Why Path of Exile Was The Best ARPG of 2017
The Action Role Playing Game (“ARPG”) genre is very straightforward in many ways, especially when it comes to comparing certain games to others within the genre. You could even arrive at the conclusion that all ARPGs are actually too similar, excluding the variety of in-game locations and design quality. They often include many familiar traits, such as gaining XP and levelling up, collecting loot, increasing stakes, and progressively stronger enemies.
Path of Exile (“PoE”) is guilty of using many of the usual ARPG tropes, but what makes it stand out from other games in the genre is that it constantly makes small innovations to the traditional ARPG elements that really add to the gameplay. As PoE gathers momentum, it offers several moments that can only be described as chaotic and downright grotesque. The plot itself is very engrossing, and the narrative keeps you engaged the entire time. Each class has its own backstory that will have you questioning what on earth is going on at many points throughout the game.
What you do know is that you are, of course, an exile – and you are in the worst possible place to be one.
The Loot System
When picking up an ARPG, you are probably expecting to see loot a substantial element of the gameplay. So how does PoE manage to stand out when it comes to loot? It is actually fairly conventional in terms of how loot drops. You’ll find items lying around here and there on your travels, and you will also receive loot when killing enemies, so it’s a pretty standard system for acquiring loot in an ARPG.
However, what matters in PoE isn’t how the loot drops, but rather what loot drops. Don’t expect this to be a typical ARPG experience in which you pick up just any weapons and armour for your troubles. In PoE, there is a far greater variety of items that can drop. Moreover, items have a tendency to remix in the areas that you are playing in, and can even be manipulated to affect the difficulty of the game along the way.
The Socket System
Path of Exile is rather notoriously similar to Blizzard’s Diablo franchise in many ways. One such similarity is the inclusion of socketed PoE items similar to the ones you may recall from Diablo II. Diablo II was an early pioneer of the socket system, in which gems can be placed into items to modify them, which gives players the ability to customize their own items instead of relying on new item drops to improve their gear.
PoE adopts this practice and takes it to the next level. There are many items throughout the game that feature coloured sockets, which opens up a whole new world of customizations and abilities to be assigned. Something as small as changing an item of clothing has the ability to change your character’s build, should you require it.
This is a minor point which builds on the preceding one, but it is certainly worth mentioning. If you are like me, and tend to go for the class with the heaviest guy and the heaviest weapon, then you you will be glad to hear that you are free to adopt this style in PoE. However, thanks to the socket system discussed above, you can adapt your character’s build to changing conditions as the need arises.
With the right combination of armour and customizations, you could switch from being a sword-wielding brute to having an arsenal of elemental magicks. Rather than having your character’s abilities tied to the class you choose, PoE prefers to base this on items that you can add gems to, thereby shifting the focus to increasing stats and away from unlocking skills. This offers a far more varied experience, compared to other games in the genre.
Path of Exile is Free to Play
The fact that it is free to play might seem like a shallow reason to consider it one of the standout RPGs of 2017, but Path of Exile is an incredible value compared to other free to play games, and it will almost leave you feeling guilty for playing such a great game for free. PoE is a real treasure because you can sink a ridiculous amount of time into it, without having to fork over your hard earned money.
In the interest of full disclosure, PoE does contain microtransactions, which became an increasingly frequent, and increasingly controversial, occurrence in 2017. However, in PoE, microtransactions have no substantial beneficial or detrimental effect on gameplay, so feel free to completely avoid them and go about your business without spending anything.
To summarize, what made Path of Exile the most riveting ARPG of 2017, without even mentioning the huge expansion that was introduced, is that it takes what’s great about the ARPG genre and broadens the horizons of it tenfold. On top of that, it’s free to play, so all it asks for is some time and attention, without being too demanding at the same time.