*Since this is a first impressions article and not a never-ending guide, I won’t be solving any of this for you, rather I will provide sources of information within the article.*
Path of Exile has been called “the real Diablo 3” or “Diablo 2.5”. I’d say Diablo 2.5 is more accurate, but the game has its own identity. Yes, the first thing you will notice is how Diablo-like it is, but spend a little time with PoE and it should surprise you in a good way.
My time with Path of Exile began at the beginning of the open-beta in September of 2012. I had zero expectations and went in blindly. I entered this new world of Wraeclast and was immediately overwhelmed. With no real tutorial to speak of, new players are plunged into an advanced and complicated game with no guidance. I became a casualty; played until level 5 or 6, became overwhelmed and stopped. What I know now, since the games release, is that the tutorial is online. Either on the forums or on one of the many helpful Steam Community Guides. That’s terrible. A gaming community should not have to create their own beginners guide that is the developers job. Luckily the community surrounding this game is incredibly intelligent and well-articulated, as the guides are very extensive and thorough.
What made Path of Exile complicated for me, is the lack of guidance. The quest system is often vague, the currency is unlike any other in games I’ve played, and the skill system is unique and gigantic. And there is no tutorial or help pop-ups. The first time you level up you are prompted to head to the passive skills page. Here you are confronted with over 1,300 different nodes which represent specific passive skills any character can choose from, connected one-by-one in a seamlessly never-ending tree. That deserves some explanation on its own. Again, none to be found. And there are your active skills, which are another mess you won’t understand at first. Skill gems are your active skills, which you find throughout Wraeclast, and equip in color-coded sockets in your gear. Simple, right? Wrong. They level up with you, which is fantastic and unlike anything I’ve played. But wait, how often? Do I have to use them in order for them to level? The game DOES NOT TELL YOU. Why not? There is no reason to be this cryptic about the mechanics of your game, it just doesn’t make any sense.
Let’s skip ahead to you knowing what you need to in order to enjoy the early game. After I understood the basics of what I needed to do, I had and still have an incredible time playing Path of Exile. The graphics are pretty, the sound design is solid, and the grouping system appears to work very well with up to 6 people! I won’t pretend to know what the story in this game is. A lot of might-as-well-not-be-named NPC’s tell me to go do stuff, and I do it. Then I get loot, and that makes me happy. I’ve achieved level 38, which is pretty low compared to the games level cap of 100! I love a high level cap and I cannot wait to continue my journey in Wraeclast. Go try it out, but be sure to take a gander at some of the guides I’ve linked to.