Despite being an indie game, Path of Exile is a beautiful, polished, and engaging top-down hack-and-slash action RPG experience. It’s also become influential in the many years it’s been running. At the same time, it can learn a thing or two from its upcoming rivals. Thus, it’s only right to lay down what games Path of Exile has inspired, as well as the inspiration from other games Path of Exile needs.
Trees and Gems
But before we go to more specific titles, let’s first go to how Path of Exile has generally affected the genre and the player base. It can all be summed up in one word: customization. Aside from the PoE Currency that lets players modify items, there’s the passive skill tree that is shared by all classes, players can do almost anything with their character regardless of class. While there are undoubtedly passive skill tree paths that are more suited for a particular class than others, the openness and freedom available to the more creative players allow for effective yet out-of-the-box builds.
Another way the game achieved this customizability is through skill gems. Rather than an active skill tree that’s inherent to a particular class, characters get access to active skills through skill gems, which are socketed into gear. This gives classes a wide combination of skills at their disposal, provided that they have the attributes and sockets needed for it. If they don’t, they can always rely on PoE trade. To further bolster these skills, they can either be leveled up by grinding, as they receive EXP from enemies as well, or be linked with support skill gems, which modify their properties.
It’s a rather impressive feat for GGG, as genres at the time were already set in stone in 2012. It was already hard then – and more so now – to come up with a fresh take on character progression and building, but Path of Exile did.
Last Epoch, New Era
Fast forward to today. Players and gaming enthusiasts have stopped labeling Path of Exile as the Diablo knockoff. This time around, it’s other games that are taking cues from it. A good example of that is the Last Epoch. It’s unashamedly admitted that it’s taken a few cues from the New Zealand-born dungeon crawler. But of course, they have their own take on the formula. Rather than seven classes that have three Ascendancies for six of them and a sole Ascendancy for the highly specialized Scion class, Last Epoch only has five classes, which has three masteries each.
However, masteries in Last Epoch are more akin to World of Warcraft’s spec trees, as players can choose any skills from any of the masteries. This is a stark contrast to Ascendancy classes, which give players specific passive skill nodes and locks out others.
While Last Epoch’s setup gives players more freedom, Path of Exile gives more specialization. At the same time, Last Epoch’s passive skill tree can easily be reset, provided that players have enough gold. While passive skills – and even the entire skill tree – can be reset and the Ascendancy can be changed, it’s a tedious and costly process.
With everything that’s been mentioned, it can seem like Last Epoch gives even more customizability to players than the game hailed as the one that broke the mold of hack-and-slash dungeon crawlers. Then again, it’s a rather foregone conclusion for games that take liberties from another to push said liberties to their logical conclusions.
At the same time, however, more customizable characters don’t necessarily make a game better. At the end of the day, it’s all about execution, and whether Last Epoch will execute the concepts it’s picked up from Path of Exile better remains to be seen.
Curing the Sequel Sickness
At the same time, it – or rather, its upcoming sequel, Path of Exile 2 – can learn a lot from its upcoming rival: Diablo IV. We’re not talking about copying the same skill tree, classes, or loot and gear system. Rather, the sequel needs a graphical engine overhaul, as well as make sure that the same performance issues the game has right now won’t be in it.
Another thing GGG can improve on would be its multiplayer features. Aside from better connectivity, they need to have their own apps and website instead of relying on third parties. Finally, Path of Exile 2 must be more inviting to newcomers. They shouldn’t tone it down, but they should make the mechanics that made the game great easier to understand.
Path of Exile has definitely carved its place and made a few ripples not just in the ARPG genre, but in gaming as a whole. Now, it must adapt or become history.