Sunday, February 26, 2012

Path of Exile: story and questing

In yesterday's post, I enthused about getting access to the Path of Exile beta. I run a Diablo blog but that doesn't mean I won't discuss other games, especially when they belong to the same genre: the Action RPG. Path of Exile is one of those rare games that deserve a deeper analysis, because it's just that good.

As I already mentioned, Path of Exile feels like a spiritual successor to the original Diablo. If you are looking for a deep and intriguing story, I'm not sure you'll find it here. Either due to my short attention span or because the game doesn't do a great job of telling the story, I can't say that I was sucked into a plot of any kind.

The beta (and I assume the full game) starts with your character on a beach where he wakes up after the ship he was transported on as a prisoner, sinks. At least that's what I gathered. The character selection/creation takes place inside the hold of a slave ship. From there on, your character runs up the beach, battling a bunch of drowned zombies and Alien-crabs until he reaches the first quest hub. Just before entering the hub he faces the first quest boss, whom he must defeat.

One thing that I didn't mention in my intro article from yesterday is that the character/monster animations are very good. This becomes evident quickly as you battle the first boss. He's an imposing humanoid hulk that towers over your character and he's in the process of assaulting the little beach settlement when you stumble across him.

This hulk is studded with arrows and there's also a sword buried in him. Once you've whittled his life down to about half, he pauses, pulls the sword out of himself and commences attacking you with this new weapon. Pretty neat.

I'm still in Act I at the moment, although my Witch is about to finish it. The beach settlement is the only quest hub I have found so far and a tiny one at that. Having said that, it feels pretty reminiscent of the Rogue Encampment from Diablo 2, except on a smaller scale.

Quests aren't extremely involving and mostly center around the concepts of "find this boss monster and kill it" or "find this boss monster, kill it and bring some item he drops". Which is perfectly fine with me. If you are expecting an involving story and complex quests, perhaps you're not really into the A-RPG genre. Hell, I just want to kill stuff!

One of the bigger quests in Act I involves killing another humanoid monster called Brutus and this quest feels like a combination between Diablo 2's Jail zones (because it takes place in a jail, only much darker and gorier) and The Butcher in Diablo 1.

Zone progression is pretty linear, with the main zones linked directly, with occasional sub-zones where you can take a short detour. Major zones have a waypoint stone which is linked to the quest hub so this is how quick travel is accomplished. In addition, there are also Portal Scrolls which are essentially same as Diablo's Town Portal scrolls.

So far, quest rewards have been of 2 kinds: either a skill gemstone or a skill point, which are both excellent rewards if you ask me. If you are puzzled about skill gemstones, don't worry, I'll explain those in a future post.

A final mention is that the zones, as well as using waypoints and portals, all load very quickly, with the minimum of delay.

So there you have it, Path of Exile's story doesn't stand out at this point and the quests are generally what you would expect of the genre, but it's all good because I wasn't expecting much more than that.

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