Path of Exile asks if you’ve got room for another action RPG

, | Games

What a grand time to be a fan of action RPGs. It’s not enough that a AAA juggernaut like Diablo III changed up the action in ways that won over a Diablo II diehard like me. That just gives Torchlight II even more room to breathe with its older school approach to making the hard choices about your character build. But wait, there’s more! A Valley Without Wind is a side-scrolling retro plunge into infinite exploration. Drox Operative is an upcoming sci-fi excursion from the creator of action RPG masterpieces Depths of Peril and Din’s Curse. I’d even count the streamlined Hunters 2 on my iPad an action RPG if it weren’t for the fact that, well, it’s a slow, drawn-out, turn-based game. I’m probably forgetting a couple.

Which is where Path of Exile’s open beta weekend comes in, starting this Friday. There’s no denying its debt to Diablo II — just look at that screenshot — but neither can you deny that the free-to-play approach is, uh, an interesting take on the genre. It’s got a decidedly harder core approach to character builds, and as a fan of the Teutonically demanding Sacred 2, I’m down with making hard choices about wonky numbers. I’m even open to the free-to-play model not utterly ruining it. I’m also intrigued by a couple of Path of Exile’s unique features.

a new end-game system featuring Maps whose properties, risks and rewards can be modified by players

An opportunity to roll my own difficulty? If there’s one person I trust more than developers to determine the risk/reward ratio in my games, it’s me. I also like Path of Exile’s approach to player vs. player much more than the prospect of standing there whacking away at someone else’s character:

The Open Weekend will also feature special events, such as two hour ladder races and competitions to clear areas first.

Events like these take place within “leagues”, which are firewalled areas with their own economy, where you roll a new character who can’t be twinked with your shared stash or microbought advantages. This is how Path of Exile has hardcore characters, competitions, ladders, and so forth.

Since the open beta is a stress test for a free-to-play game, anyone can jump in. Go here for more information, including links to register and download the client.