Yesterday I had a mini-lan party and my friend suggested we play some Path of Exile. I was a bit hesitant, but I know that he tended to get frustrated with TF2, so we gave it a go. I did a very brief readup on it and jumped into the game.
Path of Exile is a free to play Diablo clone. Or Torchlight 2 clone. With some added elements of Final Fantasy 7 and 10 (US editions). Truth be told, I haven't played Torchlight 2 more than a few minutes, so I can't add in to that, but a lot of people are saying it is similar to it. It is made by a small team called Grinding Gear Games.
You start up the game and (non-intuitively) you must select a 'mode' to play. There is Standard, Hardcore, and then a few other options. All of these put you in the game, but Hardcore is a 'if you die, you get booted to 'standard'. Standard, is well, a normal game, and then the other options are the game devs trying out new features and things. You can play on them, but your character gets deleted or... something... once the devs gather their information. There are also 'races', where they have the servers are timed (an hour or a few hours usually) to see who can get to the highest level before the time runs out. My buddy and I played on Standard.
The character selection screen is your standard 'choose your class' screen. There are 6 or 7 different 'classes' you can choose, but you can't alter the way they look. Which is fine by me... streamlined character creation.
Once you actually get INTO the game, you wash up on a shore and there is a quest giver denoted by the standard '!' with a weapon laying next to him that is characteristic of your class. (Rangers get a bow, Marauders (tanks) get a sword. You fight your way through the undead meandering the beach and into a small town where three quest givers are located as well as a chest to stash your items.
It really is a D3 clone. Waypoints are every few zones. Zones are randomly generated maps. Quests lead you from zone to zone. Mobs swarm you, some with abilities, some with even better abilities, and the loot is randomized as well. You'll even see the same 'Unidentified weapons' which you use a 'Scroll of Wisdom' to reveal their stats and a 'Town Portal' scroll to make a portal back to town to sell your goods.
Classes in the game are very loose. You use a gridvery similar to Final Fantasy 10 to allocate 'skillups'. Most of these are simple '+10 Strength or Intelligence or Dexterity' (the only 3 stats in the game), while others are more powerful abilities like 'Enemies can't evade your attacks'. The only difference between these classes is where you start on the grid. All classes can use all items, so if you roll a witch (Mage), you can easily pick up heavy armor and a 2H sword and go to town.... you just might need to spend a few dozen skill points to get to the section of the grid where you are getting +Strength instead of +Intelligence.
There are no respecs in the game. Rather, you can't simply pay a fee and wipe your skill board clean. You can purchase items that remove one skill point at a time, but they are very expensive and incredibly rare.
When you level you don't actually gain any new abilities (other than if you put your newly acquired grid point into something that gives you something). Instead, all abilities are derived from gems that you equip in your armor and weapons. There are three colors of gems, red, green, and blue which align with Melee, ranged, and spells. This is where the idea of classes go out the window. As a Marauder, I used a lot of red gems. Ones that gave me a swipe ability so I could AoE. Another gave me a powerful swing, which was great for single target dps. My buddy, a ranger, used mostly all greens, so he had an AoE archer gem that shot a ton of arrows into the sky and rained hell down all around me. But, if I wanted to, I could have equipped a bow, tossed that gem into a green slot, and gone to town as an archer. Swapping gems is as easy as a right click. There are also 'synced' armor and weapon, where if an item has two (or more) gem slots with a line connecting them, you can use what are called 'Support Gems' to enhance everything 'connected' to the support gem slot. For example: That swipe ability I mentioned, I attached a support gem that added Fire damage + fire dot to the attack. So I did MORE damage AND everything I hit got a DoT added to it. My buddy the archer, attached a poison support gem to his AoE, so we were just running around dominating everything.
There is no currency in the game. Which is both very annoying and very cool. In most games, there comes a point where the number of digits of gold you have can't fit across your screen. In PoE, you can sell items, but you get paid in other items. These items are very neat. There is an 'Orb of... erm... Something' which you can use to select a new random set of stats for items. There's another that increases the rarity of an item. Whetstones that improve weapons marginally. Orbs that change out the gem slots on items. This was a major gripe with D3 myself and a lot of other people had. You grinded for hours to get some weapons and they all turned out to be shit. In PoE, even if that happens, you can sell your loot and use the items you got from selling them to get one or two items into REALLY good shape for your character.
The game itself is split into 3 'chapters', which you then run three times in increasing difficulty (how many times do I need to say D3 clone?). I have two characters through Chapter 1 of the easiest setting both sitting around level 20. Once you beat all three difficulty levels, you unlock a new class, the Scion, which basically just starts you out in the middle of the Skill Grid so you can easily make a hybrid class. You also get the ability to run 'Maps', which are entirely random... well... maps with higher chances of better item drops.
So what do I think of this game? Its a hell of a lot of fun. It really is D3 with some annoying things taken out. And it is 100% free. The microtransactions for the game are (almost) purely cosmetics (add graphic effects to your items, get a pet). I think you can pay to increase your backpack space, which while nice, doesn't really break the game (Town Portals drop like candy). Its a fun, free game with a bit of a lot of games pulled in.
Give it a shot!