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    dkirschner's Path of Exile (PC)

    [October 21, 2015 08:59:24 PM]
    Woohoo! I've been replaying this since July because they came out with an expansion featuring a 4th act. Since my first character was a level 50-something Witch languishing in Cruel difficulty, I figured I'd play a new character through normal to see Act 4 and the new ending. It wasn't necessarily worth the time investment (~15-20 hours), but it was still fun.

    I played a Duelist, which is like your rogue archetype. I dual-wielded, but never specialized in any particular weapons. There are dual wielding and single-handed weapon talents all over the talent tree, so I was just sort of branching all over focusing on damage. I do feel that I was quite a strong character. I could utterly slaughter whole packs of enemies in 2 seconds with a couple cleaves or reaves (big AoE skills). In the final act alone, I luckily found two great weapons and increased my DPS by about 30%, which made a big difference, as the end of Act 3 and certainly the beginning of Act 4 were becoming punishing. I was definitely lacking in the HP department, constantly getting 1-shot by Act 4 bosses.

    So what is Act 4 like? There are plenty of new enemy types. My most dreaded were some of the spell casters. There were totems that could teleport around, align with other totems, and create this energy field that pretty much killed me if I was caught in it. There were enemies that would cast some sort of rain of fire spell, and a play on the dogs that breathe elemental magic at you. The ones in Act 4 fall out of the sky (presumably from a volcano), scorch the ground, and then do their fire-breathing trick. Painful. The location is like the core of I dunno where exactly, but you wind up inside a giant beast where you have to kill Malachai. There is a volcano theme earlier, and some cool parts where you enter into two characters' dream worlds. One was an arena fighter, so you go through slums and progress through a series of arena battles. The other was...clearly not as memorable because I already forgot.

    Aside from Act 4, there are other additions to the game since I played 1.5 years ago. You can have a "hideout" now and can recruit some special merchants who sell special items. I didn't really play with this, but the merchants will be out in the world and you can stumble upon them when they have quests. They are the equivalent of dailies in an MMO, and you earn reputation basically with the NPC, which unlocks better items. I imagine this becomes more important in harder difficulties where the game slows down and you can sort of grind reputation and items that way. Maybe. Also, they added tons of new gems, an end-game map system, and PvP arenas. Just lots of little things.

    If they ever add an Act 5, I'll come back. I was smart and left my Duelist at the end of Act 4 so I can just continue instead of start over. I would try and spend less time next round rummaging through my stash, which is the shared inventory among all your characters. I really did, as usual, sink a lot of time into organizing items, 90% of which I will never use. Still a really fun game!
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    [February 28, 2014 07:53:51 AM]
    Ok, PoE update. I've got a bunch of skeptical friends. "Free to play...I don't know." "Like Diablo? Eeeeh." "You just do the same 3 acts over on harder difficulties?" Come on people! Free to play games can be excellent, remember the great things about Diablo, and isn't challenging yourself on harder difficulties fun and rewarding?!

    I have been rushing through Cruel difficulty (the second one) with my Witch, though I recently seem to have hit a wall in the middle of Act 3, which sucks because I'm so close to completing Cruel. I did it solo up until I hit said wall. I had been levels above the recommended level for each area, but it finally evened out. I was getting massacred in the Chamber of Sins by a couple different types of enemies. Dying is v.bad in Cruel because you get a -5% experience penalty. In Merciless, it's -10%, ouch! So after losing like 20% of my experience bar in the Chamber of Sins, I joined up with some public parties who were running around near there. We made some headway on some quests, I leveled up once or twice (now level 50). It's funny, boss enemies are easier for me now, but some of the regular mobs are much deadlier. The same seems to be true in groups.

    I'm not sure how I feel about group play so far. Some groups aim to complete quests. Others aim to farm xp. Others are for trading and loot runs. What I do know is that no one talks, except to ask for town portals to waypoints. Everyone mostly runs around in a mob spamming AoE spells and clicking on loot. I've only picked up a couple scrolls, haven't managed to get a single rare item before someone else snags it. But I think there is an xp boost in a party, and I was in this area called The Docks yesterday watching my experience bar fly. That was pretty sweet. But, playing in a group is kind of boring because there is such a mob of players and they're all just blasting everything. I just kind of ran behind them casting one or two spells per group of enemies, when I can make them out through all the visual effects. Regardless of how I feel about groups, it seems I have reached the part of the game where I have to grind xp (either solo or in parties) in order to continue much further. Lame.

    Once I realized I was going to have to grind xp, farming the same zones over and over, I decided to play around with another class, the Scion. The Scion is cool because she starts smack in the middle of the passive skill tree, meaning she can more easily become all manner of hybrid character. I think I'm going to go for some sort of badass dual wielding, strong, attack speed kind of character. She starts out with this one skill that is a range attack where she throws her weapon(s), pretty cool. I also liked having access to my stash, where I've hoarded items from playing through with my Witch. So the Scion has a bunch of skill gems and rings and rares and stuff as she levels. BUT, after playing in Act 1 for maybe an hour, I fear...I fear I have little interest in continuing the Scion. Why? It's the same damn thing as the Witch (and every other class from what I can gather). You focus on AoE spells, run around and gather enemies, blast them down. Whether that's a fire pillar with the Witch or a Cleave with the Scion, it's the same thing. It pretty quickly felt really similar and I don't know why I would start another character to do the same thing I've been doing when I can keep progressing with the Witch. So, unless I end up finding friends to play with, the Scion will remain level 5.

    Next plans? Grind it out with the Witch. My build is pretty sweet. I can summon like 9 zombies, 10 skeletons, and 2 spectres. I have a kickass AoE spell that calls down a fire pillar, which grows in size and strength as I hold down the cast button. I have augmentation gems on my fireball spell that increase burning damage and that splits it into like 5 projectiles, so it's a pretty badass AoE spell too. I've leveled up a couple curse gems, so enemies all take like 30% more crits and crit damage, get stunned more, are slower, take 20% more physical damage, all kinds of good stuff. I've scoured the passive skill grid and have one or two more areas with summoning abilities.

    I would like to check out one of the races or some other community event just to see what it is like. I would also like to go PvP some. I forgot about that. The big thing though is there is a content expansion coming out in 5 days. I don't know if it adds a new act or what it does, but I don't want to put the game away until that. Actually, Grinding Gear Games has a pretty hefty new content schedule, with I think something big every 3 or 4 months. We'll see how this first one is, but based on the quality of the game, I'm excited for it.
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    [February 19, 2014 11:42:31 AM]
    Ok, just finished Path of Exile on normal difficulty with my witch. I played solo the entire game up until the last boss. I didn't have a waypoint to the area, so I had to make sure I kept town portals open so when I died I could teleport back. Well, one time I forgot to make a town portal and died and I didn't have a waypoint but for like 3 areas away. That's bad. Let me explain waypoints and area maps real quick.

    Waypoints are stones that you activate. Once you activate the waypoint in an area, you can insta-travel to waypoints you've activated in other areas. Don't have a waypoint for an area? Then you have to run there. Why are waypoints good besides traveling convenience? Because the areas RESET after you've been out of them for 8-15 minutes. If you haven't been in an area for 15 minutes, you can be sure all the monsters are back, the map is cleared and reset. Any exits you may have found will be randomized again. You essentially have to re-do the area.

    Back to my story. Since I died without creating a town portal (which I had to do because I hadn't found the waypoint), then I had to begin again from the nearest waypoint I had, which was like 3 areas away, and was actually where I had started this final session in the first place. Since it had been over an hour since I'd been there, that area was reset. Since I would have had to fight my way through it all over again, then for sure by the time I found the next area, that area would be reset too. Since I hadn't been there for an hour, by the time I fought my way through it, the following area would be reset as well. Continue the chain of reset areas and what you have is me playing what I just played all over again, and finally getting back to the last boss to find all my progress on him erased and reset too. Lame. It is SCARY to have areas reset! Also that means if you take a town portal to town to clear your inventory or return quests or whatever, you have like 8 minutes to do your business and get back or the area you were in might completely reset. When I play again, I will not be leaving (important) areas without scouring them for the waypoints because I got stuck with reset areas more than a few times while playing.

    So, I decided not to trek all the way back to the last boss. It's a multiplayer game too, so maybe there was a party forming to kill Dominus, the last boss. I found the party tab and sure enough, there were a couple going. I joined up and took someone's town portal to the boss. I died immediately. Enemies get...way...harder as more people join! Then everyone else died, and after a while we tried again. I died again, but just sat there dead this time and watched everyone else whittle down the boss's health. Victory! Achievements! Quest complete! Since I was dead I couldn't loot anything, but whatever, Normal difficulty completed.

    Here's an interesting thing. Path of Exile is largely multiplayer. After the game finished, I looked at my achievements, since I got like 6 this last session. One of the achievements was for joining a public group, like I did to kill Dominus. It's an easy achievement. Just click "join" on a party. Certainly that helped me out in the end, and I imagine that soloing becomes really difficult in the next difficulty level. Anyway, what percentage of players have the achievement for joining a public group? 2.1%! Only 2.1% of all players have ever joined a public group. That seems extremely low. Granted, many others may have joined private groups. But then again, the % of people who have completed the game once on normal is only 13% right now, which also seems pretty low. I guess what I interpret this as is...maybe...most people who finish the game do it solo since only 1/6 or so have grouped (assuming all the people who have grouped have finished). Then in Cruel difficulty (the next harder one), only 5.4% of players have finished it, so (assuming again that everyone who grouped has gone this far), then only half those players did it solo, versus 5/6 in Normal mode. Grouping becomes very effective, perhaps for getting loot or staying alive, or it's more fun, I have no idea. In Merciless difficulty (the hardest) 2.3% of players have finished, so practically everyone must group to complete it.

    I hope to lure some friends into this game. I want to give it another play through with a new class, probably the Scion, who you can rescue at the end of Act III and who then becomes a playable character class that begins smack in the middle of the skill grid. I'm thinking some sort of mostly strength/some dexterity character, basically the opposite as the Witch. I'd also like to try and go through Cruel solo with my Witch and just see what that difficulty is like and play with some of the items and equipment and generally try to figure the game out some more. There's a LOT of replayability here. I want to play more with other people and learn a bit about the economy. I want to plan out a build with the Scion. I want to learn more about item statistics and elemental attributes and resistances and what all these terms mean and how they are calculated.

    One more thing -- I mentioned previously that the game wasn't that interesting to look at. Well, I take my words back. While some areas really are bland, others are richly detailed and beautiful, especially later in the game. Piety's labs are especially amazing (and disgusting!) with blood rivers and corpses and torture victims strung up all over the place on a Holocaust scale. I stand by my comment that the map is ugly though, although I have learned to see through its messiness and utilize it better.
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    [February 12, 2014 08:11:37 AM]
    Path of Exile, sweet! This is basically what Diablo 2 would look like in 2014. It wouldn't look like Diablo 3. It would look like Path of Exile. PoE is a free-to-play game on Steam supported by "ethical micro-transactions," which means you can pay for cosmetic enhancements only -- nothing that actually affects your character's performance. Therefore no player is coerced or manipulated into purchasing crap like experience boosts or super weapons or faster movement speed or whatever. This makes me very happy on principle. I have also played enough "free-to-play" MMOs that I have some in-depth first-hand experience with these nefarious micro-transactions. I remember dropping like $10 in Lord of the Rings Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic so all my characters could run faster. Not that I don't want to pay to play. I'm happy to buy the game, although I tend to only buy games around $15 or less, but when developers say the game is free-to-play, it seems to me it should be free to play on equal footing with everyone else and there shouldn't be any pay-to-win elements. No one should feel disadvantaged for not coughing up as much money as the next player.

    Aaaanyway, why else am I enjoying PoE so much? Choices, choices, choices! They've done some very cool things with the genre. There are no skill trees. Instead, there is a MASSIVE passive skill grid, sort of like what the Final Fantasy games (single-player ones at least) have been doing. Except MASSIVE. I mean like 1500 nodes in the grid to put points into. And every character can move throughout the whole grid. This allows for an insane variety of character builds. INSANE. Seriously. Go look at this thing:

    My character is a Witch class. Different classes begin at different locations in the skill grid. So I guess obviously the witch begins with high intelligence and low strength and dexterity, and she's in an area that has all intelligence boosts, boosts to max mana, spell damage, each type of elemental damage, wand damage, mana shield, and other witchy things. But like, if I want to, I can go over and pick up some strength, begin using massive scepter weapons (that I assume are more for a paladin/priest type class) that usually have a bunch of + elemental damage on them, and hybridize my character. I mean, I can go literally wherever I want in that skill tree. I'm purposefully not trying to map out a character beforehand. I'm not scouring the skill tree. I'm just trying to go organically to what I see and what I want. I started off thinking I would be like a fire-heavy witch, but I've since decided that summoning zombies and skeletons is pretty badass so I'm adding skill points to those nodes that increase minion health/life/number. I'm also still getting some fire and AoE skills because it is a lot of fun and mayhem slinging AoE fireballs and exploding corpses while my zombies and skeletons run wild through hordes of enemies.

    PoE does more interesting things. There is NO money. Currency is any of the various scrolls and orbs, and fragments of those, that you find. You also get these items from selling equipment in your inventory. There are the typical scrolls of wisdom (identify an item) and town portal, but also items that let you add sockets to items, modify socket colors, upgrade items from normal to rare, forge links between sockets and on and on. The sockets are cool too. There are three colors, and you insert skill gems into them. These don't just add +strength or whatever like normal, but they actually ARE your skills and abilities. So to raise zombies, I have a raise zombie gem slotted into the appropriate color slot in a piece of armor. There are also support gems that modify abilities. You have to put these in a linked slot to the skill you want to modify. So some slots are just there next to each other and other slots are linked together. So I have +45% attack linked to my summon zombies gem and in another piece of armor I have +health linked to my summon skeletons gem. You get gems from drops and from completing quests. The gems level up as you kill enemies while the gem is equipped.

    Items have random properties, and the slots are also random. This means that while you might find a totally badass new weapon, it doesn't have but one gem slot. Or it might have more slots, but maybe a red, blue and green one instead of 2 linked blues. All these slots/gems/scrolls, as with the massive skill grid, force you to make difficult choices all the time, and most importantly, force you to think and strategize. You cannot have all the gems you want. There are 7 ability hotkeys, so you can't have more active abilities than that equipped (or, you can have them equipped, but only use 7 at a time). You cannot link all the gems you want. You have to choose among them, be smart in using the available slots to link and level gems you want or need.

    My experience so far has been pretty good. The game's atmosphere is dark and dreary, the story is pretty interesting and there is a real element of discovery and exploration. They really make you feel like you're this exile washed up in a desolate place who has to contend with all this madness in order what? Get home? Seek revenge? I dunno exactly. Importantly, the game runs fine on my 5-year-old laptop, so that's been amazing. I guess consequently, it's not that pretty to look at. The art isn't particularly exciting, the environments are actually pretty drab looking and dull. But you know, if it's going to be Diablo 2 reborn, the important thing is that it plays like it, not looks like a modern AAA blockbuster. One thing that totally needs fixing though is the map. It is horrendous to look at. Also, I assume the level layouts are randomly generated. Since I've never played before, I don't know what's up and what's down. I've gotten lost and turned around and not been able to find exits a handful of times, which has been somewhat frustrating. Playing as a witch who summons things so far, I find fighting hordes of enemies is the best and most fun. I have gotten a bit stuck one time on a boss because I was out of corpses to raise into zombies and my skeletons are weak. Without my undead horde, my witch alone is pretty hopeless!

    Anyway, there's a ton left to see and do in the game. I'm like 10 hours into the campaign on normal. There are all these other game modes and challenges, and PvP and co-op and like 5 other character classes....if I really like PoE by the end of the story, I will likely be all about trying another character or trying to get some friends to play with me. More later!
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    dkirschner's Path of Exile (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Saturday 8 February, 2014

    GameLog closed on: Wednesday 21 October, 2015

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Great dark atmosphere, sets the mood immediately. Feels great, high hopes for this. --------- Great game, but really built for replayability, which I'm not keen on doing now. Maybe if I run out of things to play, I'll return.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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