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Too Much Of What I Want

Blizzard’s Diablo series offered us a certain kind of gaming experience. In many heroic adventures the player-characters are often supposed to overcome large numbers of enemies. Diablo pitted the player against endless hordes of enemies. It wasn’t much for the roleplayer who liked to make decisions, or the players who love stories and dialogue. It wasn’t for the puzzle enthusiasts. It was all about people who like random numbers and mowing down hordes of zombies, or killer apes, or zombie killer apes, or whatever the local monsters are like. It was a hack-and-slash experience.

So a few weeks ago, I heard about a game called Path of Exile from one of my corporation mates in EVE. I was told it was basically Diablo, but free to play (the good kind of free to play, with micro transactions that are cosmetic rather than pay-to-win). So I decided to give it a shot, and quickly got hooked on that old familiar gameplay of cutting down monsters and collecting loot. But I quickly found out what the difference is between the old Diablo I enjoyed so much and the new Path of Exile: it was prepared to give me exactly what I want. Jewels, rather than being consumed, could pop in and out of sockets where in Diablo once you affix one of these bonus-granting adornments, it’s permanent. Every item could be traded for every other item, and each randomly generated magic item could be re-rolled. This meant that with enough time and determination, one could assemble a hero’s kit that is almost exactly to the player’s liking whereas the Diablo player would need not only time and effort but also luck to ensure that the rare items they find are the ones they want.

All of the skills gained from level up were passive. I find that in any game when I have the choice between passive and active skills I always tend towards picking the passive skills that synergize with each other because I have a fear of being empty. I am, as a rule, willing to trade flashy displays of power for being able to do something all day long. That is how I build characters whenever possible, but PoE is giving it to me in vast quantities. Behold the skill tree:

The top half of the skill tree…
… and the bottom.

Yep, PoE is the game EVE Online players play when they decide the EVE skill tree is not vast enough. All passive, all can be made to synergize with the active skills I already have. I don’t think I have ever seen my mana globe deplete any more than a tiny tick. I am at a relatively low level still, yet I seem to have an unfettered ability to make everything the way I wish it to be. It seems like I am being given everything I want, but somehow it feels like it’s almost too much choice and not enough challenge. Unless I am just looking for something mindless to do, I can’t help but feel like this game doesn’t have a risk/reward balance that makes it great as a game. It’s more like an interactive Dawn of the Dead. Which, if that is what you are looking for, great, but I feel like the best games I have played are capable of saying “no” to my desires every once in a while. But, if I have hardly thirty minutes to play something, I am more likely to go for some over-the-top zombie mowing than I am looking for fleets, taking just one more turn in a game of Civilization, or getting on to planning the tabletop adventures I wish I was running. But, all in good time. I hope for this fall to be good to me in terms of having more tabletop to write about.

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