Path of Exile Beta test day one

There are some pretty silly rules as part of beta participation, for example:

– Please do not reveal unannounced information or comment on how things in the Beta work. For example, you should not post about some skill that hasn’t been announced yet, or some unannounced looting system we are testing out.
– Please do not post balance values from the game or update public websites or wikis with this information. For example, if someone is gathering a list of item names in the Beta, you should not tell them new names. This information will change very frequently and we don’t want to confuse people.

But I wanted to throw up some information over here, so I will try to do so within the confines of the rules.

1) The game looks amazing. I am running it on a machine that I built for WoW WotLK release some time ago with an AMD AthlonII 250 at 3.0ghz, 8gigs of corsair DD3 ram, and a 1 Gig Radeon HD 5570 DDR3 PCIe video card. I am able to run PoE at my monitor’s max resolution (1680×1050) with the (still very few) graphic options set to max. Although I only set the anisotropic filtering to 4x (it goes as high as 16) because I can see no appreciable difference between 4 and 16. Frame rates go from 30 or so in a zone with others to 60 or so when I’m alone. During some spell animations it will spike as high as 200 (according to their meter). The spell animations are beautiful to watch; it’s not just a lightning bolt that comes out of a pointy stick, there is a full animation for each cast type that is clearly rendered in dozens of frames to give it a beautiful, fluid look. These animations can, of course, be sped up with some skills both passive and as affixes on items. Here is a screenshot of one of the spells in action (click through for full resolution):

2) The mood in this game takes me back to the original Diablo. The whole thing is very dark and gritty (and by that I mean the mood and the tone, not the gamma of the visuals), and from the start gives you a feeling that you are an unwanted stranger in Wraeclast, and there are precious few strongholds in which to seek shelter. The sound effects, special effects and lighting all contribute to the mood and the whole package is quite ominous and foreboding.

3) The systems in place in the game are all very intuitive. I don’t want to overstep my bounds and say something that gets me kicked out of the beta, so I’ll just say that what Chris says in the Diablo Podcast #30 about the handling of the flasks (eliminating the need to stockpile potions), the way the skills are handled, and the passive skills are all put together in a way that is very simple and intuitive, yet gives infinite possibilities for different builds. In fact the way the skills work it would be entirely possible to have two characters wearing exactly the same items -both benefiting greatly from the gear- without having even a single skill or passive in common.

4) The only complaint I have about the game so far is the camera angle, a sample of which can be seen in the above screeshot. It just leaves you wishing that you could scroll out to get a bit better perspective of what is going on around you. That is a petty complaint, to be sure, as I was used to the angle after about the first half hour of play, and in taking the time to think it through I think it would really take away from the ominous mood of the game if you were to be able to take stock of too much of the game world all at once. As it is if after you barely survive a battle you take a few steps in any direction you could quickly be overwhelmed -making you think through your actions a bit more carefully than the normal faceroll technique that will suffice as strategy in an ARPG.

5) The Beta discussion forum is buzzing. A lot of the people who are in the beta (myself included) are taking the time to give thoughtful, relevant feedback, and the guys at GGG are in the forums every day looking over our posts, offering advice, explanations, and asking for further feedback on everything from issues of balance, to issues of the handling of maps, quests, etc. It is clear from their daily responses that they are still trying to hone this game (which is already beautiful, and has very few mechanical issues) into something that can take the throne as THE must play ARPG. They are so quick to react, in fact, that a patch that will be released on Friday will already incorporate some of the items suggested since the beta started.

6) I felt an obligation to write something over here now that I have been playing around with it for a day, now I have done that. I got get back in there and play!

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