By – Mike Bezek
We all have rules for ourselves. My personal dictum for new games is to play them for roughly one hour, turn it off and wait 24 hours until I pick it back up. A strange tradition indeed, but one I have adopted in favor of gaining a better perspective when evaluating a game. Consuming as much of a new game as humanly possible dilutes the experience as your rationale is glazed over by slowly accommodating yourself to the faults. I liken this habit to consumers who go to car dealers for a test drive – that first ride in a new vehicle will always feel incredible despite any glaring faults.
Of course, we all break the rules, just like those weight loss promises we make at New Years that gyms just love. Talking about Fight Club, unplugging a flash drive without first ejecting it, or exceeding the speed limit, rebellion is present in all of us. Today, I am going to chronicle my time with Path Of Exile, which is the first game to make me break this personal one-hour rule I have been so steadfast in maintaining for the past decade.
11:00 P.M. EST: It’s been such a long day, but I promised myself I would log in for a quick look at Path Of Exile. It shouldn’t be too time consuming, let’s give it a go.
11:10 P.M. EST: Oh, so you’re telling me I am not a chosen savior of mankind with otherworldly powers, but rather an ambiguous criminal travelling on what looks like a slave ship? Count me in, I don’t need another power fantasy. The raggedy bunch skulking in the shadows among emaciated bodies strewn across the floor is my pool of prospective protagonists. Playing as an unsavory anti-hero is a nice trek off the beaten path, but I’ll go with the Ranger since it looks like she at least brushes her teeth.
11:30 P.M. EST: Currency are materials, materials are currency. No auction house and the microtransaction system only gives players cosmetic benefits, Diablo 3’s subtle pay to win scheme has finally met its match. This is how you treat your customers.
11:45 P.M. EST: After slogging through the dripping undead hordes with my peashooter of a ranged weapon, I finally loot a bow that levels the playing field. Instead of cowering in the corners attempting to evade my looming death, I can bring the fight to the monsters and starting moving up the levels.
Instead of gaining new abilities through leveling, they are rather attained by looting or being rewarded with slottable gems. This adds a layer of itemization strategy that goes beyond the typical stat counting that has become a staple in this genre. While a beastie may drop a fine vestment, the slots may force you to lose a certain skill, which in turn makes your battle approach vastly different.
11:55 P.M. EST: I should spend some of these talent points I have been accruing. Guess it’s time to see what the buzz about this talent tree is all about.
12:15 A.M. EST: This is simply incredible. The magnitude of possibilities had me enraptured for twenty minutes navigating my future build. Zooming out to get a view of a majority of the passive skill board is like peering down onto millions of hieroglyphics from space. While daunting at first, the replayability is made immediately apparent. My character will truly be one of a kind if this system works as intended.
12:20 A.M. EST: My fiancee is calling me to come to bed, reminding me that I am breaking my one hour rule. I sit back in my chair to consider stopping, head off to bed and evaluate the game as I drift off to sleep. What to do?
Screw her solidarity.
1 A.M. EST: I have explored the surrounding areas and became acquainted with some of the stranded villagers that washed up on the shores of this wretched isle long before I did. Dialogue options are aplenty, providing background and lore to this land of lost souls. Not everyone is excited to see my face as I am one of many possible unsavory characters to survive this latest shipwreck. It’s nice to not be a glowing face of redemption to civilization for once.
2 A.M. EST: I have waded through turbid waters for the past twenty minutes attempting to cleanse this murky swamp of rotting flesh and evil. The villagers claim that undead have been creeping closer to their town every day, and this mire of stink is the culprit for recent incursion. Enemies have become more intricate and I have found that they can be buffed by allies, as well as have randomized statistics. At this point, understanding how to control my character is of the utmost importance as this world is unforgiving. I have been sent to an early grave multiple times be rushing into situations blindly, or not deftly maneuvering around incoming projectiles.
I am having a bit of trouble navigating to local map as it looks like it was crafted in MS Paint. It appears to be an isometric view, but the flat and grainy textures obscure any attempt to use it effectively. It took quite a bit of time to decipher what the colors, or lack thereof meant, and even then I was still confused.
2:15 A.M. EST: I have slain the Necromancer of the Putrid Swamp, I am now a hero of the people while standing knee deep in various forms of rotting zombie flesh floating about. I am gallant in my soiled britches. In retrospect, the Necromancer’s ability to infinitely revive his minions made for an interesting fight as I needed to plan how I was going to land some hits on him.
2:30 A.M. EST: The server announces some guy named Jerk has progressed to level 50 in less than 14 hours, while I am only level 8. How? What a jerk. Someone calls him a turbo nerd in global chat, I laugh and glance at my clock. Oh, oops. Well, common sense be damned.
3:00 A.M. EST: My Ranger is becoming more powerful as I discover gems and explore the talent system further. There are so many possibilities available that the official talent allocator is very useful, even though it would take a day and a half to plan my route out. While I feel markedly more powerful, my adversaries also rank up in their deviousness. I don’t have enough equipment to utilize the weapon swap yet, but I feel like it is a quickly approaching.
3:30 A.M EST: Jerk is now level 54. This guy is on a mission. So am I. I have been battling my way up the cliff side against goatmen who have a penchant for magic, battles have becomes frantic and exciting with a pinch of stress.
4:00 A.M. EST: I have finally made it to the Prison on my quest to eliminate the psychotic Warden Brutus. This cretin is responsible for the bottleneck to a nearby forest lush with flora and fauna. The emaciated villagers are forced to scrounge for sustenance in less than optimal conditions, which is more or less a shanty town on a beach filled with the undead. He will meet my flame-tipped arrows soon.
The difficulty has continuously ramped up, and now I have to hone my skills and understanding of the games’ finer details to progress further. I have died quite a few times simply attempting to explore the ruins of this asylum, but the challenge is ultimately satisfying.
4:30 A.M. EST: The sun will be up soon and I cannot remember the last time I sat in front of my screen for such a prolonged amount of time. I not only broke my rule, I tied it to the back of my car and drove it around town a few times. I finally log off and lay my head to sleep with dreams of Sugarplum Fairies and +50 Dexterity Long Bows.
You can join in on the madness right now by heading over to Path Of Exile’s site and sign up for the Open Beta. Just don’t blame me if you get fired or break up with your significant other in the near future.