You may think that the tag line to the title of this post indicates a negative review. On the contrary, I think Path of Exile has done something extremely right, different and fun with an expansive skill tree. But first, let’s have a look at the game in its premise.

Normally, I’d say you get what you pay for. Although, with Duke Nukem Forever, you probably want your money back, plus some compensation for staying up for twelve years in anticipation only to discover it was complete sh!t. I digress. However, despite it being free to play, Path of Exile manages to be quite excellent. I’m not entirely sure how the makers are planning on making money, because there are no “my God, it’s full of ads” moments, although it does have a microtransaction store. The thing about the microtransaction store is that it is entirely focused on things that don’t give you extra power in the game. This is a beautiful thing, as many games online, free to play or not tend to be about paying to win.

This theme continues in the game itself. First, there’s no currency. The entire game’s economy is based on finding items when out and about and bartering them for bits of things from the NPC merchants and other players that inhabit the world at the same time as you. You read that right: no currency and other players are around as well. The game feels like you’re in a living world and indeed is a lot like it’s an MMORPG, but you can do just as well if you just want to play through the storyline and find some sick loot without interacting with other players.

The graphics are great, rich in colour, yet sombre, which fits the tone of the game as you’re marooned on an island where everybody is a prisoner looking to survive. In terms of survival, you’re able to do pretty well no matter what class you start with or what skills you choose. Though you start in a certain part of the skill tree, with enough patience (and hacking at monsters), you can customise your character in any way your fancy takes you. It’s a very powerful system and immensely fun as well.

Path of Exile is an excellent hack-slash-n-loot and is probably the way Diablo 3 should have gone for character building and online multiplayer. The sad thing is that for such a powerhouse developer, Blizzard really dropped the ball on Diablo by simplifying and restricting player options. Games like Path of Exile and Torchlight 2 pick up that dropped ball, run with it and score big before anyone else has noticed. Too bad for Blizzard, because Path of Exile is both free, balanced and fun.

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