As I mentioned in my 2015 retrospective, I’ve been playing Path of Exile again. It has been a while since I’ve played, and it is really interesting to see all the things that they have added to the game since then, including a complete fourth act.
As Path of exile adds new features, it’s definitely creeping up the list of my favorite rogue-likes. One feature that they added was skill jewels. These are bundles of passive skills that are socketed into the skill web. The novelty here, I think, is the image in my mind of someone in a designers meeting saying, “Why not allow the players to customize parts of their passive tree?” Just like the passive web itself, this is really quite the novel concept, and the fact that they pulled it off (without stretching the bounds of their universe overmuch), is pretty impressive.
The other thing that Path of Exile has done for me, is hit all the right tropes with just the right amount of twist. They have items with stats, magical abilities, and sockets which makes item comparison just complicated enough that you’re unlikely to get a strictly better item than what you have – there will be tradeoffs. They have skills with prerequisite skills, but all of these are passive skills, so you never feel like you have to get something you’ll never use. They have the forest level (with lots of little dudes) and the desert level (with hearty defenders), but… …Nope, they did that one straight up, but it was still good.
Finally, I have to look at how Path of Exile has funded all of these cool features: it is a free-to-play game where the money store is primarily vanity items. The developers have recognized the balance between releasing more vanity items or pay-to-win features and releasing new game features to attract new players and rekindle older players’ interest. Hitting that balance is pretty impressive and I think the game is richer for it.