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A New Player's Guide to "Path of Exile"

For a game like "Path of Exile", a guide is definitely needed.

For a game like "Path of Exile", a guide is definitely needed.

If you're here, there is a good chance you already know what Path of Exile is. Path of Exile is an action role-playing game (ARPG), similar to Diablo. However, this is the deepest ARPG I have ever played. The combat and crafting are incredibly deep. Even after close to 2,000 hours, I still haven't learned every nuance that the game has. However, I have enough experience to provide new players an idea what they have to look forward to.

While optional, micro-transactions can really spruce up the look of your character.

While optional, micro-transactions can really spruce up the look of your character.

The Basics of Path of Exile

There are some basics new players should learn about.

  • You will start over multiple times. This point is the most important. You will start over, multiple times. You will start over dozens, perhaps hundreds of times before you really start to learn the game. You could have hundreds of hours in the game before you figure things out as well. It can be frustrating, but, it's worth it once you learn the game.
  • You will die, a lot. As you start over, you will die a bunch of times. As you get higher in level, you'll start to lose experience each time you die, which can be frustrating. You need to expect to die, it's how you learn how to play the game. If you get frustrated by dying a lot in a video game, then this game isn't for you.
  • There is a massive amount of loot. Of all of the games I have played, Path of Exile has the most loot I have ever experienced. The problem is that most of the loot is vendor trash. Eventually, and quickly, you'll leave a massive amount of loot on the ground. There are ways to filter out the great loot from the bad, which will be covered later in the article.
  • There are multiple game modes. Standard is the persistent mode that has been around since launch. There are also leagues, which are around three months long and introduce new game mechanics. At the end of those three months, characters move over to standard. Each one also has a hardcore mode. If you die, you don't lose your character, they just move to the non-hardcore league of the appropriate type. You can also select the option which prevents trading with other players, which makes the game that much harder.
  • The game has a massive amount of micro-transactions. However, the game itself is free. Almost all of the micro-transactions are cosmetic. They change the look of your character, hideout, etc. So nothing says you have to buy them. However, there are stash tabs you can buy where you can store items. This game has a huge amount of items, and the basic storage provided just won't be enough. If there is a pay-to-win aspect of the game, it's in the ability to purchase additional storage. Fortunately, they have sales often on the micro-transactions and the stash tabs are fairly cheap as it is. Purchasing micro-transactions support development of the game and I have sunk hundreds of dollars in it, because I enjoy it that much.

The rest of the article breaks down some of the bigger components of the game.

The passive skill tree is so massive, I can only show part of it!

The passive skill tree is so massive, I can only show part of it!

The Skill Tree

One of the first things Path of Exile hits you with is the massive skill tree. It can be overwhelming to a new player as you try to figure out how you want to play.

  • A passive skill tree with over 1,300 choices. Yes, you read that right, there is a skill tree with over 1,300 passive skills. The worst part? The game will hit you with the tree just after a few minutes of combat. However, at the most, you'll only have 123 points to allocate in the passive tree.
  • Your class choice determines where you start on the skill tree. In the beginning, this dictates what class you will be playing, whether it's a magic user or a melee fighter. As you learn more about the game, you'll branch out to try different combinations of classes and passive skills.
  • Passive skills need to link with one another. With very few exceptions, you need to link passive skills together on the tree. You can't put points anywhere you want. So if you start on the left side of the skill tree, but want a passive skill on the far right, you have to spend a massive amount of skill points to get there.
  • The size of the skill node indicates its power. The smaller circles tend to the the path to better passives. The medium sized circles tend to be stronger versions of the previous, smaller circles. The largest circles are keystones, which can significantly alter a character. Almost always, these provide a positive benefit, but at a cost of something else.
  • Eventually, you'll want to plan your passive skill tree ahead of time. When you first start out, it's okay to just place passive skills, because it's expected you'll start over. There are ways to refund points, but in the end it's not worth it if a build isn't working. However, in time, you'll want to plan out your skill tree ahead of time so you can plan out your build better.
For the most part, this is the optimal socket setup on gear in "Path of Exile".

For the most part, this is the optimal socket setup on gear in "Path of Exile".

Gear and Weapons

Early on you'll see gear start to drop, which you will equip because that is what players do in ARPGs. However, soon you'll have a massive amount of gear that you will have to manage.

  • Gear should compliment your passive skill tree. If you are picking up evasion nodes on the passive skill tree, then you should be picking up armor that has evasion on it. There are times you may do differently, but that's when the stats on the item compliment your build more than what is on your skill tree.
  • There are common, magic, and rare items. Rare gear and weapons tend to be better than common or magic items. There are exceptions to this as you move into crafting, but, for the most part you'll focus on obtaining the best rares for your build.
  • There are a massive amount of unique items. Unique items typically offer unique benefits not found on other items. They can make or break a build. While most are inexpensive and common, some you may never see after playing the game for hundreds of hours.
  • It'll be hard to get gear on your own. Most times you'll have to resort to crafting or trading for the gear and weapons you want. It's almost impossible to find what you need through drops alone, unless you play so much and have such a great build, you have choice on what gear you want to use.
  • Sockets matter. Depending on the gear, you may have up to six sockets on a piece of gear to slot in skill gems. The number, color, and if the sockets are linked together all matter. A piece of gear with six linked sockets can be far more valuable than a piece of gear with four unlinked sockets.
There are a massive amount of skills in the game.

There are a massive amount of skills in the game.


Skills are the next hurdle that new players have to overcome. The skills in the game are great, but they are also overwhelming in trying to determine what skills are best to use.

  • There are three categories of skills. Red is for strength, green for dexterity, and blue for intelligence. That typically dictates what the skill is capable of and the requirements in each of those skills. It's worth noting that some skills may require two of those stats to be able to equip. There are variations of these skill gems as well outside of the three basic types.
  • There are over 260 active skill gems and 170 support skill gems. Active skill gems are abilities you will actively use. Support skill gems enhance or change how those active skill gems work. You will have multiple active skill gems with support skill gems linked to them to make them stronger.
  • The passive skill tree should compliment the skill gem. If you pick up passive skills that increase the damage of swords, you won't necessarily want to make your main attack a fireball. It's important to have your skill tree, gear, and skill gems all work together.
  • Skill gems level up. Just like your character, your skill gems level. This makes them more powerful, but can increase their mana use. Additionally, you can increase the quality of a skill gem which gives it additional benefits.
  • Try out different combinations. The great part about the skill system is that you can easily switch out skill gems to try out different things. As you progress through the main story, you'll unlock NPC vendors that will sell most of the skill gems. It makes it easy to try out different builds.
This is just some of the basic crafting available.

This is just some of the basic crafting available.

Crafting System

Crafting can be as big or as small as you want it to be. You don't have to craft if you don't want to, but you are missing out on making the strongest items in the game.

  • Currency is used for crafting. You'll notice that you receive all sorts of currency that can change, add, or remove modifiers to items and gear. My first recommendation is that you hold on to the currency you get until you learn about them and their value. Some currency is common, while other currency can be the rarest items founds in Path of Exile.
  • There are multiple ways to craft. If you do want to craft, you can dabble in it in a variety of ways. Currency is the most basic form, but there have been leagues that have added their own crafting mechanics. Some of these can be combined as well to make an item with the stats you want.
  • Will take a long time to master. You may craft hundreds of items before you get the one you want that you hold on to for a long time. That's because no matter how you choose to craft, there is some randomness to it. You may get a stat you don't want, or, a stat you did want didn't roll at a high value.
  • You can break your item. The danger with crafting is that you can easily break an item. There is currency that removes a random stat from an item, which means you could lose a stat you wanted to keep on there. There is also a currency that can change an item completely, but add a powerful modification on it without changing anything at all.
  • Can sell your crafted items. Perfectly crafted items can sell for a lot of currency. Unique items can't be crafted, for the most part. If you get good at crafting, you can make enough currency to buy whatever unique you want without having to grind for it.
The Headhunter is the most sought item in "Path of Exile".

The Headhunter is the most sought item in "Path of Exile".

Trading System

Trading is the next big component to the game. It's purely optional, but it can be the only way you can get the gear you need to progress further in the game.

  • Crafting currency is used to trade items. All of the currency that drops that can be used for crafting is also used for trading. As stated earlier, each currency has different values based on what the currency does and how often it drops.
  • It's easy to get scammed. People will try to scam you. They may try to give you an identically named item, but it has lesser stats than the one they offered. Or, they may give you less currency than what you asked for when trading them an item. Always assume everyone is trying to scam you.
  • The market can be volatile. If a popular streamer comes out with a build that uses a cheap unique, expect the price of that unique to skyrocket as people try to replicate that build. Monitor market prices and determine when is the best time to buy and sell.
  • Don't be afraid to spend currency. Don't horde your currency once you learn the basics. If you want to progress in Path of Exile, you need to buy better items. If you have better gear, then you will be rewarded with more currency with increased rarity.
  • Sell, sell, sell. If you have a good item, then sell it. Try to sell a lot of items so you get currency coming in too. I've made more currency by selling items than by having it drop. It can be worth it if you know what you're doing.

Essential Resources

  • PoE Planner
    PoE Planner is an online tool to plan your passive skill tree for "Path of Exile".
  • FilterBlade
    Allows you to design a filter that filters out loot that you don't want to see and loot you do want to see. Strongly recommended as you progress through the game.
  • Craft of Exile
    Craft of Exile is a crafting simulator for "Path of Exile" designed to compute the probabilities of obtaining specific results through different methods.
  • Path of Exile - Trade Site
    Site designed by the developers to search for gear on sale for in-game currency.
  • "Path of Exile" Wiki
    The official wiki resource for "Path of Exile".
It would take an entirely new article to explain the Atlas.

It would take an entirely new article to explain the Atlas.

There is So Much More!

There was more I could cover, but I wanted to cover the basics for any new players. In time, you'll learn about doing maps, PvP, designing your own hideout, and so much more. This is not a game for a casual player. This can be a full time game if you let it.

Additionally, a sequel is currently in the works. Don't worry, it's been stated by the developers that those playing the first game will be able to carry over almost everything into the sequel.

"Path of Exile" Not Your Thing?

© 2020 David Livermore