Path of Exile: Recent Patch Review

A friend from work recently invited me into his guild for Path of Exile. I had been meaning to get back into the game for some time so that gave me a little more motivation in playing, especially with the various content patches that I had missed. But I never did a proper review nor truly went in depth about my feelings for the game for a variety of reasons. Since I have some spare time, I decided to write up some thoughts on the game.

Probably, the biggest reason I haven’t played the game in a while (outside of time) is that my computer would frequently crash. In prior patches, I would get horrible blue screens or the game would lock up and some freakish, piercing sound would emit loudly. So one thing I tried was reinstalling the drivers to my video card and updated all the Windows patches. That seemed to help in that my crashes are less frequent, especially the blue screen ones.

However, I still get regular crashes and I get a little fidgety playing the game because of how badly the game dies. It’s not a simple matter of the game freezing and me being forced to kill the application through the Task Manager. It’s a complete, near irrecoverable lock up where I have to do a hard reboot. Luckily, I’m not the only one that seems to experience that as I have read some forum threads where other NVIDIA users have similar issues with the game.

But if there’s one major flaw with the game it’s that it’s optimized poorly. I know the game has a lot of lag, bugs and frequent crashes not just for me but other streamers too with probable better systems than the one I own. What drives me crazy is that I cannot find a single manner to optimize the game to avoid these issues.

That said out of a suggestion, I decided to give the Abyss League a shot. I had been goofing around on Standard with various builds just to see which one would feel good. My main build is a Duelist Ancestral Warchief type of build, which seems very n00b friendly. At the moment, I managed to reach level 60 and Act 6 (yes, I’ve outleveled the content) and hit a wall with the final boss. But I haven’t really pushed due to time constraints (namely trying to get other aspects of my life in order).

From what I’ve seen, this league has been pretty fun thus far. I like the little Abyss Troves since they happen almost on every map and provide some nice rewards. I still need to hit end game mapping but I’m very intrigued by the new Elder and Shaped items, which are what Primal Ancients should have been for D3.

What I’m more impressed by is just how much the game has grown since I started. I’m not a huge fan of the new acts because there’s a lot of near repeated content. I’m also not a fan of the boss fights (will get into that). But I am a fan of removing the other two difficulties, which was pretty redundant.

I guess the best way to describe what I’m seeing is that there’s even more to do. Since I still consider myself reasonably new to the game (meaning I haven’t really explored the whole depth of the game), I find myself learning new things all the time. A lot of the game isn’t obvious but it forces you to think about what you’re doing and possibly do research to improve yourself so you can make progress.

A lot of the mechanics are slowly coming together for me. I still find the skill tree daunting but I’m learning how those things combined with the items and gems work together. I tend to use guides to figure out what works best for my play style and there’s just a ton of great information all around.

One small thing I did was add a loot filter (the most common one). That alone has allowed me to find the better items around me rather than me rummaging through each one individually. Small ideas like having a 3-linked RBG item leading to a Chromatic Orb was a huge in conjunction with employing the loot filter.

Also, learning about how the various masters can help in crafting was a boost for me. I’m probably wasting currency at too early of a stage but I don’t mind experimenting to figure out what I can do with the game.

I suppose the real bottom line for me in going through the game like this is finding all the missing ideas as well as realizing how the game has creatively added depth in providing quests (through prophecies) and loot along with the crafting aspects.

What I really enjoy is just checking out the variety of skill gems and seeing how each play style is slightly different. I might see someone using say Frost Blades or Molten Strike on a stream then want to give it a shot. Sure, I have my usual alt-a-holic ADHD when it comes to this type of game, but I think that idea is meant for people like me.

Now, I mentioned how much I hate the bosses. I suppose my main complaint is that I just dislike so-called epic fights in general. To me it ruins a game because there’s this weird temptation by developers to add a ton of stupid shit without seemingly thinking about what it means. And when I mean by “a ton of stupid shit,” I’m talking about a ton of crappy effects that just litter the screen for no purpose other than a clusterfuck shitshow.

Back when I was getting my blue screens, I noticed that most of the problems occurred whenever I was on some boss fight and a transition would occur. It feels that all these effects add nothing in terms of depth but plenty of stress to my processor, leading to it getting fried. I hated this with World of Warcraft towards the end because it felt like the developers just wanted to pile a ton of condiments for the sake of making people run around like chickens with their heads cut off rather than thinking of intriguing ways to engage a player in an interesting fight.

It’s worse when these fights are prolonged with these bosses going through numerous phases. I feel like I’m watching an old school pro-wrestling match where you’d have hundreds of restholds. Or perhaps it’s more like a contemporary match where the battle consists of nothing but highspots. There’s no real psychology behind these fights except make person move to point B, dodge this shit, dodge that shit, make player fire three shots then die to a one shot mechanic.

Those things combined with the inconsistent crashes make me hesitate about pushing further at times.  I think my biggest fear in the game is making progress against a boss or some level then having the game crash and losing all that progress. That part is not fun no matter how you cut it.

Another major complaint I have about the game is just that the visuals destroy my eyes. I don’t know what it is with this type of game or Diablo 3, but I end up getting bad eyestrains after playing for a few hours. I really enjoy the game when I’m progressing and can put quite a few hours in. But the next day, I’ll end up with a severe headache that probably is caused by the bad lighting in the game.

I feel that the game needs a far better manner to manage graphics. Sure, they have that panel but it doesn’t help much in my case. I really wish there was a way to strip out a lot of the stupid effects or make it easier to discern things. A good example is monsters where it’s nearly impossible to see what’s hitting you at times.

Lastly, if there’s one major positive D3 has over PoE is that the game is a lot more responsive. D3 still has issues overall in terms of responsiveness but I feel I get around 80% control in PoE over what I’m doing. Stuff like leaping or dropping a totem feel really slow. It’s as if there’s a stupid command buffer some place that’s just absorbing every action as a literal. That sounds like it should be the case, but there’s a dissonance in the way someone sees themselves playing and what they type or click.

I suppose a huge part of the problem is that there’s no indication when something has happened. I can’t see when I’m dropping the totem until it actually happens. So I often will misplace a totem or leap into a wrong spot. Part of it might be that I constantly have my right mouse button held down most of the time out of habit rather than clicking to move to a spot. So the command buffer probably gets confused in terms of what ought to be down next. But somehow this aspect doesn’t seem to have any performance issues on D3’s side and is one of the more polished things they have.

At any rate, this is a game that I can play in long stretches when I get that hunger. It’s fun and intriguing, which is why I switched from D3. I really enjoy seeing my character grow and the gear grind. I’m hoping to try new things with crafting and eventually get into trading. But I’ll save that for another day.

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