Lions and tigers and demonic banshees, oh my!

If you’ve ever wandered off the beaten trail in an adventure game, you know what kinds of hair-raising creatures might be waiting in the shadows to gobble you up. Well now we have a game where those beaten trails become the eerie shadows. Path of Exile is a dark and gritty online action RPG that’s set in a deep fantasy world of randomized levels, with horrifying creatures lurking around every corner.

The atmosphere of the game reminds me of Dark Souls, if the notoriously difficult dungeon crawler had been an MMORPG. Players will get to choose from six unique character classes like the Witch and the Shadow, as they “encounter hundreds of species of opponents laden with loot and mysterious artifacts as they explore the abandoned continent.” Well when you put it like that, let me go sign up for the open beta right now!

 

In Path of Exile, you’ll get to combine different Skill Gems to unlock a multitude of awesomely devastating attacks, and modify your current abilities to powerful levels. For instance, why throw one measly fireball at your enemy, when you can shower him in violent streams of flames instead? You’ll also be able to fine-tune your character through a deep and intricate Skill Tree, where core specialties are enhanced, and the playing style of your character can be altered completely. The in-game items are carefully connected to economic orbs that essentially “reroll” the properties of other items, which makes for a truly invigorating experience.

I’ve already mentioned that the world of Wraeclast in Path of Exile is a dark and ominous setting, but after watching the beta gameplay trailer, you’ll see just how downright terrifying the game can actually be. On the official Path of Exile website, the developers admit: “We’re sick of the recent trend towards bright, cartoony RPGs.” They don’t seem to be kidding, either. One look at that giant cobra beast with the skeletal claws and giant mouth full of whirling, gnashing teeth, and no one would blame you for running away with your sword between your legs!

Path of Exile

The game offers great online opportunities for both cooperative and competitive play, through leagues and other special events where you can travel together in parties, or boast about your high character level to your friends. While it doesn’t cost a cent for players to get in on the action, there is also a much-welcomed assurance that the game is “free-to-play,” and most certainly not “pay-to-win.” Even though Path of Exile doesn’t have a definitive release date for the final build as of yet, the game has been enjoying critical acclaim this past week in its open beta version. Hopefully I’ll be able to build up my courage before it officially launches!