"Path of Exile is a shining example of a free to play game that's fair to players."
It is rare that online games increase the number of hours played a few years after release. Path of Exile has done just that, increasing the total by 44 percent over 2015 and culminating in over one million players playing the game in December 2016. Not one to rest on their laurels, Grinding Gear Games is working on Path of Exile: The Fall of Oriath, a major update to their online exclusive action-RPG. Fall of Oriath also marks the game's console debut on Xbox One. I went to the press event for a hands-on impression of what players can expect later this year.
The latest update to Path of Exile, Fall of Oriath is set to make several changes to the game, starting with expanding the story. At the start of the game, each playable character had committed various crimes, causing them to be exiled from their home in Oriath to the cursed continent of Wraeclast. In Fall of Oriath, your character returns to their hometown to exact revenge on those who exiled them. Players see the results of their actions taken during earlier acts, ranging from environmental changes to NPCs acknowledging your actions benefiting them. Lastly, the upcoming six acts will replace the difficulty level feature in the current version.
My time with the game was fairly enjoyable. I played the upcoming Xbox One version and was impressed with the fluid controls and smooth, crisp graphics. Gameplay-wise, players can expect a challenging experience. While delving into the upcoming acts, I traversed an area to get a feel for the field exploration and enemy battles. The boss battle I faced was a tough fight that required near perfect dodging skills and a strategic attack plan to prevail. Though the difficulty levels will be removed, experienced players won't have to worry about watered down bosses as there is plenty of challenge to be found in Fall of Oriath.
Path of Exile has a deep, intricate weapon customization system and skill tree that will remain in place after the update. For those unfamiliar with the game, weapons and armor can be equipped with Skill Gems to provide attributes such as fire and ice as well and even change an attack's trajectory to be more concentrated or spread out. The high level of customization also applies to player attributes such as health, attack, regeneration speed and mana. As equipped Skill Gems level up alongside a character, they are further enhanced.
Although the free to play business model is inevitably a part of the gaming industry's future, it doesn't have to be a lop-sided deal; Path of Exile is a shining example of a free to play game that's fair to players. We've certainly had disastrous examples such as Final Fantasy: All the Bravest, but Path of Exile has given me faith that it is possible to implement micro-transactions in a way that doesn't feel abusive while having a solid, challenging game to show for it. Micro-transactions are limited to costumes and extra space for your inventory, and this is not going to change with Fall of Oriath.
Overall, I had a positive experience with Fall of Oriath. The update will certainly please the game's loyal fanbase while providing them with a lot of new content to keep them busy for months to come. Xbox One gamers will also get their chance to try out the game for the first time with the update included. Grinding Gear Games has done a great job of refining a game for the fans, and those who love Path of Exile will likely be happy with what's to come.