Path of Exile was sort of the third horse in the two horse race to find the true successor to Diablo II. I got into the beta almost two years back and was pleasantly surprised by how well the game recreated some of what I felt were the defining essences of Diablo II. Grinding Gear Games seemed to be on the right path. I put it on my list of games I was looking to play in 2012.
2012 came and we saw the release of Diablo III in the first half of the year on what has become known internationally as Error 37 day. Then towards the end of 2012 Torchlight II made it on the scene. Neither of those games really captured me as neither really felt like true successors to the Diablo II crown. Diablo III clearly got story right, but failed on itemization as well as with the “OMG we hate RMT so much!!1” auction house plan, which even they now grant didn’t work out quite as planned. Torchlight II got points on simplicity and itemization plus having real modding potential, but really didn’t have a story that was at all compelling to me, which meant that the game ended up feeling like a disjointed series of fetch and carry quests. (Plus I am still waiting for the promised Macintosh version so my daughter an I can play together.)
And neither game got many points when it came to atmosphere, one of the more compelling aspects of Diablo II. It takes more than just making sure there is a desert zone and a jungle zone and so on. The sense of atmosphere was spoiled because both games apparently took place on worlds where OSHA had mandated all subterranean lairs must be fully illuminated via a blanket installation of indirect lighting. They successfully banished the dark and, with it, the prevailing sense of mood. Go look at that YouTube clip in that Essence of Diablo II post I did a couple of years back to see what I mean.
Yes, some people did not like that. I happened to think it was a vital element in setting the mood of the game.
Those two games launched, I played them both for a bit, and then let them fall by the wayside. Meanwhile, Path of Exile remained in beta. Earlier this year it went into open beta, so more people could pile in and give it a try, but otherwise remained an unfinished project.
More text and some screen shots after the cut.