Path of Exile: Free to Play MMO Action RPG

#1

Developers: Grinding Gears Games

Released: October 23, 2013

Platform: Steam

Price: Free to Play

Rated: N/A

Contributed By: Matthew Wilson

Welcome to free Diablo! Path of Exile is an action RPG developed by Grinding Gears Games that will interest anyone who likes the classic dungeon crawler and the genre’s inherent repeated mouse clicking. This game is almost a Diablo clone, deviating only slightly from its predecessor.

Without a single player campaign option, the game is entirely multiplayer.  As such, it supports a partying systems that allow players to conquer monsters and complete dungeons together.  If you want to play Diablo and don’t have the money, this is your game.

#2

While the world has plenty of smaller story lines, the main plot centers around you being exiled to an island filled with others who have met a similar fate. While you are being transported to the island, your boat crashes and you wash up on the shore as the only survivor.

You are immediately thrown into combat and a short tutorial mission begins. Unfortunately, the beginning missions are slow.  I felt as though I had to trudge my way through the early stages of the game to reach a point where I felt free.

Choosing a class in Path of Exile simply serves as a starting point, after which there are virtually no limits on what direction you take your character. Like any RPG, your character progresses to gain new skills, but this game allows you to customize your abilities like no other.

The skill tree, containing an amazing 1325 skills to chose from,  is an overwhelming web of buffs and abilities that in no way limit you by character class. No other game offers the same level of skill customization as Path of Exile, making it one of the game’s main selling points.

As impressive as the skill system is, my favorite aspect of RPGs is not an option: character customization. Fortunately, the lack of character customization is a minimal downside as such features are a luxury.

#3

Graphically Path of Exile is average, but the game is free to play and almost two years old. Despite the title’s free to play packaging, the game features impressive voice acting, level design, monsters and boss battles. Simply put though, the game doesn’stand out in any particular way from other action RPGs aside from its expansive skill tree.

The story was bland, somewhat unoriginal and cliche. “blah blah monsters… blah blah blah war, death, violence…” you get the point.  And with the mundane story line came lackluster questing.

There’s not much to say about the questing system, it’s the same as every other classic dungeon run: kill so many monsters or retrieve an item. Nothing original was put into the questing system to help the dull monotony of your average grindy linear quests, an attribute that appropriately describes much of the game.

#4

Path of Exile’s combat system was equally medicore.  It involves an extreme amount of clicking and hotbar abilities. Grinding Gear Games did try to prevent exessive clicking by allowing players to click and hold on a single target instead of mashing your mouse incestantly, but even with this tactic the combat system felt like a chore.

 Furthermore, early in the game I wasn’t impressed by the weight of the attacks, which felt positively dainty. While it improved slightly as the game progressed, it never got to the point where I felt satisfied. Meanwhile I was looking forward to an impressive loot system, but instead Path of Exile’s only offers simple weapon types with a few modifiers that boost stats and not much else.

Thankfully, Path of Exile’s business model manages to avoid some of the controversy associated with pay-to-win microtransactions commonly seen in free-to-play titles. The market has been spammed with free to play games that can’t keep up with the cost of production and have to default to requiring players to fund the game using a pay-to-win system. In Path of Exile you’ll in no way  be forced into a position where you must use real money if you don’t want to. This game possesses one of the fairest business models for a free to play, and seriously deserves credit for it.

#5

This game is not for me, I’m just not looking for what it has to offer. If you want a solid free action RPG, well this game is for you. You can spend countless hours on this game at absolutely no expense. While the game doesn’t stand out from other titles in the genre, it still manages to  run with the best of them.

Path of Exile is definitely one of the better action RPGs out there and I highly recommend this game to anyone interested in the genre. Furthermore if you plan to play with friends the game delivers a decent party system, and features one of the best microtransaction systems that I have seen.

Advertisements

Stasis: A Sci-Fi Horror Adventure

Stasis_Title

Developers: The Brotherhood

Released: August 31, 2015

Platform: Steam

Price: $24.99

Rated: M

Contributed by: Matthew Wilson

Stasis is a relatively new title from indie game developers, The Brotherhood.  A breath of fresh air in the horror genre, Stasis has done well for itself  thanks to its unique use of isometric point-and-click gameplay.  At first I had doubts as to the compatibility of a horror adventure with isometric visuals, but Stasis delivered and delivered big. The game absolutely blew me away with its original storyline and captivating visuals. 

The Story

The premise of the game is that you have awoken in a laboratory as John Maracheck. You have no idea where you are and the spaceship is completely abandoned. The ship is ruined; equipment is broken, tables have been overturned, and streaks of blood cover the floors and walls. As you stumble through the ship in search of a way to escape to return to your wife and daughter, you’ll find that something unusual happened on the ship.

Stasis_1

The storyline truly is Stasis’ best feature. The game does an absolutely amazing job of bringing immersion to the player. As you explore the ship you’ll find many journal entries and clues as to the history of the ship and what caused the ravage. If you like to read I highly recommend this game, as you will find yourself with a lot of content.  The game is riddled with clues hidden among the writings you come across, so they’re definitely worth the read.

The Good Stuff

 Although I doubted the horror elements of the game at first, it didn’t take long before I was terrified, screaming and leaving my computer  to calm down. The amazing visuals add to the horror experience as the game’s atmosphere has you on guard at all times. Stasis is most assuredly a horror game, so if you’re a fan of the genre this is a must have.

Disregarding horror in relation to graphics, the graphics still do the game justice. The lighting, the colors and the environment make for a very pleasing game to look at. It is incredible how much attention to detail the developers put into Stasis. Also, I have to give credit to the nice voice acting that accompanies you throughout the game. The art of the game is true excellence.

Gameplay

Stasis_2

The game’s controls should be familiar to those who played other isometric games such as Baldur’s Gate. The only difference is that the game is completely mouse driven, including the menu. The entire game is point-and-click with a helpful HUD that allows the player to identify the object they are clicking on or mousing over. However, this didn’t  always allow for smooth gameplay. 

 The nature of  most point-and-clicks is to solve puzzles, and Stasis is no different. This requires the player to activate certain things in a certain order, use a specific tool on another object… so on and so forth. However, the game’s lack of assistance in this area can be frustrating

The Not Good Stuff

It could be that I’m simply bad at point-and-click games, but annoyance turned to frustration as I scoured the environment for a clue or item for hours without any help from the game. This is where one of the bigger problems with the game’s  HUD comes into play. The game will only tell the player when he or she has their mouse over an object. As with most point-and-clicks,  objects can be hidden and can be very small with the intention of making them difficult to find. The isometric nature of the game makes this even more difficult. A system that helps reveal objects would have been greatly appreciated.

Another problem with Stasis, was that the game’s lack of help sometimes completely halted progress. While the game has a set amount of responses when solving a puzzle, these messages simply state that whatever you are trying to do is incorrect.  

What it Needs

One suggestion I had to solve this could be unique dialogues for each situation that suggest a correct tool, or  action. Additionally, a timed dialogue could appear if you’re in an area for a prolonged amount of time without progress. I’m definitely not asking for answers,  but helpful hints can prevent frustration when a player is stumped.  Again I may not be very good at games like these, but those who can empathize with me may experience similar issues.

The Final Verdict 

Stasis_3

Despite the difficulty of the puzzle mechanics in the game, Stasis is a game that stands out among others. It has solid graphics, a great storyline, and for horror fans, a good amount of fear inducing elements. The game is not demanding on graphics or processing, so almost any machine can run this game no problem. The price is fair for the average gameplay length of 10-12 hours. I would recommend this game to anyone looking for a single player game that will give them hours of excitement.