Is Path of Exile Worth Playing in 2021?
02 March, 2021...
It's time for the big question for you new and returning MMO action looter fans of Path of Exile and perhaps even Diablo-like games: is Path of Exile worth playing in 2021?
I'm by no means a hard core player however I have beaten the main quest with 6 out of 7 of my current characters (yes, Kitava, dead as dead can be).
Currently 690 hours spent on the game.
That's what we're going to find out based on my experience having run through a few leagues like Legion, Blight and Harvest.
Mind you with Path of Exile 2 on the horizon in 2022 or 2023, Path of Exile will become a slightly different beast.
The #1 biggest advantage of Path of Exile, even over Diablo 3 or even Diablo 4 are the possible builds.
There are players who experiment and tinker with weak and strong builds from league to league.
The ability to create the kind of power fantasy build in Path of Exile that matches what you want at any moment is what makes this game heads and tails above its rivals, even Diablo.
The complex skill tree allows for an infinite number of possible ways to build a character.
Want a fire wielding totem warrior?
No problem, you can plan a build for that using Path of Building Community app.
Or you can use someone's tried and tested build like Holy Flame Totem Marauder.
Want a witch who uses a bow?
Sure you can do that too (though it might not be as powerful it might be fun).
The near infinite possible number of builds also contributes to...
The game has a high replayability in several different ways.
The most obvious is that every map is mostly randomly generated so that no map or the monsters within it are exactly the same.
I mean the general monster types will be there however the bosses, positions, abilities can be very different each time you come back to a fresh version of the map.
The few things that don't change are generally the story and side quest bosses.
There are also entirely separate game modes from past leagues like Delve.
It works like a kind of infinite dungeon of looting and killing that gets harder (with better loot) the deeper you go.
Harvest let you build a garden that spawns monsters that gives you crafting/upgrade materials to create/boost your items.
Heist allowed you to plan a smash and grab robbery.
These are based on previous leagues that have had their content added to the base game and future leagues.
The league idea is similar to the one in Diablo 3 in that every player can start a new character in a fresh new economy and level them up to max to find new gear and to run through the new league encounter (mechanic) on every map (100% spawn chance guaranteed).
This means that every 3-4 months you always have something new to do.
There are also achievements and some small cosmetic awards with each league as well.
Mapping is the endgame in Path of Exile and where most of the randomness really comes in.
Since Conquerors of the Atlas, the map endgame has changed a lot.
You can use watchstones to unlock new difficult maps and map bosses as well as change maps to have different kinds of monsters, buffs, penalties and bosses.
The possibilities are huge for those players willing to grind through the endgame.
They've only added even more endgame content for mapping with Echoes of the Atlas.
Of course the next biggest if not bigger thing is the loot.
Path of Exile spawns a lot of random loot.
If you're lucky you get a really powerful unique item or Abyssal gem or something.
There are so many different ways to get loot it's' insane and would take a player a lot of grinding and time to get the very best, most expensive loot.
And the amount of inventory or stash space you will need goes up a lot if you are a hoarder.
As microtransactions go, Grinding Gear Games does it really well in that the only microtransactions they have are all based on stash/inventory space and cosmetics.
No paying to win.
And to be honest with all the loot and hoarders out there, they likely make a killing on stash tab purchases if not the cosmetics.
Now with all the good things out of the way what are some of the downsides of this game?
Replayability of the Main and Side Quests
Yes, replayability in terms of the main quest and side quests anyway.
Every time you run through the league, it's the same main quest and side quests over and over for the same skill points.
Most veteran players get through it as fast as possible to get to the endgame of mapping.
The quests are literally just mind numbing filler for them.
You make no choices in these quests so they're always the same.
If you hate repeating quest content for skill points, this is one aspect that may annoy you.
Labyrinth and Ascendencies
Another major gripe many Path of Exile players have and even casuals like me is the fact you have to do the Labyrinth to get Ascendency points to increase the power of your character and get the build you want.
Ascendancies further upgrade your character class to one of three possible options for each one usually except the Scion who is a jack of all trades.
Unfortunately Grinding Gear Games locked this upgrade path behind 4 levels of the Labyrinth, which gets progressively harder and often requires the help of other players who may or may not be available to run it with you if you aren't a power gamer grinder solo person.
Many have asked for another way to get ascendencies that doesn't require Labyrinths and Grinding Gear may be changing it come Path of Exile 2.
The same maps that make this game replayable can also be the biggest hurdle to more casual players who haven't grinded out the currency for the best gear.
As you go through the map atlas it becomes harder and harder to defeat enemies.
You'll need to upgrade your gear and level constantly, usually to create a crazy clearing speed.
This tends to appeal to the most hard core Exiles and if you're a casual gamer who wants to reach the end of the map atlas you likely won't be able to.
If your gear and build isn't powerful enough, enemies will one shot you, you lose experience and probably won't be able to go any further until you grind better gear or currency for better gear.
The graphics are definitely dated despite using the latest DirectX 11 shaders.
I suppose if you're running a top line gaming rig it might be less noticeable however the game has been out a very long time.
Path of Exile 2 intends update the graphics however it's not out yet.
Crafting in Path of Exile, especially the more powerful items, requires a lot of grinding out the most powerful materials like fossils and currency like chaos orbs and exalted orbs.
It's fairly easy to start however to truly master it is difficult.
Even the multiple mods on one crafted item ability is locked deep behind a boss fight that not every player can get to.
And this is the same for some other crafting mods you'd need for the best gear - they're locked behind another boss fight or deep in Delve.
Which requires you to grind out a very powerful character to get to or have very powerful help.
With Blighted and Harvest league the crafting options improved however it's still far from easy to use for new players or even players like myself.
The Skill Tree
The same skill tree that makes Path of Exile so great can also be the biggest turn off for new players.
It is very easy to build whatever character you want however it may not be a build powerful enough to get you to the end of the game or the map atlas without outside help.
Some find the huge number of perk choices to be too overwhelming.
This is also why many people start by following someone else's build or guide (like on poebuilds) and when they become a veteran at all, they might start experimenting.
As you can tell, this game has a lot of grinding if you intend to build a hardcore character each and every league.
If you're a casual player, you can decide not to do that however you probably won't finish most of the content.
Last I heard only a mere 2-3% of players ever finish the main quest or even reach the end of the Atlas (or just the endgame bosses).
If that annoys you, you're better off just watching someone else finish the game and not playing it yourself because the grind and time investment will be huge.
Path of Exile 2 may make the game somewhat less grindy when it changes the way skill gems and sockets work however I imagine that there will still be plenty of grind even then.
If you're looking for a game that is literally superior to Diablo in nearly every fantasy looter way except perhaps the lore (maybe), then Path of Exile is it.
It has a huge amount of build variety that other action rpgs just don't have.
And it also has a lot of past league content baked into the game constantly.
You can literally build the character you want in terms of abilities and playstyle.
It does have some down sides in terms of the insane amount of grind and complexity of the skill system.
Considering how replayable this game is and the sheer choices you have in terms of builds and content, I'd still recommend this game to those looking for an isometric action rpg looter.