MatchUp: Path of Exile vs Diablo 3
We’ve Matched Up two of the biggest action RPG games around right now, the newest iteration of the Diablo series: Diablo 3 (D3) from Blizzard Entertainment, and the new up and comer Path of Exile (PoE) from indie developers Grinding Gear Games. Needless to say Diablo is the heavy hitter of the two, pulling in a massive 15 million registered players as of the last count in February 2014, in comparison to Path of Exile’s 5 million players (albeit Diablo 3 has been around for just turned 2 years in comparison to PoE which is just over 7 months). One has the backing of a huge developer and publishing company, as well as a huge fan base following the franchise with two prequels under its belt, and the other is a small studio of developers who love the genre but have managed to make waves in the action RPG world.
These two games are constantly compared, their similarities and their differences are constant topics of debate on their respective forums and fan websites; but to be up front they’re not that much alike. Other than being in the same genre and a similar game style (isometric top-down button smashing action gameplay), in all honesty if it wasn’t for Path of Exile using the classic Diablo red health orb and blue mana orb GUI we dare say there wouldn’t be half as many comparisons as in reality the games aren’t honestly all that similar… and here’s why.
Path of Exile is in many ways the spiritual sequel, gameplay wise, to Diablo2 whereas with D3 Blizzard definitely tried to go down a more streamlined route, pulling in their experiences from World of Warcraft and other titles to bring more accessibility to a game that appeals to a wider range of players. This is the most significant difference between the two titles, D3 comes across as being more casual and easy to pick up whereas PoE with its extensive customisation options can at times it be a little more hardcore.
Diablo 3 has stuck with the classic class-based character selection, which pretty much defines your role in the game, the type of combat experience you will encounter, the skills you can choose the types of weaponry available to your character; it is in every sense of the word class-based game with six different classes to choose from. What a player gets with each class is a completely different type of strategy, similar to World of Warcraft each play through of the game with a new class will feel different and so gives the game some replayability. With Path of Exile the classes themselves don’t have as much meaning as far as their initial starting skill and the starting attributes that you have available, with each of the six primary classes relying on one or two of the three available attributes: strength, dexterity and intelligence, with the exception of the Scion class which is unlocked once players complete the game on normal mode with one of the other classes, who is aligned to all three attributes.
Whilst on the surface Path of Exile’s class differentiation may seem weaker it is but the starting point for a far more complex system: the Passive Skill Tree. The skill tree is a huge spider web network of passive skills that players can pick up to gain extra boosts and change how specific skills work (such as putting a point in the blood magic node means you’re character will now use their own health pool to perform actions and thus changing how the character works completely). Players gain a new point each time they level up to put into the tree, on the able to select a new node that links to one they have previously activated, however every class shares the same Passive Skill Tree and the class they choose simply determines whereabouts on the tree they begin. What this allows is players to start as one class and either choose the main skill nodes surrounding that class and staying true to the core of that class or branching out and spreading across the tree into multiple classes, creating hybrids and unique templates for their characters.
More so skills, other than the starting skill, I’m not defined by your class but instead applied to skill gems that can be inserted (and removed freely) into gear and thus enabling the character to use that skill. Moreover gem sockets in gear items can be linked together and support gems can be linked to active skills to change how they work e.g. making a fireball shoot multiple fireballs in an attack or and linking it with the gem that heals the player when it deals damage, or in the case where multiple sockets can be linked even the option to do both!
This skill acquisition is not only what separates it from Diablo 3, but also what gives Path of Exile some of its greatest appeal. Diablo 3 has gone from more streamlined system where players earn new skills as they level up their class character, but even here they are able to further customise their skills with unique runes that drastically change how a particular skill works, offering its own level of customisation, but essentially at max level every class will have the same access to all its powers as someone else who has maxed the same class.
Whilst there are similarities with the gameplay the core features really separate the two titles, possibly making it so that you prefer one of the other or can happily play both without feeling too much repetition in playing to action RPG games.
One of the other major differences between Path of Exile and Diablo 3 is the financial aspects in that PoE is completely free to play and Diablo 3 requires a purchase of the game at a regular retail price, as is common with Blizzard. Continuing this trend players also need to purchase the expansion for D3, the recently released Reaper of Souls (released two years after the initial core game launch), whereas Grinding Gear Games have promised to keep all “mini-expansions” (released every four months) completely free and make their money back through “cosmetic” micro-transactions in the game store. Blizzard are in a position to be able to ask for money upfront from their players, typically players know what they are buying with a Blizzard product, as well as their already being a fan base for the Diablo franchise, and due to the PC/console accessibility it wouldn’t make sense to make the game free on PC but making players pay for it on the console version. So you will about free to play versus pay to play games, Blizzard are obviously onto a good thing what with Diablo 3 being the fastest selling PC game of all time and still retaining that title two years later.