Who is this guide for?
So, you were 15 when Diablo 1 came out. (You can add here nice memories, number of days spent on playing and stuff). You played Dungeon Siege 1 & 2 and Neverwinter Nights 1. You finished Diablo 2 on Normal and found out that you don’t want to play that character anymore. You think that Hand of God is crappy but fun. You were amazed by size and boredom of Sacred 2.
But now you have a wife and a couple of children you love, a job and enough money to buy everything you need… except time. You finished Torchlight 1 & 2, but kept wandering “If I have to watch cartoons with my kids, why do I have to watch them while killing zombies?” Your heart started ticking a little faster when you saw Diablo 3 is out. You bought it, and found out that what once was a game is now an online store.
And now you came here, led by web search or social network’s suggestion. Is this a game that will return you back in those glorious days, or is it yet another phishing fraud? Well, let’s see how rhetoric this question is.
Path of Exile (PoE) is a free action RPG set in a fantasy world of Wraeclast. World of PoE is grim and dark. Wounded monsters scream and bleed. And so will your character.
PoE world is currently made of three acts. Act I is easy and, once your stash is filled with rare items (which will happen soon enough), you will be able to finish it in couple of hours with any character. Act II requires some six hours of playing, and it is divided into two parts: right part of its map is basically large side-quest area that will allow your character to boost, so the most of the left part of Act II map is a walk in a park. Act III is more complicated (not too much, naturally), but I will not spoil your gameplay by explaining it.
PoE is an online game, which means it requires need active Internet connection. Requirements are actually quite low, I found playing on NV8600GT and DSL 60KB/s to be just a little more chaotic then on NV GTX 550 Ti and ADSL 2MB/s / 1Mb/s. (naturally, 8600GT requires disabling some effects, but this game is not about visual stunning anyway). One warning, though: if you have Windows 7 SP1 default NVIDIA graphics driver (one with WDM 1.1) and graphics driver randomly crashes followed by game disconnect, you should upgrade graphics driver through Windows Update.
There is no other game client but for Windows. Yes, yes, we might have an OS that steals your design and content ideas, but you don’t have Path of Exile.
Unfortunately, you cannot save progress wherever you want. There are waypoints, though. The best part of PoE gameplay, and an actual reason I am writing all this, is the fact that you can progress in two-hour sessions. You can finish Act I, and half of Act II, and couples of Act III areas in that time. And when I say finish, I mean full clear.
You will be level 16 at the end of Act I, level 31 at the end of Act II, and level 37 at the end of a game on Normal difficulty. You can go on and play on Cruel, finishing Act I as a level 42. All above that is way over me.
Gameplay is classified as Leagues. Standard league is what you will play – normal game. Other leagues are either “stay dead”, either temporary. Each league has its own shared stash, so for our casual purposes let’s stick to Standard!
You can choose a character’s class from 6 gender-fixed classes. Marauder (strength), Ranger (dexterity) and Witch (intelligence) are base classes. Duellist (strength and dexterity), Shadow (dexterity and intelligence) and Templar (strength and intelligence) are mixed classes.
I suggest two handed axe Marauder with Infernal Blow and Sweep skills for a first character, since two handed axe is by far the most deadly weapon (in damage-per-second meaning) you can get. Other characters, naturally, are at least as much fun.
When a character reaches a new level, PoE automatically assigns attribute points (str, dex, int) according to character’s class. What you can and must do is to assign a new passive skill (you get one passive skill point per level). Passive skill tree is very complex and require some planning while assigning points. Think ahead!
Once you learn a proper way of visiting areas, not one quest will require visiting town until the quest is done. So, just go out and kill those evil bastards!
There are 4 types of enemies: white as normal, blue as extra health, yellow as extra damage and health and brown as uniquely named and most dangerous. PoE has no flying creatures, thank you very much. No boring ravens, no two-handed-sword-dropping bats.
Character’s personal inventory is Tetris-based space. You need to have Scroll of Wisdom (for identifying items) and Portal Scroll (for fleeing back to the safety) in it all the time. There is no keyboard shortcut for Portal Scroll, so fleeing can be hysterical.
Town Stash is shared, which means that you always have access to all items that any of your characters have put in stash. This is one of design decisions that make developers’ life a little easier, and our play a little more frustrating, but it is how it is.
Currency and vendors
There is no unique currency in Wraeclast. You will not be able to collect absurd amounts of useless gold. Trading at vendors (there are always two vendors per town) requires certain orbs. Selling items might be a complex business: you can sell items blindly, just to get rid of them, or you can search for right combination of items that you sell which will, in exchange, give you some good orb. For me, selling combinations of items (which is called recipe) is too much. While selling, use Crtl+click to move items to vendor’s Tetris space.
Usage of orbs is two-way: they allow you to change properties of items, and they serve as currency. Some orbs are made of smaller elements which you will get by selling normal items. You can see full list of orbs here. As a casual player, I never saw Mirror of Kalandra and Regal Orb, which means that they drop on higher difficulties. Good for them.
Items are classified just like foes: white as normal, blue as magic, yellow as rare and brown as legendary. You cannot drop items in town. If you do so, you can choose whether to destroy that item or return it in your inventory.
All items have sockets. Depending on a color of a socket, you can place in it a skill gem. Also, right-clicking on a gem will remove it. If sockets have links between them, you can amplify skill gem effect by adding a support gem in a connected socket.
So, what you need is a good (rare or legendary) item with sockets of right color and links between them. And that is hard to find. Therefore you can use Chromatic Orb (to randomly recolor sockets), Orb of Fusing (to randomly relink sockets) and Jeweller’s Orb (to randomly change number of sockets). Use them carefully, just like I don’t!
Since PoE has no currency, the whole point of playing is actually hoping for a legendary to drop. If you are not very lucky, you will find your first legendries in Act II. And, since there is a shared stash, legendary drops might be useless for your current character. Unfortunately, quality of an item is not connected with “quality” of a foe you slain. You can get legendary by smashing some stupid barrel just as easy as by killing final monster of Act III. I don’t know for sure if there is a connection between time you play in one session (without logging out) and a chance for a legendary to drop, but my experience says that you will likely get legendary item the more you continuously play.
You can shortcut 5 potions that do not take inventory’s space. They fill as you kill so be sure to start a battle with full life/mana, not full potions.
There is no pause button. If you need to take a kid to a bathroom, teleport to town first. You want to know how many monsters are left in an area? Press Enter, type /remaining, press Enter. In options, you will find a way to disable chat. Kids are funny, but we’re not here to talk, but to kill.
PoE is a free game, so it is absurd to request anything from its developers. But dreaming of it is possible. For instance: if it had been solo-only, if it had character-only stash, if it had a fixed (only once randomized) maps and on-place saving, if it had given proper legendaries (based on longest-used items) on fixed places (end of Acts, killing unique bosses), if it had no endgame content (damn it, The End) – it would have been absolutely perfect. So, if you have what I have not – a million dollars to spare – send it to Grinding Gear Games and request a Yellow Bus League!
Yes. PoE is free of charge. It contains microtransactions store that you don’t need to use, neither use of it gives you any in-game advantage. But, since you already gave $60 to play a webshop, it would be reasonable to buy a supporter’s pack. Do it!