Playing Path of Exile on Xbox One, From the Perspective of a Diablo 3 Player
Post by KostaAndreadis @ 04:51pm 18/08/17 | Comments
Having spent several hours with the Xbox One beta, Grinding Gear Games’ Path of Exile for console is a port worth getting excited about.
For those that know me, Diablo III is my go to game. Originally on PC, but for the last couple of years on Xbox One. Relax, listen to music, chat to friends, work on fine tuning a few builds whilst slaying countless demons in the most satisfying way possible. And with a controller in hand, in the most comfortable way too. The transition from PC to console for the classic action-RPG steeped in simple mechanics and deep and rewarding customisation has been the sort of success story that anything else in the genre can’t help but be compared to. No matter how you feel about Diablo III as a game, the console version is just about the only irrefutable example of a successful PC game translation that a few years ago people would have said could never work.
Walking the Path
Which is why the upcoming Xbox One release of New Zealand-based studio Grinding Gear Games’ Path of Exile is worth getting excited about. Like Diablo III it has a long and storied history on PC. Launching in 2013, Path of Exile shares the same sort of dark and gothic themes that you can find throughout the Diablo series, but with a presentation that feels more old school. In that it looks to take a fair amount of its action-RPG inspiration from Diablo II. Also, as a free-to-play title it has garnered a sizable and passionate community over the years, with enough depth and content that it’s essentially a full-priced game given away for free.
One that also has frequent content drops. Like the huge Fall of Oriath expansion that came out a few weeks ago. How huge? Well, it adds a staggering six new Acts of content, effectively doubling what was previously in the game. Plus implementing several improvements to the core experience and endgame. Having spent several hours with the Xbox One beta, which included the Fall of Oriath content, it’s worth stating the obvious yet again. Grinding Gear Games’ Path of Exile for console, is worth getting excited about.
First off it looks incredible and runs at a rock-solid frame-rate. In fact, with news dropping recently that the game will be enhanced for the upcoming Xbox One X console to support 4K visuals, those that were expecting a noticeable visual downgrade from the current PC release are in for a surprise. Path of Exile on a vanilla Xbox One features the same great visual and effect detail as seen in the PC release. It’s something that no doubt the development team spent quite a bit of time working on to get right, and when you add in the almost spot-on combat feel, Path of Exile on Xbox One is an impressive port.
Like Diablo III, it feels more like a re-imagining once you get to walk your character around the screen and feel the immediacy of engaging with enemies and triggering skills and abilities with the new controller-based, err, control scheme. And with many visually impressive skills on offer, it adds a new visceral layer to taking out hordes of monsters. Of course, this comes from the position of countless hours spent playing Diablo III. And only a handful with Path of Exile on PC. But it goes without saying that this style of game works well on console. And has a different enough feel, neither worse or better, that it would ultimately come down to personal preference.
But as we’re talking about a beta release, Path of Exile on console is not perfect by any stretch. Outside of the obvious bugs and quests that fail to trigger certain events, stuff that is typical beta fare, some of the combat and skill use feels a little off. For example, some melee hits fail to hit even register when you’re standing right next to an enemy and spawning defensive totems often places them in awkward locations. Rendering those skills somewhat useless. Two problems that don’t exist when utilising a mouse and keyboard. And two problems that we hope get addressed in time for the official release.
A Different Take on the Isometric Action-RPG
When describing Path of Exile, one could quite easily borrow from its community, and explain that it’s a Diablo-style action-RPG, but with limitless customisation and character nuance. You could even throw the word hardcore in there too. As a fan of the genre, it’s great to have finally spent some decent time with the game and find out firsthand that Path of Exile is no mere clone or like-for-like. Even though that wasn’t the impression going in. Path of Exile presents an interesting and rewarding take on character progression, one that relegates most stat improvement to a sprawling and initially daunting tree full of hundreds of nodes where you can apply points to things like +10 Strength and +8% Fire Resistance.
Where it differs from Diablo III is in how it treats skills. Basically, every item you can equip in Path of Exile will have sockets, and skills come in the form of gems. Socket a gem into an item and that skill becomes available to use. Of course, it’s more complicated than that. There are different coloured sockets, in addition to skill support gems that only work when linked to another gem. Which can transform them in very cool ways. Items can roll with a varying number of sockets that can also come in different colours, but thankfully though the colours are tied to your character’s base stat - with red representing Strength, green Dexterity, and blue Intelligence.
But even then, the freedom to choose what you want to do means that core character classes aren’t the be all and end all of what sort of build you can put together.
In addition to Diablo II, Path of Exile is also somewhat reminiscent of Titan Quest with its large and sprawling world to explore. There’s also a pretty involved and interesting story that spans numerous locations with a cast of many different characters, some of which have more than a slight New Zealand accent. In terms of core mechanics, Path of Exile is a great action-RPG but some of the complexity makes the transition to console feel a little cumbersome. The simple fact that skills and mapping skills to buttons is all about socketing different coloured gems into weapons and bits of armour, swapping out items and bits and pieces results in a few minutes of deep, concentrated button presses. A process that took time on PC due to its complexity, that is made even more prominent with the switch to Xbox One.
Unfortunately finding a new sword to equip isn’t a matter of equipping it. The process takes a bit of time. If we were to offer one bit of advice to the team, that would be to create a separate skill and skill gem menu or tab. As it stands it’s a mixture of inventory and pressing in analogue sticks whilst holding trigger and then cycling through an additional pop-up menu.
Minor issues aside, and again these are all elements separate to the performance of the game and its story, level design, progression, and combat, the team at Grinding Gear Games deserve special commendation for what is much more than a port. Like the console version of Diablo III, Path of Exile feels made to be played with a controller in hand. And the fact that the team were able to create a similarly smooth experience, with what must be a very small team, speaks volumes about the talent down south. And best of all, it’s free-to-play. So, if you’re a fan of the genre, take it from a Diablo III on Xbox One nut, Path of Exile comes highly recommended. Scratch that. If you’re a fan, come August 25, 2017 - you have to play this.
Check out the following trailer, which showcases beta footage of Path of Exile on Xbox One