Path of Exile has become one of my favorite games over the years. It’s one of those rare experiences that offers anything I want at any given point. Do I want to freak out over numbers and stats? PoE’s massive skill tree and item customization has more depth than I could ever fully comprehend. Am I in the mood to turn off my brain, listen to podcasts, and kill thousands of weirdo monsters? Yep, that’s definitely in there. Or maybe I’m looking for an engaging story with memorable charac– well, okay. Maybe not ANYTHING. Still, the action/RPG is a satisfying, rewarding experience that’s provided me hundreds of hours of entertainment. If you’ve been curious about the game, the recent start of the new Heist league makes it a perfect time to check it out. Don’t worry – if you don’t know what that means, I’ll walk you through the basics.
What Is Path Of Exile?
First, let’s go through the big-picture stuff. Path of Exile is an action/RPG from Grinding Gear Games. It’s deeper than something like Diablo III, but it features the same kind of “running around all over the place, casting magic whatevers or bonking monsters on the head with melee weapon” stuff that makes the genre so enjoyable. Better still, it’s free to play, in a generous way. The bulk of the available microtransactions are purely cosmetic. You can definitely drop some bucks on quality-of-life improvements, such as additional storage tabs or inventory slots that automatically sort loot, but you can get by without spending anything.
What’s A League (And Why Should I Care?)
About four times a year, the developers release a new league. These are themed to some kind of gameplay gimmick that adds new systems, drops, and gameplay loops. In the past, leagues have added things like monster-collecting, farming, and mining. When a league is over, some of its features may stick around in the next league. Others are gone forever. It creates a really interesting structure to the game that almost feels like a bunch of weirdly disparate elements that are bolted on top of what came before. It shouldn’t work. Sometimes it doesn’t; the start of a new league is dependably unstable, at least on console, and I crash out of the game about once an hour for the first few weeks. And yet, I keep signing back in for more.
What’s This New League About?
Anyway, the new league, Heist, just went live on console this week. It’s been out a little longer on PC. The gimmick for Heist is that you can work with a team of thieves to plan and commit a variety of randomized heists, Oceans 11-style. You worm your way through the target location, killing guards before their alert level gets too high, find the prize item, and escape with the loot (and your life). I’ve only done one so far, but it was more fun than I expected. Once I grabbed the item – a vase in the tutorial mission – the alarm was triggered and I had to fight through crowds of reinforcements. I’ll definitely be doing a lot more of those in the coming months.
What If I Get Stuck? (Seriously, That Skill Tree!)
Aside from getting fresh content on a regular basis, something I really appreciate about Path of Exile is its active community. If you have a question, odds are that someone has made a multi-episode video series with all the answers. There are an abundance of builds out there from smart, obsessed fans who spend a ton of time min-maxing. I usually spend a day or so watching YouTube videos of various builds before committing to one; this season, I’m going with a necromancer (again), because I am lazy. I know that the skill tree can be overwhelming, but a free tool called Path of Building makes it a lot easier to try out various things before committing your skill points. Or, better still, most of the people who make builds do so in a format that’s easy for Path of Building to import – from there, you can turn off your brain, kill monsters, and just put the points wherever the build creator says. Easy! Now you just need to carve out a few dozen hours…
Path of Exile is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. And it’s great.