Should Diablo Fans Bother With Path Of Exile On Xbox One?
I’ve spent more time than I’d care to admit playing the PS4 version of Diablo III. It’s been one of my go-to games since it was first released, and it’s one of my favorite things to play while I catch up on podcasts or just need a palate cleanser between other releases. Path of Exile was officially released on Xbox One a few weeks ago, and I was curious to see how Grinding Gear Games’ action-RPG fared compared to one of my all-time favorites. The answer? It’s good – really, really good, in fact.
We’ve already reviewed the PC version and some of its expanded content, so I’m not going to be assigning a number to any of my thoughts. I haven’t played enough of it at this point, anyway. Instead, I just wanted to share my thoughts on the game from a specific perspective: someone who loves playing Diablo III on console (I know, I know) and hasn’t been particularly impressed with most of the dungeon-crawling experiences on those platforms. With that in mind, here are some of the highs and lows that I’ve noticed so far.
Finally, a whole new loop
Blizzard has done a great job updating Diablo III over the years, but, at its core, it’s still Diablo III. And that’s great! I love firing up a new character in that game and grinding it to level cap in what’s now a comfortable routine. At this point, I know what to expect from that game – and I like it a lot. When I started Path of Exile, none of my knowledge made the transition with me. And I like that a lot, too. What do these character classes do? Are there any that are complete duds? What do you mean enemies don’t drop gold?!
I like playing zookeeper-type classes in games, so I decided to check out Path of Exile’s witch. Over the course of the past few days, I’ve leveled her up to 50 and found some fairly decent gear. I’m still playing through the campaign, and endgame content seems like a tiny speck on the horizon for now. I’m having a blast with it, and though there are some peculiarities I’m not in love with, it’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience so far. I’m looking forward to playing more once I’m done posting this, in fact. What can I say? I like a good grind.
It’s a solid console port, but it has some quirks
I have my PC connected to my TV, because it’s really just as easy as connecting an HDMI cable. I haven’t come up with a good solution for playing mouse and keyboard-based games though, and planting a desk in the middle of the living room ain’t happening anytime soon. That’s the reason that, even though I also own Diablo III on PC, I vastly prefer playing it on my PS4, controller in hand. Even if I could plant a desk in the middle of the living room, I like having direct control of my character in action-RPGs rather than clicking a mouse millions of times per minute. Controller support in Path of Exile is as good as it is in Diablo III, which means it’s perfectly OK but not great.
Moving characters around is great. Classes that rely on accurate placement of spells, curses, and totems face a bumpy ride. Like Diablo III’s console ports, using those types of skills relies on a fair bit of luck – and that’s super frustrating. The game does its best to drop things where you want, but it’s far from perfect. Most of the corruption spells I use land on so many empty patches of grass that an observer might think I have a vendetta against lawns. And my decoy totems routinely drop in places that don’t make any sense. I’d love for both Path of Exile and Diablo III to incorporate a temporary cursor system to account for that, but here we are. [NOTE: There is one! I've never been more happy to have been proven wrong, either. You can get a temporary cursor by holding down LT and then the spell button.]
Inventory management is also a pain on Xbox One. It uses a traditional item-box Tetris system that’s slow and clunky with a gamepad. Blizzard scrapped that approach on console, and Diablo III was better for it. Here, it’s tedious to organize your inventory and free up space. You can’t autosort items or arrange them by type, either, which becomes a problem when your inventory starts to balloon.
Path of Exile can be overwhelming at first, but help is on the way
It’s not possible to talk about Path of Exile without talking about its skill tree. It’s a huge web that looks like something a TV detective would use when investigating a complicated criminal organization. Or, perhaps more accurately, it resembles something that a paranoid person would refer to when explaining how fluoride and chemtrails are related to HAARP controlling our weather patterns. If you spend some time actually looking at it, however, it’s not that complicated. It’s shared between all classes, for one thing, but they all start in different spots on the web. I think Grinding Gear was trying to make it look as impressive (and insane) as possible, and they succeeded. But it hasn’t been that complicated. And the reason for that is also a great reason why playing on Xbox One is a solid choice.
Here’s the thing: Path of Exile has been out on PC for years now. At this point, people who are smarter and more dedicated than you are have invested thousands of hours on this game, figuring out its quirks and eccentricities. Better yet, a lot of them have been kind enough to share their work online. If you have any questions about the game, like how best to optimize linked skill gems, what items should be hoarded like The One Ring, or what’s a good witch starter build, the answers are out there.
There’s a lot to it
I can’t claim to be an expert on Path of Exile at this point, but I’ve noticed something kind of comforting as I’ve snooped around online: There’s a lot of flexibility in this game. Each class has several archetypical builds, with several variations within each of those. And that’s not accounting for the fact that all of the starter classes have several different specialization classes that you can unlock for each of them, too. Yikes!
Right now, I’m not following any of those preset builds. I’m just exploring the game on my own terms, and making skill-tree decisions that I’ll certainly look back on as mistakes. The thing is, I can already tell that this is a game that I’ll be playing for a long time, so I don’t feel too badly about any missteps I make along the way when I’m still starting out.
There's a ton of loot to collect, naturally, and it's cleverly handled. As you become more powerful, the game starts hiding some of the trash by default. You can still see it by clicking in a thumbstick, but I appreciate how it prioritizes items that are actually worth picking up instead of pretending that everything that explodes from pinatas is created equal. For every Blow Pop, there are handfuls of banana-flavored Runts, and I don't need to see 'em.
The price is right
One of the best parts about Path of Exile is the price: You can download it and play it to your heart’s content without spending one thin silver piece. Microtransactions are available, because of course they are, but they’re almost all cosmetic and there aren’t any pay-to-win elements. The vast majority of those in-game purchases add things like visual flair to your character’s outfit, weapon effects, or silly things like footprints or pets.
You can purchase additional stash tabs, which is probably something you’ll want to do after you know whether or not you like it. Some of the extra tabs have extra functionality, such as auto-stacking currency types or making it easier to trade items. While I would prefer not having to buy extra space when that time comes, I actually kind of like that it’s an option. I’m constantly running out of inventory space in Diablo III, and there aren’t any ways to expand it further on the PlayStation 4. Path of Exile has the production values of a full-fledged release, so I don’t feel weird about putting a comparable amount of cash toward it.
Meanwhile, if you download it and realize that it’s absolutely not your thing, you aren’t on the hook for anything. If you’re a Diablo III player, however, I’m confident that you’ll be into Path of Exile, too.