Listen, Diablo III isn’t that bad these days. Sure, the original launch was kind of a disaster, but last year’s Reaper of Souls expansion shaped Diablo III into a halfway decent sequel to the longtime king of the action-RPG genre, Diablo II.
But there’s this weird experiment on Steam. Maybe you’ve played it, maybe you haven’t. It’s called Path of Exile, and it’s basically the sequel Diablo II fans actually wanted: A massive, complex ARPG with almost limitless character customization, a ton of loot, and a gritty art style that matches the tone of the game. The Steam reviews for the game speak volumes—many of the reviewers have put in over a thousand hours.
Oh, and did I mention the game is free? Completely free?
Now, I’m not even close to having a thousand hours in Path of Exile, but earlier this week I got to check out the game’s upcoming expansion, The Awakening. It’s looking like enough to bring me back into the game, at least for a bit.
The developer, Grinding Gear, has released a fair bit of content for Path of Exile since launch. The Awakening is the piece players have been waiting for though—a true expansion, adding a fourth act onto the game’s story, new locations, and completely overhauling a number of systems, including the game’s legendary leveling trees.
Oh, and the expansion is free too.
As far as story is concerned, The Awakening‘s new Act Four will drop players into an entirely new hub city. The real draw is what the Path of Exile team has been able to do with the new combat areas, though.
I was told by Grinding Gear that prior to The Awakening, the art team was somewhat constrained by the theme of each act. For instance, if you’ve played Path of Exile you’ll know that Act One takes place on a beach. That meant all the action…well, it had to take place on a beach. That makes sense.
Act Four? Throw out all the rules. A big part of The Awakening is a force that causes people’s dreams to manifest as actual places you can visit. Thus, in my short time with the game I visited locations from gladiator pits to heaving lava