kinda fun to try to adjust to it and meet the challenge. It might limit the amount of viable builds.. but there are still a ridiculous amount of choices and possible combinations.

    The item system is brilliant, so is the skill manipulation through support gems. And the combat feels pretty solid and meaty to me. I played titan quest before this game went open beta to get a little taste of this clickfrenzy genre, and I found PoE’s combat to be a completey different (better) league altogether. Sure some ragdoll physics would be nice, but theres just so much freedom of choices in what kinds of skills you use with whichever class and style you like, that if you get bored fast, it just probably means you made poor choices and limited your own options for whatever reason.

    There are some genuine issues of course, and the game starts a bit slowly, but the positives have far outweighted the negatives for me so far, and even in a worst case scenario I’ll put at least 60-80 hours into this game (which is quite a lot in my current gaming time) and crazy value for the price.

  14. UncleLou says:

    Love the game – I was pretty amazed how it constantly got better during closed beta, and I haven’t played anything else since open beta, really.

    The combat isn’t as much fun as in D3, but it’s deliberately slower paced, which means you have more time for “tactical” decisions. Those who complain about repetitiveness or expect more of an action game seem to have more a problem with the genre than the game – for me, the games are the epitome of zen gaming. Repetitiveness is the key. :)

    I also don’t find it that difficult – desyncs and one, two bosses aside, it’s fairly manageable. It never fluctuates as wildly as Torchlight 2′s difficulty, or kills you as quickly with a gear check as D3 did in Inferno.

    As someone above pointed out, they have a balance problem, though. Life is so much more important than anything else that build variety suffers, especially in HC.

    A dream for loot whores like me though – optimising your character with the best combination of gem lots, resistances, armor,etc. is a game in itself, and all the more fun because it really masters and different gear is immediately noticeable.

    All in all, I’d rate it similarly as D3, but both games do different things well. Torchlight 2 has neither the fun combat of D3, nor the complexity of PoE, and remains an unbalanced mess, unfortunately.

    • Coriolis says:

      I actually agree with this. But I find the quality of the gameplay to be a bigger problem then you after playing D3 for a while.

      • UncleLou says:

        And I fully understand what you mean, because when many people complained about D3 and gave advance praise to PoE, I always said they should be careful because it just isn’t as much fun to,play. ;)

        I guess I got used to the combat. I don’t quite get what you said above in your reply to my post about the skills though – I really need all my skill slots, and I’d say that having one AoE and one single target skill is the same in D3. If you can still muster any motivation, I urge you to play a little beyond normal, where the game gets faster, with a lot more rare mobs and more difficult situations. But yeah, again, it’s never as tight as D3, and I can see how that is a bigger problem for others.

        Melee is going to get a big update and new skills soon, btw., although I am not sure it will help in that regard! :)

  15. shishkarobert says:

    “Which brings us to brand new, ultra-fast-paced “race” events.”

    These have been going on since closed beta. One of the rewards is an amulet that increases character size by 20%.

    Kind of surprised RPS hasn’t given this game more attention. The F2P model is purely cosmetic with the exception of buying additional tabs for your stash. You can max your tabs out for about 20USD. I’ve got a character in the high sixties and haven’t found a need to purchase them yet. I imagine the stash upgrades will become a necessity once you have a lot of high level characters. At the end of the day you’re paying around the same price as Torchlight 2 at launch but with the added benefit of dumping hundreds of hours into the game before you need to pay twenty bucks.

  16. gjrud says:

    I purchased the gold support pack back in closed beta and I must say than I don’t understand all the “hate” that I see in the comments: many of the problems that you are describing are inherent to the genre itself, pointing them out to me sounds like pointing your finger at the fact that you don’t like the first person view in fps. I have to agree on the animations, most of the time they feel pretty clunky. Other than that I can’t prevent myself from saying that I’m still in love with the game after almost a year, with GGG fighting for the first spot with squad (ksp’s developers) in my “best devs in the wurld list” thanks to their continuous contact with the user base. I apologize for my English.

  17. Josh W says:

    I love that the company that makes this is called grinding gear, so appropriate!

  18. Minsc_N_Boo says:

    I really like PoE. I will say the combat is a bit more clunky than Torchlight and D3, but the skill gem system and skill tree are awesome!

    Melee combat is a bit underpowered at the moment, but that is also true of the other 2 ARPGs as well!

    There has been a lot of updates since the game went into open beta, and I really like the idea of the races and leagues.

    I do think overall Tl2 is more fun to play, especially with friends, but there is something very addictive about PoE, and I have been putting a lot of hours into it recently!

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