I. What is Path of Exile?
Note: if you play the game or have played it already, you can proceed to the next section. There’s also a TL;DR version if you wanna know if you’re getting the same experience or not.
Path of Exile (PoE) is a free-to-play dark fantasy Action Role-Playing Game created and developed by Grinding Gear Games (GGG) in New Zealand back in 2012. It has since then continued growing in both player-base and content, and has now set its sights on the mobile platform. It should be noted that this isn’t the first time that they’ve moved cross-platform, as they have launched a console-version for the Xbox and Playstation during the early years of their release. You can find more about the game here.
The main aspects of the game (both PC and Console) are as shown below, and can be found also in the link above. I will give a brief description as to their primary roles in the game. I am grossing over a lot of details, so this is designed only to give you the big picture.
Note that not all of the aspects here are transferred to the mobile version (as far as we know right now), so knowing these will help you gauge the difference between the mobile and PC/console platforms.
Ten acts for the Campaign/Story Mode
The above is the trailer for Path of Exile expansion 3.0, The Fall of Oriath, released in 2017. This expansion featured the release of six additional Acts, increasing the previous number of acts in the campaign from four to ten. The gameplay footage shown here will give you a strong idea of how the game works and plays out.
Although the story mode acts as a major mode of progression and upgrading, in the larger scheme of things, they’re really just an expanded version of the game tutorial. Which is not an easy thing to grasp if you’ve never played PoE or similar games (like Diablo), and given the fact that you end the story at around Level 60-70 (with the cap being at 100), you might think there isn’t much left in the game; but that’s exactly when things kick into higher gear and you enter the endgame.
Skill Gem System
Unlike most other games, the skills in PoE are items that can be equipped (or socketed) into all equipment, because the latter have gem slots of either red, green, or blue colors, that the player can put red, green, or blue gems in, respectively.
The picture above is a screenshot taken from the PoE website, which allows you to view your in-game inventory for every character (assuming you’ve downloaded the game and have played it.) Notice how each item has circular slots for gems of the three colors. Some gems or slots are white, indicating that they can be placed in any colored slot or can receive any colored gem, respectively
Passive Skill Tree
The passive tree is probably one of the more infamous and more intimidating aspects of the game when first encountering it. It is insanely huge, and is shared by all six classes. The class you choose at the beginning of character creation determines where you start in the tree.
Passives are either Keystones or Non-Keystones, with Keystones giving you character-defining passives, and non-Keystones grant a variety of boosts and power-ups. Refer to the screenshot of the passive skill tree above for an example of a keystone passive.
If you want to take a look at or play with the passive skill tree yourself, GGG has it on their website for all to see. You can find it here, along with additional explanations.
The world of Wraeclast
The world PoE is set in is called Wraeclast, and in your progress through the campaign you will explore this world by completing quests and advancing the storyline. GGG had made it a point to focus on replayability when going through game content, that is why each world area is locked to a specific instance unique to that player and to that session. Think of an instance as a room with only you in it, by default. Rooms can exist at the same time in the same space, but their contents/drops will be available only to the user who created the room.
The game of PoE is centered around items. It might even be an understatement to say that it is centered on items or the item system. Everything else that you can play through that’s not the story mode itself, will more or less anchor itself to certain items. The Campaign and the Endgame of Path of Exile are focused on acquiring and upgrading your items; and not just like your equipment for combat, but also your skill gems, and more uniquely, your currency items.
The game runs a completely decentralized barter-based economy, where the players trade items instead of buying them with gold. Players may barter with vendors or with actual players. Most commonly, equipment and skill gems are traded for items of crafting, which can modify items by adding/changing/removing stat-lines. These items of crafting are called currency items, because they are what players use to buy stuff from each other.
The website also has a helpful guide on the matter. Check it out here
Leagues and Events
To make the game more interesting from time to time and facilitate the addition of new content, leagues are implemented every 3-4 months that modify some aspect of the game or change one of its rules, in addition to the new batch of items and locations that come with a new league.
Events are either community-based temporary leagues that allow players to earn premium versions of in-game items, or special race events created by GGG that has many rewards. For example, in the first picture above, the Top 2 winners of the race event got to win free tickets to ExileCon 2019 and paid flights to New Zealand!
I’m still a bit confused about the stuff.
That is fine. Path of Exile is rooted in some arguably deep systems, which in the beginning can turn away some users due to its “high learning curve” or something like that. When the mobile version comes out, I will also write more appropriate guides on each of the above aspects that carry over to the mobile version, for more clarity and explanation. Until then, treat the above information as a teaser, rather than as a guide. Again, it is meant to give you only a picture of how the game plays.
Can I play the mobile version without knowing all of the above?
Absolutely. It is not a prerequisite for the mobile player to know the in’s and out’s of the original PC game. The information gained from playing the actual game will help deepen the lore and enrich the flavor of the gameplay (and will speed up the tutorial or learning process), but it is by no means necessary to start playing or enjoying the game.
Outside of the PoE-specific nitty-gritty details, the mobile version is a classic dungeon-crawler-esque hack-n’-slash, with features heavily centered around some of those mentioned above (emphasis on item systems). This is further explained in the next section.
II. Path of Exile Mobile – What We Know So Far
- This is the official trailer for Path of Exile Mobile, uploaded last November 16, 2019. In it, we see Jonathan Rogers (Co-Founder and Technical Director), Chris Wilson (Co-Founder, and Managing Director) and Travis Gamon (Mobile Fall Guy) give out their thoughts, insights, and rationale behind the development of a mobile version.
The following are the 5 main points I found that are of interest to us potential players.
No game-changing microtransactions.
Path of Exile has always been a free-to-play game to its very core. The PC and Console versions have microtransactions, yes, but they were all purely cosmetic and do not affect gameplay whatsoever. This means that GGG has the same vision for all platforms, even if the mobile version is going to be obviously a different experience than its other major counterparts.
Bringing Path of Exile to mobile with absolutely zero compromise.
This is actually one of the more controversial statements from trailers and interviews, because it is very hard to comprehend how GGG will be able to fit all of the content and game-modes (Standard, Leagues, and Hardcore and Solo-Self-Found for each) of the PC version onto mobile. The sheer amount of things that they have to copy over, with zero compromises, is certainly an almost impossible feat which I personally think cannot be done without any sacrifice in either feature or accuracy.
But as can be seen from the gameplay, they have managed to stick to most of the major aspects mentioned in Section I of this guide, and they are planning to add more features soon, so I guess that’s a plus.
The only [fundamental difference] between playing PC games and mobile games is that you expect to play shorter sessions on the phone.
Maps are the perfect length of the quick turnaround time required of mobile gameplay while retaining all of the deep systems that Path of Exile players expect.
Maps or mapping is the primary endgame of the normal version of PoE. It is called so because after finishing Act 10, you gain access to the Atlas and the maps inside it.
Normally, you would have to play through the campaign first before accessing this feature. But the core idea behind the mobile version is that this is all that the player does, progressing through the Atlas until you reach an end-game boss. Whether or not it’s the Shaper, or Uber Elder, is still unknown, and the only sure thing right now is that maps are going to be most of the content of the game, if not all of it.
Making a game that isn’t player hostile, that doesn’t follow the [terrible]trends, and just make a good game that just so happens to be played on the phone.
When Jonathan Rogers mentioned that they didn’t want to make a game that was player hostile, I think what was meant primarily was that they didn’t want to be against the freedom of players to progress and to play content by locking them behind ridiculous paywalls or otherwise impossible grinds. The “trends” that he was referring to (and also mentioned at the beginning of the trailer), included ad-walls, game-altering microtransactions, nag screens, video ads, etc. None of those will be in the game, according to him.
That is a good continuation of the players’ trust in Path of Exile, as even in the PC and console versions, there was never any similar experience.
ExileCon 2019 Announcement
During ExileCon 2019, GGG made a marvelous reveal of both Path of Exile 2 and Path of Exile Mobile. ZiggyD, who is one of the game’s largest streamers, conducted an interview with Trevor “Mobile Fall Guy” Gamon during the event.
Here are some of the key takeaways, which I’ve categorized into five, namely: World (which refers to the physical locations that your character can access), Inventory Menu (which pertains to the character menu which contains inventories), Technical (this refers to the gameplay itself and playability, how it differs from other platforms), Atlas/Maps (the core of the mobile version), and finally Misc (for stuff that didn’t fit into the other categories.)
Note: some of the contents of this interview have been mentioned already in the trailer, so I won’t be including those. Also, the demo character used is level 30 and already comes with equipment and skills. It can be implied from the interview that normal gameplay would start out the character from scratch.
- There are bonus objectives to be achieved related to mapping, but we don’t know what these are yet.
- Zana is currently the only confirmed NPC, and she currently has no Master Missions as per the demo.
- There are currently only two locations, which is the Templar Laboratory and the Atlas (plus all the maps inside it.)
- There are talks of having other locations like towns and hideouts, but nothing is confirmed yet.
The bonus objectives would most likely be based on actual bonus objectives in the main game, i.e. based on the percentage of white/yellow/red maps cleared, types of mobs killed, types of bosses killed, etc.
Travis Gamon said in the interview that they really wanted to focus more on the replayability and looping aspects of the game, and that’s why they’re focused on bringing the mapping experience to mobile. Path of Exile has always been about cyclical or reiterative progressive gameplay, where it’s essentially the same content, but it gets harder every time you go through it. For the items this is also true; crafting is using the same resources over and over again, but since there’s an element of RNG, the results are different every time and you can get stronger weapons or weaker weapons due to this process. It is this experience exactly that Travis wants to be captured in the mobile version.
Trading hasn’t been mentioned at all in the video, but if they are to include the feature of towns and hideouts in the mobile version, then it is not too far of a leap in logic to assume that trading will also be part of the game. Towns and hideouts, after all, are what players use to meet-up and trade.
Otherwise, the whole experience will be Solo Self-Found (SSF), one of the game-modes of PoE where trading is barred and you’re only allowed to use items you find naturally.
- The primary menu has a tab for your Character, for Stats, for Skills, and your Inventory. Tabs that remained greyed out are Leagues and Cosmetics.
- Based on what I can see from the Skills tab, the maximum number of links is 5, not 6.
- The inventory tab is divided into two, one for currency items and one for equipment.
- Opening the inventory while in-combat will not pause the game, so do this at your own risk.
- To upgrade equipment, simply drag the respective currency item onto the desired armor or weapon.
- You can actually interact with your stash from within the inventory, by tapping on the arrows on either side.
- Potions are put in a “potion belt” that the player can pull in and out of to use individual potions, or tap the end of the bar to bring out all potions instantly.
The fact that they added a league tab and a cosmetics tab makes for a reasonable assurance that (1) the game will be open to periodic league changes and (2) there will be microtransactions. Whether or not these leagues or cosmetic items will be shared with the main game or be separate is still unknown as of the writing of this article.
There seem to be only five maximum links per skill gem instead of the usual maximum of six. I presume that it is only for demonstration purposes, and that it is subject to change, but again, no official announcements yet.
The inventory tab itself shows both currency and equipment at the same time, making item-crafting as easy as dragging the necessary crafting item to the desired equipment immediately upon opening your inventory.
Mobile-Only: the inventory tab features two arrows at the sides, which when tapped will reveal your stash tabs, making it (1) easier to store and retrieve items to and from the stash, and (2) more convenient because you don’t have to go to your physical stash to store items, whereas in the main game, you would have to do this every time.
Mobile-Only: the potions can be triggered individually, or when tapping the end of the bar, will trigger all of them simultaneously. Usually, the only way to do this in the main versions was to either have a macro (which is illegal) or to having something heavy press down all the shortcut keys at once (which is inconvenient.)
- Tapping and holding anywhere in the screen while in combat will bring up a d-pad control for up to four additional skills, which you can either tap or swipe directionally to activate/deactivate auras, or to cast skills.
- In the demo, it was shown that when using Summon Skeletons, the units will be summoned at the point where the initial tap was done.
- Interacting with a strongbox will bring up a d-pad with three icons, one for closing out of the strongbox menu, one for opening your currency inventory to craft on the strongbox, and one icon to open the strongbox.
- As of the demo date, you cannot currently open the strongbox and teleport away before the strongbox effects take place and before the minions are summoned.
- Items may be picked up from anywhere as long as they are on screen.
- Skills don’t seem to rely on manual aiming, and uses a similar technology to the console version that automatically detects the right enemy to target (for example, Rare monsters are prioritized over Magic and Normal monsters)
There are eight (8) total skill-binds. Four are active on the game-screen when engaging in map content, and the other four can be viewed/activated by holding and tapping on the screen.
Mobile-Only: Strongbox interactions are a bit more difficult to deal with on mobile, since the usual kiting strategies won’t work as you can only teleport or move away from the box after opening it. This means that for particularly dangerous boxes with mods such as “Freeze” or “Detonate Dead”, such as in the gameplay demo, your best bet for survival is to put all your defenses up before engaging.
Skills that can be cast with either no aimed point or with an aimed point can be done by either just tapping the skill icon in combat, or using the d-pad’s tap location to indicate where you want to cast that spell, respectively.
Mobile-Only: Unlike in the main version where you have to be near the item to pick it up, the mobile version only needs you to have the item visible anywhere on the screen in order to pick it up.
Skills that don’t need you to aim at a specific object (like Fireball or Arc), will auto-aim based on the direction your facing and the rarity of an enemy (Normal/Magic/Rare). This is useful because relieving you of the need to aim at all times (since you can still force an aim if you wanted to, using the d-pad) allows you to maneuver more effectively in tight spaces or around tough enemies.
- When viewing the Atlas, you can see the maps you have quantities of, and the current map you’re in will indicate how may portals are still open and available.
- Map drops encountered mapping are automatically added to the Atlas for later tracking and management. Picking them up is unnecessary. Item drops however, must still be clicked.
- You can craft on maps from the Atlas screen because the currency inventory pops-up when you put in a respective map item on its respective map location in the Atlas.
- When you return to the Laboratory or exit the map, if you have leveled up during the map session, then the level up screen will be shown along with information on skill gems, etc. This way, you aren’t interrupted when you’re mapping.
- The Atlas is now more responsive to your mapping needs: it tells you immediately how many of each map you have on the appropriate node;
- It tells you how many portals are open for the map you’re in so you don’t have to keep track of it in your mind;
- Map drops are immediately added to your atlas inventory which is separate from your normal item inventory. This essentially acts as maps stash tab, if you’re coming from the main versions.
- You can craft directly on your chosen map from the Atlas without going into your currency inventory to get the items you need. This saves you a LOT of time in the long run, especially if you map frequently.
- Level up graphics animations and text only appear after you return to the Templar Laboratory, and not while you are mapping.
- The sizes of the pickup icons and the text labels on items are not permanent and are subject to change.
- Loot Filters are a consideration for the mobile version!
- Only active skill gems are supported right now (attacks, spells, and auras), as the passive skill tree is nowhere to be found in the gameplay demo.
- Since the primary focus of the mobile version is on the Atlas and maps, there is a low to no chance at all that there would be any campaign-content.
- Instances and all the manipulation available for them does not seem to be available at the time of the writing of this article.
A loot filter is a feature of the game that filters item drops on the ground to only show you what you need based on predetermined preferences and factors, such as the rarity of the item, the type of item, and even the name of a specific item. The filter, based on these factors, will then show or hide such items as they drop.
Given the number of items that can drop in higher tier maps with good mods, then having a specific loot filter active will certainly help out in the farming process. Playing without a loot filter is just too impractical, and given the fact that the main versions have already both embraced and encouraged the community to create their own filters, it is reasonable to assume that the mobile version will have them too.
Path of Exile Mobile retains all of the key aspects of the game in such a manner that anyone who’s played Path of Exile before will get a similar look and feel when playing the game, except that this time, it’s with a d-pad and you tapping away, instead of a keyboard and mouse.
Progression will focus on maps, and GGG has added a bunch of mobile-only functionality that isn’t available on PC and console, such as inventory-stash interactions, picking up an item that’s near off-screen, and level-up graphics outside of maps, that will make the mapping experience more convenient and combat-focused.
I can highly recommend trying this game when it comes out sometime in the near future, especially if you’re a fan of dungeon crawlers, and killing hundreds of monsters, and of course, item-crafting.
The last update we’ve had was November last year. The developers are certainly busy working on the game, but their main priorities right now seem to lie with the main version, especially since one of their biggest projects yet is also deep in development: Path of Exile 2, which revamps and completely changes the way the game works.
The mobile demo seems promising and sticks to the core tenets of the game, especially their cosmetic-only microtransaction philosophy, their deep item-crafting systems, and the dark fantasy world we continually explore by mapping it out.
So for now we just have to wait for more updates and announcements on the mobile version!
- All of the game-related imagery and illustrations and trailers are the property of Grinding Gear Games.