Diablo turned every gamer in the world onto dungeon crawler RPGs, but it was mainly because it was the only game of that particular genre and style at the time, except perhaps some other exceptions. I mean back in the 90s and the early 2000s when there weren’t that many games to begin with. Later the genre came alive and there were numerous titles, but Diablo kept its respectability with the second edition, and the fans were really looking forward to the third one…
And, this brings me precisely to the part where it all went wrong for Diablo and Blizzard, in my opinion. Where Blizzard thought it is better to simplify their games, other developers sought to provide a more complex and rewarding experience for the player, and Diablo slowly lost their cult following. So, this is the main argument I am trying to present in this discussion, and that is how the complex and rewarding RPG experience managed to beat the king of kings – Diablo.
Path of Exile does owe tribute to Diablo, as many other games of the same genre, but naturally, the main influence came from Dungeons & Dragons. The RPG genre is all about progression, watching your character/s grow, learning new abilities, and thinking up new ways of combining their might to overcome the challenges placed before the player. In this respect, Diablo has failed its players, for it has drastically reduced the number of talents and paths for your character’s growth.
Path of Exile brought forth the biggest skill tree I’ve ever seen…
Path of Exile’s skill tree is actually a vast web of 1325 passive skills, which all provide different bonuses to your character. With every new skill point, you go deeper into it, following a path you started or taking a new one. Each path leads to different skill combinations and offers different possibilities, so this basically means there are too many possible combinations to count.
You can focus on improving your existing abilities and stats, to reach exotic skills, which are not usually in your class’ skill set.
The Notable and Keystone passives are marked with slightly larger icons in the tree, and they have a greater effect. They represent a culmination of the skill path you took, so they kinda affect the micro aspect of your characters abilities and traits.
Keystone passives, however, change the game’s rules, as they completely change the way your class is played. They usually have a positive and a negative side to them, like the Chaos Inoculation, for instance, which makes you immune to chaos damage but sets your maximum HP to 1.
So, the game is clearly in no way predictable, and it is precisely this skill tree that has brought the endless number of possibilities to the table. Every player can have a unique character, and even every class can be unique, which is precisely what gives this game its irresistible appeal, I think.
Character customization doesn’t end there in Path of Exile, as we can also use Support Skill Gems (support gems), which are used to augment active skill gems. You can socket them in the same way as active skill gems, but unlike active gems which give you access to other active skills, support gems modify the active skill gem itself. This increases the skill’s cost, but gives it different properties, for instance, it can make your arrows chain to other monsters after they’ve hit their initial target, and so on…
Diablo 3 did bring the players the seasonal challenges, which managed to keep the players interested, but Path of Exile also has Map Properties, which can always make the map harder, bringing you more challenge and increased rewards.
In my opinion, Path of Exile took the Diablo concept, and instead of making it a more user-friendly experience, went on further into the endless pool of skill possibilities and crossovers. I cannot even begin to understand how they’ve managed to balance the game out and prevent some ability and skill combinations to easily become OP, which probably happened, but they’ve created a heaven for RPG dungeon crawler fans.
The best thing about it is naturally the character customization, which is brought to a completely new level in this game. No two player characters or even classes are the same, and it is what gives this game its allure.