I don't know if this is the right forum. It's called games so I guess it is not only for playing games but also for introducing games.
Feel free to move to the Drum if this is the wrong place.
So, the game I want to tell you about is Path of Exile.
The game's been in developement for some years now and is currently in Open Beta phase - so it is not yet finished, but very playable indeed. A final version is due September.
It's an aRPG (action role play game) or Hack and Slay, as others refer to it. If you have played the Diablo series - it's just that.
You're an exile - banished from your home Oriath to the continent of Wraeclast for your crimes by a seemingly despotic theocracy - so your crime might be something you wouldn't consider deserving punishment.
So, you're on this ship together with other exiles, awaiting to reach Wraeclast, when suddenly you're dumped over board. The game starts with you lying on a dark beach, thunderstorm around you. Some less lucky drowned exiles are there, too, and one other survivor. You talk to him, but only for a short while. Then the nightmare begins. You stumble along the beach, encountering risen dead and hostile sea creatures - from there you make your way inland, encountering more hostile creatures and a few places of rest and a semblance of friendliness.
It's in some ways much like the Diablo series (no wonder, since it is made by fans of at least Diablo I and II). You have your gear (weapons, helmet, boots, belt, perhaps a shield, two rings and an amulet), you have skills and your character gains experience by slaying unfriendly creatures. There are several character classes (more detailed below) with their specific details.
As you hack your way through randomly created maps, you find loot, currency items and quest items, which will grant you some benefit upon using them or returning them to non player characters (NPCs).
Currently, there are three acts, and at the end of each act you encounter a boss monster that is particularly hard to inhume but drops good loot. In between, you encounter some lesser bosses, normal monsters without enhanced abilities, such with a bit more skill and some with even more abilities. As I said, this is in aRPG, but perhaps it should be rewritten to Arpg, since action is what this game is about. You don't have to solve hard riddles, you have to survive. And since if you don't kill it it'll kill you (sometimes more easily than you'd like), you try to stick a blade (or a well aimed fireball etc.) in them before they can rip you to shreds. You're helped by various skills to avoid being the next snack of some risen dead or carnivore.
There are active and passive skills. The active ones are those that you use (really?) constantly, while passive skill enhance your life, damage, armour etc.
Passive skills: There is a huge skill tree, branching off into different directions. It contains around 1500 passive skills. It's been nicknamed Skilldrasyl (after the world tree Yggdrasil) for it's enormity. Each character class starts at a different point in the tree, having easy access to some skills but have to spend some points to reach another part of the tree.
You get passive skill points when levelling up (after reaching a certain amount of experience points) or when you complete some quests the NPCs will ask you to go on.
Active skills: Unlike in most other games that I know, these skills are not specific to a certain character class. They're granted by placing skill gems into sockets in your gear. As you gain experience, so do the gems, getting better over time. These gems come in red, blue and green, each colour representing a character trait (strength, intelligence, dexterity) they're associated with. The sockets have corresponding colours and you can only put a red gem into a red socket and so on.The sockets can be linked to other sockets on the item, and this is what makes the skill system really unique and fun to play with: You can support a skill with support skills by placing them into a socket that is linked to your skill. There's a variety of support gems with a range of effects from making the skill cost less mana, to enhancing damage, number of projectiles fired, making the skill a trap, that is only fired when a monster comes too close to it and a lot more.
There really isn't that much diversity in the gameplay as such (as is typical for the genre), but tweaking your skills, balancing out damage and manacost, making it effective against groups or single opponents is where this game really shines.
There are (currently) six classes which are associated with the traits strength, dexterity and intelligence or a combination thereof.
Marauder: The archetype of a warrior. Pure strength, not much filler between the ears and clumsy at times. Likely to deploy a "I'll hit you over the head with my big maul" strategy.
Ranger: Typical archer, but can be deadly with knives, too. Pure dexterity, but easy to make sweat with heavier weights or advanced cognitive tasks. Most people play the ranger with a bow - and she's deadly with that weapon.
Witch: Caster or necromancer type. Not much headology in this game, but still the Witch knows how to use her brain. She's not so good at weightlifting, though, and might miss with a bow or sword. Her strength is either with casting spells or rising the dead and let them do the dirty work.
Shadow: On discworld, this would be the typical assassin who'd be expelled from the guild not for lack of skill but for lack of snobbishness. He's intelligent and skillful. His style of fighting is more sneaky, hitting accurately where it counts - as he himself says "All this fancy sword flashing when all you need is one good stab." - or laying traps.
Templar: He's a holy warrior, not only strong but also endowed by his creator with good intelligence. A bit clumsy sometimes. Great fighter with a staff, alternatively good at casting a deadly spell on anyone who crosses him.
Duelist: A celebrity of the arena, fighting for fun and profit and now on Wraeclast for defending his honour in a duel. Skilled and strong, he's good with heavy weaponry such as axes and two-handed swords, but can also be deadly with a foil or rapier, dancing nimbly around the enemy.
While the characters are associated with either intelligence, dexterity or strength, you can actually do with them what you want; at least you can try. Via passive skills, you can grow the Marauder's brain and he'll be able to cast spells or you can give strength to a witch and so on. Along with the active skill system, this adds a huge amount of diversity to the game. And at least for me it is quite a lot of fun trying out new builds.
Story: While there is a story, due to the game not being completed, yet, I wasn't able to put it together completely. As is typical for an aRPG, it is not important that you get it. It is there, though, when you look for it and it's - pretty grim. It's also fascinating IMO, but I'd prefer you look for it yourself.
Cost: None. You can only play it online, though, so if you pay by traffic or time online, there'll be a cost. You can spend money on so called microtransactions, which make your character prettier (or cooler), or change how a skill looks. You can also buy new character slots, because you can only have 10 (I think) characters at a time and some more space in your stash and some other stuff - none of which is necessary in order to play the game or win it (there's no "winning" the game, yet, since it is not finished and even when they release the non-beta version, they plan on adding a new act each year). They're offering supporter packs, too, if you want to show support for the developers' efforts. Still, you can play the game for free if you want and don't have to buy anything.
A warning: This game contains violence and elements of horror. You might not want to let your young children play it. While there is less gore and blood as a consequence of your actions than in many other games (like Diablo III, where the monsters die in spectacular ways and distribute their body parts over a wide area), the maps can be quite "colourful", especially in act III. This is enhanced by the game looking less cartoonish than Diablo III for example. I guess in Germany it would be rated "16 and upwards".