Wakey Wakey, Axe & Stakey: Path Of Exile Expansion Out

Diablo III was pretty disappointing when it arrived, but Blizzard were allowed plenty of time to fix it up into its current pleasant state because many clickfans found themselves distracted by Path of Exile [official site] anyway. Grinding Gear Games have continued to improve their free-to-play action-RPG all the while too, of course. Today (this very minute, if all goes to plan) they launch The Awakening, which they call “the biggest and most far-reaching expansion of the game to date”. Sez you, sunshine.

The Awakening introduces Act IV of the story, complete with new areas, bosses, skills, and so much loot to beat out of monsters. Also, more stuff. Check the Awakening subsite for more. It is nice that it’s touching up the game in general a lot too, rebalancing quest rewards, improving network syncing, and making lots of small “quality of life” UI improvements.

I had a crack at Path of Exile years ago, but found the sprawling skill tree off-putting rather than enticing. I felt more like I was presented with a large number of opportunities to waste skill points than the freedom to create the hero I wanted. That’s a hazy memory, mind, from a grumpier time long ago. Tell me, what’s it really like?


  1. golem09 says:

    The truth about the sprawling skilltree is that it’s not as complicated as it looks. You basically have to decide on which bigger, gamechanging nodes to get, which are mostly located at the outer edge of the tree. You then fill the paths there with minor stuff you need. Approaching it on a level by level basis without a goal is a big mistake.

    • briangw says:

      My problem is figuring out making a goal and how to get there. I’ve seen some decent builds out there but what are good websites where you can read up on a collection of builds and maybe compare them?

      • MaXimillion says:

        The few sites that have attempted to catalogue PoE builds have all failed at keeping things up to date. The best place to look at builds are the official forums, and the subreddit is also fairly good if you’ve got questions.

    • Monkeh says:

      Couldn’t agree more. Also, for those who don’t know, you can check the skill-tree at link to pathofexile.com and completely plan out how you’re going to allocate your points (something I’ve always done for PoE).

  2. Xzi says:

    PoE continues to be a better game than Diablo 3 to this day, and this makes me excited to play it again. The biggest issue with it has always been desync, but that’s a small price to pay for a near-flawless aRPG gameplay experience with no price tag of its own. The skill tree is a lot of fun to theorycraft with, but my one recommendation is to have your build planned out before beginning a character. If you try to simply place skill points as you go, you’ll probably end up creating a character who isn’t good at much of anything.

    • golem09 says:

      Just mentioning it, because it doesn’t sound like you know judging on what you wrote:

      You do know that desync has been fixed as of today, right?

      Maybe I misunderstood.

      • Boozebeard says:

        Is it actually? I always seemed to get the desync constantly when I played. Was like playing with 500 ping all the time definitely not a price worth paying.

        • sharkh20 says:

          As long as you have a ping below 100 or so and a steady connection, you will have no desync at all. The game will automatically (unless you set it otherwise) put you in the new lockstep mode. This makes it so that you are always 1 to 1 with the server. There is no prediction. Higher pings will start causing a delay in your inputs. If you had a 200 ping, you would have a noticeable lag between when you click somewhere and when your player moves. They added a whole bunch of new server locations so getting a low ping is easier than ever. I play with a 20-40 ping and it feels 1 to 1 with no input lag.

        • gunny1993 says:

          I can say that I was playing from the U.K with someone on the U.S last night for about 6 hours (only 8 or so hours after launch of new expansion) with no network problems at all and a really smooth ping.

      • Xzi says:

        I did not know that, no. Great to hear.

    • LexW1 says:

      D3 has it’s fun moments and is a very different and perhaps more accessible game than PoE, but PoE is definitely the game that lives in my heart, that I keep coming back to.

      It’s also kind of astonishing that PoE costs £0, and really, I’ve felt so guilty for that I’ve spent like £20 quid on it so far and will probably spend more, whereas D3 + ROS (which you need) is still about £50. £50 is a HELL of a barrier to try to get friends/family over, and what’s perverse is, D3 is really only fun at all with friends/people you know (it gets old fast solo, unlike PoE).

      This bloody patch can’t download fast enough though, c’mon PoE!

  3. LexW1 says:

    The skill-tree is hilariously daunting if you don’t know how to approach it – I often show it to non-gamers or very casual gamers to get them to laugh, because it’s like a parody of a skill tree or of what they think games are like.

    There are two good ways to approach it though:

    1) As golem09 says, you can be very goal-oriented – look around for the bigger nodes, see what they do, see which ones you might want, and find a path to them that seems good.

    2) Play it like a “choose your own adventure” book – just go one node at a time (maybe looking ahead a little), making sure you pick ones that make sense. If you’ve decided to fight in melee, just pick ones that help with that, for example – it doesn’t hugely matter if you, say, pick the line of the tree that mostly gives weapon damage over the one that mostly gives attack speed (unless you’re building at some super-pro level, but, most of us aren’t).

    Either way, don’t get freaked out. Even a messed up build will get you through the game on normal difficulty, and by the time you finish that (especially with the new act!) you’ll want to try a different character and will have a much better idea of what to do with the skill tree next time.

  4. Trynant says:

    The skill tree is not afraid to let you screw up, but there are a few things I’ve found make this not a problem.

    The first is that the game is more or less built on the idea of building new characters and testing out builds, and to me the first playthrough is great for freestyling your build; with later characters being for serious attempts at new-game + stuff.

    The second is that, like mentioned, the skill tree’s biggest decisions are easily identifiable–the Keystone nodes that will define how your character plays. Pick one, head to it while picking up skills that look worthwhile along the way, and it should work out more or less okay.

    The third important fact is that that sprawling skill tree is only *passive* benefits. To me the most determining factor of your avatar’s strength is your items, including the skill gem items that actually give you your attacks.

    This item dependency also can lead to what to me is the biggest caveat in PoE; the trade system is hard. You actually have to either post in forums and have potential buyers message and barter with you face-to-face, or–much worse–spam offers in trade chats (*shudder*).

    Either way, the game is very beatable in the first playthrough. It’s new-game plus that really pushes your character builds.

    All the points aside, PoE is a fantastic game, expansion makes it better.

    • Frings says:

      Oh, that trading system. It’s so tiresome. I hate having to barter with players for things… I hate it so much. :( And having to worry about whether or not I might be getting scammed, trying to find pricing guides, and trying to keep up with the eternal changing tides of a player-driven economy…

      For people who have the time and energy to get into the trading aspect of it, it can be great, I suppose. For me it’s just disheartening.

      (It’s amazing how much I’ve lasted playing TF2. But then again, none of the trading there actually relates to gameplay specifically, so I never felt like I *had* to get into trading – it’s wildly different in that regard, even if we disconsider the different game genres.)

      • Cipherpunk says:

        One of my favorite additions with this update is the Divination Card system. It’s basically a way to farm for specific gear without bartering. Each card drops in a specific zone and when you have a full stack of a given card, you can turn it in for the specified item(s). The trade-ins range from random batches of low level currency all the way up to powerful endgame Uniques. It means that people who hate trade can now have the best loot just by farming instead of spamming chat. The best part is that the cards are being created by paying community members and there’s a ton of them still on the way.

      • LexW1 says:

        Trading isn’t really required, though, unless you want highly-specific uniques for a highly-specific build.

        Otherwise, you work with what you got, just like we did 99% of the time in Diablo 2. In all my hundreds of thousands of hours on PoE, I’ve only ever traded twice, I note.

        Also with this patch the drop rate for uniques was improved, as was how common linked sockets are, aaaaaaand with item filters it’s easier to see what has value, so it’s all a little less painful.

        Better than an AH-based economy, anyway, that’s for sure.

        D3 does do a nice thing, though, where you can’t really trade (only drop items for people and hope vaguely they might drop something for you), but it has a really high unique drop rate and drops uniques specific to your class more often (the latter obvs. impossible in PoE because of how things work).

  5. Freud says:

    I think D3 is the better game but I do hope Path of Exile (and Grim Dawn) do well. It’s a genre that has room for more games.

    • LexW1 says:

      D3 and PoE are so different that it’s astonishing that they have a recent common ancestor (D2:LOD). I’ve enjoyed both (since D3’s big item change – it was horrid before that), but PoE gives that intense D2-style hit of theorycrafting, planning, powerful build-changing uniques, drops that make you shriek and so on, whereas D3 has the MWAHAHAHAHAHAA I WILL DESTROY YOU ALL factor going for it, as you blast through giantic packs of bastards in a terrifying face-melting way, like some kind of unstoppable god of destruction. and ultra-tailored difficulty so you can get that perfect satisfying difficulty bite.

    • vorador says:

      Don’t forget the Van Helsing trilogy. They’re surprisingly decent ARPG, despite the cheesy name.

  6. Toadsmash says:

    Also, I think PoE does storytelling and art style quite a bit better than D3 ever did. Act 3 managed to set a tone with its art and music that was downright [i]creepy[/i] at times, which is the last thing I expect from an ARPG. I dearly hope Act 4 delivers.

    • Arglebargle says:

      I thought the Path of Exile story, world building, and presentation were absolutely first class. I stop and listen/read everything available, which is something for such a fast paced game. Certainly Diablo didn’t impress me with that aspect, and neither did T2 (though I liked the humor better there).

      The PoE folks should write more!

  7. Stinkfinger75 says:

    I’ve recently gotten back into D3 which tried hard to present itself as “evil”. It always seemed to me closer to Disney’s version of evil. PoE looks like a game that gets evil right, but what kind of evil is it? It looks a bit Satanic from screens I’ve seen.

    • Seraphithan says:

      D3 was very Scooby Doo in its approach to the villains.

      “And I would have gotten away with it to if it wasn’t for you meddling Nephalim!”

    • LexW1 says:

      PoE’s evil is pretty much the “Evil Which Men Do”-type evil (where greed, desperation, imperialism, etc. are key drivers of evil) combined with existential horror (more of a Steven King than HP Lovecraft kind, but that’s no bad thing). Piles of bodies, lots of blood, and so on it’s caused by the supernatural and some by people.

      D1 is full on Satanic-type evil. D2 is more like nutso Satanic apocalypse-type evil with a side of “Human Evil”. D3 is, as you say, Disney Evil – quite malignant Disney, but Disney nonetheless. It’s got a sense of style but it’s not very scary.

    • brgillespie says:

      No, Path of Exile has a better overall vibe and atmosphere, but the meat of the game and certain scenarios are just as cartoonishly-“evil” as anything in Diablo 3. It starts out well, but you gradually descend into crazier-and-crazier scenarios. In a certain level, for example, you’re presented with an apocalyptic-level of corpses and oceans of blood, with thousands upon thousands of body horror subjects charging you to eat you alive or whatever. It makes zero sense in the context of the game’s atmosphere.

      The final, mustache-twirling boss of the game (in the expansion I stopped playing at) mutates into this weird, absurd monster thing for no apparent reason. Ruling the world is apparently much easier when you’re a twisted, praying-mantis, lobster-thing.

      • LexW1 says:

        It’s not Disney evil, though which what D3 is, and what was being asked about.

        (D3 also has a weird small-c conservative/right-wing deal where it vaguely implies it’s wrong for commoners to revolt against nobles, in Act 5 – whereas PoE is on the side of the slaves and the oppressed and against the dominators, overlords and warmongers)

        PoE is more King or Lovecraft-type evil than Disney. The piles of bodies and rivers of blood alone…

  8. brgillespie says:

    Caveat: My information is a bit dated. Also, I’m a much bigger fan of D3: RoS than PoE.

    The character tree… isn’t as complicated as it looks, and the upper difficulty levels severely punish creativity. The sky isn’t the limit, despite the skill tree promising otherwise: you can’t, for example, take a Witch and make her into a melee machine and hope to make it into the highest difficulty and be effective.

    The classes don’t feel particularly different, with all builds aiming to take a skill and supercharge that skill with AoE effects and multiple attacks a second. You use the same skill for the entirety of your character’s life. Once you reach the final boss of a particular difficulty, you start over at the beginning in a higher difficulty, complete with items that use recycled artwork (items with level 1 artwork being more powerful than your level-whatever gear, which to me was disappointing).

    Crafting materials (some exceedingly-rare) are also used as currency. The system requires a bit of a learning curve to understand what item is worth what crafting material (top end items are typically bought with Exalts, unless a new, higher-level crafting item has been added in my absence).

    It’s an ARPG for those that enjoy tinkering and planning out a character’s growth, and taking a skill and making it into a huge shotgun. The gameplay itself is kind of clunky. Then again, Path of Exile is free to try, with no purchase necessary unless you want a cosmetic-changing effect for your character (or a pet, or whatever). Path of Exile may not have clicked with me, but I can’t argue that it isn’t a hell of a game for being free-to-play!

    Since others were mentioning Diablo 3: I think the upcoming addition of Kanai’s Cube in Diablo 3 will add a spark that was missing from that game.

    • theslap says:

      Classes were never meant to feel different. The game is about min-maxing and that’s why choosing your starting class is somewhat important. Truly, the game is meant for a Hardcore experience and has been balanced around HC since it started. If you aren’t min-maxing in Hardcore, you will die and you will learn your lesson.

    • LexW1 says:

      The gameplay hasn’t been “clunky” for well over a year. So pretty outdated indeed.

  9. Mungrul says:

    Are the inventory and town portal systems in PoE still ridiculously crippled?
    That’s what drove me away from the game.

    • theslap says:

      I’m not quite sure what you mean by crippled. The portal and inventory system are the same except that they’ve added loot filters which are extremely useful and totally customizable and item levels can be seen at a glance rather than typing /itemlevel.

      If you’re troubled by the fact that you have to actually consider inventory management in an aRPG then you’re probably playing the wrong game…

      • Mungrul says:

        No, I’m troubled by the fact that the game’s flow is ruined by continuous trips back to town to offload loot and a playerbase that continually defends this screwball decision because “I just don’t get it”.
        To me, the portal and inventory system feel as if they were designed with monetisation in mind, but that monetisation never materialised. Both are artificially constrained, to great detriment. Compared to other games in the genre, it’s ridiculously stingy, and forces you out of playing the actual game and playing the loot tetris metagame instead.
        It’s insane.

        • theslap says:

          I never said you “just don’t get it” so don’t be hostile. I said that if it doesn’t interest you maybe you are meant for aRPGs that use this mechanic. D2 is the father of the aRPG and a massive inspiration for PoE. The developer wanted to create a game that used inventory management. It’s as simple as that.

          Also, you don’t really need to return to town to offload loot. Identify it and throw it on the ground if you aren’t going to use it or sell it to another player. Selling to the vendors actually provides very little currency and by doing so GGG has de-incentivized returning to town to offload loot.

          • Mungrul says:

            It’s still a disruption of gameplay, and I will take offense, because you’re implying that I don’t know what I’m talking about and that these games aren’t for me. In fact, almost every other major entry in the genre has been for me. I’ve played all the Diablos and enjoyed them, all the Dungeon Sieges, even Space Siege, both Torchlights, Titan Quest, Grim Dawn, Divine Divinity… you get the idea.

            Your tone’s just a little too condescending for my liking, and I’ve encountered it throughout the PoE community.

            PoE has the worst, most disruptive inventory system of any of those games I’ve played, and takes the focus away from what matters more than any of them. Yes, I’m even including Diablo 1 here.
            I loved the skill system and moment-to-moment combat; the graphics are great and the gameplay can be smooth.
            There’s a LOT to like about PoE.
            But its stubborn refusal to modernise and offer even a small degree of the inventory flexibility of its contemporaries dooms it for me. Post-Dungeon Siege donkey, I thought we’d seen the end of insultingly bad inventory management.

            I didn’t play Diablo 3 before PoE, yet by the time I was done with PoE, I was glad to give Blizzard money and buy it.
            While I’ve been playing, Diablo 3 has gone from strength to strength. And unlike PoE, it has constantly improved its inventory and crafting system so you can spend more time killing beasts than playing inventory Tetris.

          • Unclepauly says:

            I didn’t get any condescending from his tone other than the “the game may not be for you” remark, but I’m taking that as it is. It’s an integral part of the system of the game so if it’s not for you then it’s just not for you. This coming from someone who’s never played PoE and has like 2k hrs in Diablo 3. I think you are reading too far into his comments.

        • Minsc_N_Boo says:

          Sounds like the new loot filters might be useful for you. You do have inventory issues to begin with, but once you start to realise what items are valuable, and what items you can ignore, your trips to town become less frequent.

          Loot filters are a new addition that highlights decent drops, and will eventually hide worthless drops.

        • LexW1 says:

          I can help you with this! I used to have the same issues, but the good news is, you can fix it.

          You have to approach looting differently in PoE to most other ARPGs*, and take what basically amounts to a “triage”-type approach. Otherwise, it’s absolutely as you say – you’re going back to town every five minutes, and that’s frustrating, inefficient, and unnecessary.

          So, anyway, here’s a simple approach that will prevent you going back to town every 5 minutes:

          1) Only pick up white items until you have a decent stack of identify scrolls, or if you intend to craft with them. Don’t ever pick up white items that are bigger than 2×2 or 1×3 unless you intend to craft with them (i.e. they have linked sockets etc.).

          1a) Optional exception: If you don’t have a lot of armour/weapon improvement currency (I forget the name – whetstone for weapons, I think), then do pick up white items with 10% or greater quality. Keep a pane in your stash for these, and whenever you have a total of 40% of a type (weapon or armour) sell them to a vendor and you’ll get a useful currency item.

          2) Don’t pick up blues unless you think they will may be DIRECTLY and IMMEDIATELY useful to you, or you are going back to town anyway and have empty inventory space.

          3) Pick up any item with linked red-green-blue sockets – these sell for good currency.

          4) Pick up all currency.

          5) Pick up all yellow items. If they seem likely to be useful, ID them then either sell them or keep them.

          6) Pick up all uniques.

          You can also get a loot filter now which will basically force you to do this.

          That’s pretty much it. If you roughly follow this algorithm, you’ll end up rarely going back to town, and making a lot more currency/hour AND having way more fun than if you pick up all the white or all the blue items. It’s also worth organising your stash so you can dump stuff into it quickly and easily when you are back in town.

          * = Most ARPGs are a matter of “Pick up everything, sell everything” or “Pick up almost nothing because very few items have any value”, or something close to that, whereas PoE occupies a bit of a middle ground, probably closer to D2:LOD than any other game.

    • Bostec says:

      I have to agree with Mungrul with this. I’v been playing it for the first time in ages and the inventory and the constant need to go back the town every 5 mins to dump your load is so tedious and I can’t take it anymore. Double the side of your inventory or make stuff smaller or something.

      • USER47 says:

        I haven’t played the game in a while, but when i did I never had to go to town every 5 minutes. The game isn’t designed around collecting all the crap you can carry. Just take the loot that is useful or valuable, let the rest be. You won’t get much for vendoring the trash anyway.

      • LexW1 says:

        You don’t actually have to do that, you just have to take a triage approach to the inventory.

        I’ve made a quick list above that will drastically improve things for you and deal with 99.9% of loot situations.

        Making the items smaller wouldn’t really solve anything, if you stuff your inventory as fast as possible – it merely delays the problem slightly. But if you just think of the loot a bit differently – not “I HAVE TO PICK UP EVERYTHING BECAUSE THEORETICALLY HAS VALUE!!!!”, but rather “What’s a good use of my time/space?”, then all will become clear.

        There’s a good PoE beginner’s guide here, and it’s worth reading the (very short) section on looting: link to pathofexile.com

    • Exxar says:

      Unfortunately, “inventory tetris” is one of Grinding Gear Games’ intentional design decisions so if that’s not your cup of tea you’re out of luck. Just like the trading aspect and constantly changing metagame aren’t my cup of tea, they’re in fact stopping PoE from being the absolutely best game for me ever.

  10. MentatYP says:

    The skill web is a great idea in theory. In practice I hate it because they keep feeling the need to modify it so much that they reset your skill point allocation over and over. I feel like I’m starting over every time I come back to the game, and that’s not fun.

    • trashmyego says:

      The game is built from the ground up for Hardcore play. You’re not supposed to be sticking to a single character, and if you are it’s because you’re building it perfectly. But a large portion of the game is theorycrafting, that focus leads to builds that can ‘break’ the game, while also highlighting weaknesses in others that need to be lifted up. There’s more emergent gameplay here than in any ARPG since Diablo 2, but all the while they’re intending to balance all that information they get from the playerbase. That means regular alterations to the skill tree. If you don’t enjoy starting over, or having to reallocate skill points every once in a while, this most definitely is not a game for you.

  11. Frings says:

    I am always ultimately terrible with games that make me feel like I *need* to put together a decent, smart, well put together build.

    I will inevitably go after guides and builds and player commentary on different builds, pros and cons, ideal equipments, cost/benefit, speed vs fun ratio…… in the end I’ll have 40 tabs in my browser, my character will likely be rooted to one spot in game at level 5 for hours on end while I alt-tab and frown at my indecisiveness, and in the end I’ll just give up on choosing any one build and stop playing. (Alternatively, I might end up *finally* picking a build to follow, and then eventually forget about it or which one I was following and also end up giving up.)

    Of course I know I most times don’t *need* to do that, but often if you want to enjoy endgame content, you probably will indeed need it. (Or, if you’re like me, you have a group of friends that gets fixated on stats and builds and percentuals and trades, while you just want to go and sell loot to an NPC and have the simplest of funs – at the risk of being a weight to the party.)

    I appreciate you, PoE; but ultimately we don’t fit well together.

    (Torchlight II, I miss you, babe. I think it’s time for a reinstall…)

  12. sharkh20 says:

    Great game from great people. Go try it. It’s free.

  13. mnjiman says:

    My biggest grip about Path of Exiles has been the terrible terrible Desync. Could not stand it and stopped playing until it was fixed.

    Good news, it has been fixed (as long as you have a decent connection with few interruptions). If you are unable to run the new Lockstep mode, the other mode has had improvements too it as well.

    PoE will become perfect once they add some ingame trading component and allow players to adjust graphic levels.

    • USER47 says:

      I haven’t played the game in a while, but when i did I never had to go to town every 5 minutes. The game isn’t designed around collecting all the crap you can carry. Just take the loot that is useful or valuable, let the rest be. You won’t get much for vendoring the trash anyway.

    • USER47 says:

      Sorry, replied to wrong post…

  14. Harlander says:

    It looks like a Klegg wrote the headline here. Good to see them finding work.

  15. bunionbell says:

    From the headline I take it Alice didn’t go for the vegan option

  16. jfml says:

    Hi RPSlers, semi-experienced player here if you wanna group up in Path of Exile, my IGN is Grandma_Frost. Would be happy to play with experienced folk as well as beginners!

  17. Minglefingler says:

    I’ve never managed to get into POE which is odd given the amount of hours I’ve sunk into other ARPGs over the years, I’ll probably give it another go later today. I’m playing Victor Vran the the minute and enjoying it but I suspect that the increasing amount of damage enemies can soak up might start to annoy me.