My name is Josh, and I have a confession to make.
It's something I've needed to say for a long time and just admit to...
I don't play most RPGs for the story. Verbally berate me if you must, but first, at least hear me out on this.
I have made it no unknown quantity on these forums that I'm a loot whore. It probably plays into the collector side of me: I need to have ALL of the things ALL of the time. It's a syndrome or a complex or some stupid shit like that...or at least that's the excuse I'm going to use. Due to all this hoarding nature, it makes hack 'n' slash games (particularly ARPGs) thoroughly satisfying to me. All I have to do is left-click a mouse or spam X a bunch...and you are going to GIVE ME SHIT?!
If life were only so easy...
Moreover, stories in RPGs are typically delivered in one of three or four ways: text boxes, cutscenes, talking heads with creepy eyes, or dialogue trees. Most of them are uninteresting blabber to me, filler material to try and flesh out the world where they couldn't flesh it out in a more visual manner...or hell, just deliver that shit to me while I'm running around killing everything in sight.
No, I play most RPGs for the mechanics, the leveling up, looking badass with a big fucking axe and cleave fools in the head. It's not necessarily the whole "carrot-on-a-stick" thing. It's just that I like the part where I actually PLAY the game. I play a Barbarian/Fighter/Warrior/Marauder, and when I do, it's usually as a tank. There have been a few times that I've tried to psychologically link me wanting to have the shit kicked out of me to my real life, but unfortunately, I don't get the shit kicked out of me. Therefore, I think it's the opposite side of the coin: I want to be indestructible. *CUE STREET FIGHTER IV THEME*
All of this is leading to the following: I put down the $10 to get into the closed beta for Path of Exile. A friend had informed me of the game a while back, and after looking at it a couple of times, I had some anticipation for the game. It wasn't like I was drooling onto a bib that was attached to me because I kept salivating for the game's release (which I'm sure someone could Photoshop in the worst ways). I was interested.
Last weekend was the open beta weekend for the game, so I dove in to see what the fuss was about. What I played over the course of five levels (in character progression, not actual territories) was capable of sinking its teeth into me...hard...and the pain felt gooooooooood. This is a game where mechanics are king. I hated Final Fantasy X, but I loved the Sphere Grid. It's in here. I want to leap in on my enemies, shield charge towards them, and then once their dead and lifeless bodies are surrounding me, I want to spam a button to make all those bodies explode in order to make the entrails flying everywhere deal damage to the enemies that keep swarming me. It's in here. I want to go from looking like a stranded waste of life to a revered badass that will pillage the village and trash the scene *CUE COWBOYS FROM HELL*. It's in here.
Beyond that, Path of Exile does some ingenious things in order to offer a slightly fresh perspective on the ARPG genre while also preventing annoyances in the game. Gold spammers are a general nuisance that many would love to see out of games permanently, especially ones where the economy is based heavily on the players. Diablo III tried to combat this with allowing players to sell gold themselves, and Guild Wars 2 is supposedly offering the same thing. Meanwhile, Path of Exile has taken a different turn and said "NAY, THERE WILL BE NO GOLD IN YONDER GAME! YE SHALL BARTER, FUCKHEADS!"
So it was written, so it shall be done! You barter things such as your Scrolls of Wisdom (read: Scroll of Identify) and various orbs, armor scraps, blacksmith whetstones, etc in order to buy things from the vendors. Is that essentially the same as gold? I guess, in its own way. I liken it more to something like the honor badges and such in World of Warcraft...except it's the ONLY currency.
There's also the fact that your skills are determined based on what gems you have socketed to your gear. All of those skills will level up through experience gained by killing enemies. This reminded me a ton of the AP Crystal system in Final Fantasy IX, which again...I fucking loved that mechanic.
Truly, Path of Exile does the mechanical part of making an interesting game correctly. Is the story worth it? I don't know, maybe. It's dark as hell, pretty as fuck, and smooth as butter when it comes to performance. Sure, it's a closed beta, so who knows how many people are playing? If it was the 10 million that bought Diablo III (or whatever ludicrous amount that bloodsucking soulless beast sold), I'm sure the performance would be crippled hard. That is not the case, however: in the time I've played the game, I saw two instances of server lag issues...and they were so minor that I don't even know why I fucking mentioned it.
So, for anyone who didn't read all of that, here's the TL;DR version!
You should throw in the $10 to get some closed beta action on Path of Exile. It's fucking magnificent so far, and from what I've read, they are making significant progress on a regular basis. The game will be free-to-play when it fully launches, and the $10 is going towards development costs. You'll get 100 phony bucks of whatever their "real money currency" is in the game for you to hit up those microtransactions, but they've stated MULTIPLE times that the game is NOT pay-to-win. They detest it.
Until next time....piece.