By – Mike Bezek
Welcome, exile. You now live on this wretched island with the rest of us, clinging to what little humanity you retained while sailing on that passing prison ship. The Isle of Wreaclast is unforgiving and malevolent, yet strikingly beautiful to those who stop and smell the poison-laced flowers. As an exile, mustering the ability to outsmart your opponents is a daunting task indeed, but this guide should give you the basic tools to guide you a bit further from the Reapers’ grasp.
You arrive on Wreaclast with both a broken body and mind, forced to salvage the weapon of fellow exile who met his unfortunate end just moments after you opened your eyes. This equipment will serve you well for the beginning of your journey, but not much longer after that. You are lacking proper abilities, and with that in mind, your modus operandi will be fighting through the clamoring undead with basic attacks.
While killing monsters is the hallmark of growth for any aspiring adventurer, Path Of Exile moves players in a different direction when tackling how to grow their characters. Let’s go over the basics to help you get some footing:
These are abilities available to you on the toolbar in the lower right hand corner of the screen. Hovering over them will bring up a small tooltip to provide the finer details on how it operates. As time passes, you will gain a myriad of skills through looting the hordes you mow down to fill those sad, empty slots. Abilities can be easily swapped by right-clicking any slot and choosing the skill you would like to place there.
Unlike traditional WASD controls, the default skills are bound to QWERTY. It may be awkward during the first few hours of usage, but it becomes natural as you need to hold Shift to attack in place. While I personally like using the 4th and 5th buttons on my Spawn mouse to execute skills, attempting to assign abilities to these buttons proves unfruitful. It seems that Grinding Gear Games has yet to implement advanced mouse recognition at this point in the Open Beta.
Take a look at the Passive Skill Tree for a second a familiarize yourself with it. You will be spending quite a bit of time poring over the massive amount of possibilities, so grab a coffee and prepare for some research. This is the cornerstone of how your character grows and survives; refunds for skill points placed in thoughtless haste are very scarce.
One of your first stops before loading up a new game should be the very handy Passive Skill Allocation page on the official PoE site. Plan on taking some time to map out a route that suits your play style the best as planning and forethought are fundamental elements to successfully conquering Wreaclast.
Passive Skills are the building blocks of how your character is going to tackle the ever increasing variance of monster-types. Take note that after spending roughly 15 Skill points, your respective character will start seeing their tree branching off in wild directions. For example: The Witch will start out her passives by allocating skills in typical Mana Regeneration and Intelligence boosts, but deviating a bit to the right side of the tree will lead her into abilities available to the Ranger. You will immediately think to yourself, “What use is it to allocate in a tree where my class cannot benefit?” Well, my young bright-eyed newcomer, this is because every class can use a weapon that would normally be reserved for specific classes in other games.
If you so desire, the Witch can pick up a bow and provide ranged physical damage support while waiting for her mana to regenerate. Although she may not particularly excel at dealing this type of damage early on, the ability to actively swap weapons via Weapon Sets allows hybrids to thrive in varying situations once properly trained.
Of course, all of these interesting possibilities are governed by the triad of statistics: Strength, Intelligence and Dexterity. You can check your current amount by opening up the character panel, or the Passive Tree and navigating to your emblem.
Each of the triad give you small bonuses, which are as follows:
- Strength: 2 points = +1 Life/ 5 points = +1% Physical Damage
- Intelligence: 2 points = +1 Mana/ 5 Points = +1% Energy Shield
- Dexterity: 1 point = 2 Accuracy/ 5 Points = +1% Evasion
Every weapon and armor piece will have a stat requirement attached to it, such as a Club that demands you to be level 8 with 30 strength and 10 Dexterity to wield it. In order to achieve diverse equipment prerequisites, you will have to hang onto loot that provides boosts which allow you to meet the entrance fee. Rings and amulets are the best providers of additional bonuses to your base statistics allowing you to inch your way into using different weapons. Vendors will sell these low-level boosts for a modest price, most of which provide a 20-30 point bonus to a specific stat.
In the beginning, you will be best served by sticking to your classes’ trademarks. They are as follows:
- Strength: Marauder
- Dexterity: Ranger
- Intelligence: Witch
- Strength/Dexterity: Duelist
- Strength/Intelligence: Templar
- Dexterity/Intelligence: Shadow
As you can see, some classes are natural hybrids allowing for almost endless possibilities. If you are a first time player in this genre, I would suggest playing a “base character” like the Marauder or Ranger to get a feel on how to guide your character down the right path. While you may be tempted by the Duelist with his diverse abilities, it is best to understand what you are getting yourself into with a straightforward class like the Marauder. The learning curve is a bit high, so punching above your weight class is not recommended.
In most games, leveling up is the ultimate pathway to achieve higher skills and abilities for your characters, but such is not the case in Path Of Exile. You can bring your character to level 100 and not have a single new ability, as skills are looted and traded, rather than gained through leveling The beauty of sublime diversity available to each class is the ability to equip any type of Skill Gem where they satisfy the requirements.
Skill Gems are acquired through looting corpses, or are occasionally rewarded for completing quests. There are three colors that correspond with the colors of the triad of stats: Red (Strength), Green (Dexterity) and Blue (Intelligence). These colors let you know that it will require a statistic to be met in order to utilize them, as the rules to equip them are exactly the same as armor and weapons. The difference between gems and equipment is their ability to level up in tandem with you. As you defeat monsters, your gems will receive roughly 10% of the total experience your character does, which will eventually allow you to level up their abilities. You do not have to utilize the gem in order to increase its level , it only has be equipped to receive the 10% experience. This allows you to level gems that you might want to trade with other players to obtain ones that are beneficial to you.
You may be thinking that the ability to create an all-powerful hybrid character able to shear the world in two will be a breeze. Not so fast, young one. As your Skill Gems Level, so will their requirements, the proper forethought to increase your stats meaning you will sometimes be stuck with an underleveled gem due to not having stats to match the prerequisites. Neglecting to stack Intelligence while socketing blue gems as a Marauder will suddenly leave you limping on the battlefield with vastly underpowered skills you once relied on for crowd control. Like I said before: planning and forethought are the keys to success.
Properly balancing gems can allow you to tinker and perfect certain builds that complement your playstyle. Let me give you an example – I have a habit of creating “glass cannon” builds in most games that allow me to hop around the battlefield while dealing massive damage. Titles like World Of Warcraft and Diablo 3 give dexterous classes the ability to teleport or stealth about to avoid attacks, but PoE lacks any type of instantaneous movement abilities. Instead, I was forced to experiment on how to keep myself mobile while still dealing massive damage. So here was my solution: Boots with a 15% movement increase, Rain Of Arrows Skill Gem paired with a Faster Projectiles support gem (more on that later) and a Distraction Totem Strength-based gem. I also paired a Puncture Skill gem with a Fork Support gem to boost damage to stragglers.
This allowed me to run into a group of enemies and drop a totem which they will focus on instead of my squishy ranger. I then stand at range and fire multiple instances of Rain Of Arrows for gobs of AoE damage, this tactic allows me to delay their initial advance. Any stragglers who escaped my AoE and crowd control would be mowed down by the DoT Puncture provides, as the Fork gem will split my Puncture arrows and bounce off of other enemies to spread the effect.
The Distraction totem, while very useful, forces me to comply with the steadily increasing Strength requirement as it levels. Being a practitioner of due caution with certain gems is paramount to building a character that does not flail helplessly about with a poorly thought-out skillset. While it may take some time to get used to, experimentation is undoubtedly fun.
What kind of RPG would this be if we weren’t able to jam precious jewels into our equipment for inexpiable benefits? Sockets will appear on some items in a variety of different patterns and conjunctions, some which will be beneficial, and some useless given your current build. Just like Skill Gems and the Triad of stats, sockets correspond with the colors Red, Blue and Green denoting which color can be placed inside.
Sockets will come in two flavors: Linking or Solitary. The latter is a single slot not connected to any other socket, meaning that it is solely used for a single Skill Gem and cannot receive any auxiliary benefits. Linking Sockets allow you to customize how your skills perform, such as my Rain Of Arrows and Faster Projectiles linked gems mentioned earlier. Support Gems that are linked with a Skill Gem will modify that specific action, which in turn gives you the ability to experiment. There is no penalty to removing and resocketing gems, so you are free to go crazy with different combinations. For the most part, Support gems are most beneficial to classes that harness the same color as their primary stat, so try to stick to corresponding colors until you branch farther out into new skill territory later in the game.
You may notice very early on that Wreaclast is lacking a staple in almost every ARPG: Gold Currency. The eternal grind to collect every last piece of shiny coin has been eliminated in favor of creating a currency that is equally useful to the player as it is for bartering. A common design in games of this genre is that all items are assigned a set of stats at the time the loot is generated from a monster kill. These stats can typically cannot be changed, so they will typically just be referred to as “Vendor Trash” and waste a majority of your time and bag space.
The beauty of the currency system of PoE is that every single item is up for some type of modification, whether it be reforging sockets on a Rare Item, or upgrading a Normal item into a Magical one. Finding a Blessed Orb may be beneficial to a certain piece of equipment you have been storing for use, but another player may be offering a greater item if you are willing to trade. It is important to learn the value each modification item holds in bartering so that you can made smart purchasing decisions.
During your first 20 levels, you will come across a wide variety of modifiers that may seem confusing at first, but here is a list of beginning items, their effect, and suggestions on how to use them:
- “Fragments/Shards”: These items are inherently useless unless stacked to a specified amount. You will receive these from vendors for lower-level items with paltry affixes. Once you stack five Wisdom Fragments, it will become one Scroll Of Wisdom. Twenty Alteration Shards becomes one Orb Of Alteration, and so on. Your best bet with these is to keep them in your stash permanently as they are just taking up bag space otherwise.
- Orb Of Alteration: This will grant a Magical item new properties that may or may not benefit you. These are great for items that have permanent affixes, but their additional traits leave something be desired. I have found that using these as a bargaining chip in bartering is the most effective use when low-level trading.
- Orb Of Transmutation: Using this will take a Normal Item (Grey) and upgrade it to a magic item with new properties. This works well in the beginning of the game when most of your equipment is lacking anything special. They typically find more use later on by applying them to Grey health/mana flasks that are an upgrade to your personal cache.
- Orb Of Augmentation: A bit of an upgrade to the Orb Of Transmutation. Applying this to a Magic item will add a new property while retaining the existing one. These are excellent resources for items that already have great properties which need a gentle push to become even better.
- Armourer’s Scrap: A great tool early on in the game as it will upgrade the “Quality” of the applicable piece of armor, but moreso because lower-rarity items gain an additional boost from it usage. This directly influences attributes like Defense and Evasion to give you a bit more staying power, but keep in mind that the effect will max out at 20%.
- Blacksmith’s Whetstone: Like the Armourer’s Scrap, this will improve the quality of a weapon up to 20% and works best with lower-rarity items.
- Orb Of Chance: Like the name implies, use this when you are feeling particularly lucky. Using this on a Grey Item will upgrade into a Rare Item. A roll of the die can be quite exciting when you find an item that benefits you, but the scarce availability of this item makes the gamble require a bit of forethought.
While there are plenty of other modifiers you will perhaps encounter during your early levels, these are the main drops that will find the most. As you can see, your items become full of possibilities when placed on the proverbial modification workbench, so have some fun experimenting with the outcomes!
These should be self-explanatory, but let’s go over how they function. Waypoints can be found along what we will call the “Main Path” of the world maps, allowing you to quickly travel between zones. Travelling off course will leave you to your own devices, where escaping from certain zones is only accomplished by using certain methods. Portal Scrolls will return you to the most recent town you have visited, backtracking to the previous zone with a waypoint, or dying. Preparing yourself before entering any dungeons that has multiple “levels” is paramount as it may be a very long walk back from the last waypoint to continue your progress.
Portal Scrolls, Map Resets and You:
Portal Scrolls are extremely handy when farming or progressing through tough dungeons, but do not be fooled by their ease of use. Portals will close after a certain amount of time, effectively leaving you stranded in town if you lollygagged for too long. When you leave a zone, a timer will start, and the zone will reset between 8-12 minutes of your absence. If you are caught on the other side of the portal, there is no recourse but to travel all the way back to where you left off.
I tend to sell Portal Scrolls off to vendors as they trade 1:1 for Scrolls Of Wisdom, which allows you to identify items. While some may have a penchant for shifting back and forth to town to sell their wares, it is sometimes too cumbersome to constantly travel back and forth. It is ultimately up to you, just always remember the timer.
Luck be with you, fair traveler:
While Path Of Exile is a deep, engrossing game with countless possibilities, reading this guide is your stepping-stone into the challenges to come. There is much to the game that is not concrete, and some information provided here is cross-referenced from forums, in-game theorycrafting, and examining entries in the Exile Wiki. I do hope that I shed some light on questions I see asked very often in game, although there are still many that had to be omitted for sake of length. Please keep in mind that the game is still in Open Beta, meaning that many things could change in the coming weeks. I would like to mention that this is the first time I have felt compelled to write up a beginners guide for a game in roughly a decade, so please feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below or at email@example.com. See you in Wreaclast!
Last updated: 1/31/13