I've managed to level one character up to the start of the 'end game' of Path of Exile. I ran one map with Sceadeau and have found a zone in which I can safely grind experience. I had to find a safe zone because there are enemies who would kill me in one attack from off screen! The problem was I had ignored all defensive points on the sphere grid and hadn't upgraded the defensive stats on my gear in an awfully long time. Items have so many different ways they could be good and I had really good items for one of those ways so I never really felt a need to upgrade them. Until this weekend, anyway, when I would lose 10% of a level on death to a monster I couldn't even see!
I still don't really have a handle on the open market so trading currency for gear with other players is beyond me at the moment. But this game feels so great because you can use the currency on your own to upgrade parts of your gear. Well, to try to upgrade them, anyway! Does it make much sense to be trying to build my own items? What are the different aspects of an item and how can I make them better?
The first aspect of an item is the base item type. This determines the base stats (weapon damage or armour defensive stats) of an item along with the stat requirements for putting the item on. There is no way to change the base item type of an item and rarely a benefit to using a lower base item instead of the best one. As long as you care about the base stat of an item you want to go as big as possible. I believe my current zone can drop all base item types so I'm set there.
Next up is the item level of the item. This is determined solely by the level of the monster that dropped the item which is determined by the zone with magic and rare monsters having level boosts. There is no way to change the item level of an item and it does not depend on the base item type.
Then there are the number of sockets on the item. There is a maximum number of sockets set by the item level of the item and the slot for the item. Boots, gloves, and hat can have 4. Chests and 2 handers can have 6. One handers and shields can have 3. But the item level also puts a cap on there and it needs to be at least 50 to get 6 sockets and at least 28 for 4 sockets. You can modify the number of sockets on an item by using a jeweler's orb. The odds of getting a max roll aren't known but it's rumoured to be around 1 in 300 or so to get 6 sockets if the item can get that many.
Each of those sockets gets a colour. Colour is important because it determines which skill materia you're allowed to put in the item. An item with a strength requirement is significantly more likely to get red sockets and the same is true for dex/green and int/blue. You can change the colour of the sockets by using a chromatic orb. Again the odds aren't known but it seems to be 5% for a socket to come up with a specific 'off colour'.
Sockets can be linked which is very important for support materia. The sockets can have little groupings or they can all be linked together to make one huge ability. You can change the links on an item with an orb of fusing but supposedly the odds of linking are similar to the odds of rolling that number of sockets in the first place so you're again looking at around 1 in 300 to get all 6 sockets linked together assuming you even have an item with 6 sockets to begin with.
Items also have a quality stat which increases the base damage of a weapon or the base defenses of armour. Quality can max out at 20% and can be added with armourer's scraps or blacksmithing whetstones. Using a jeweler's orb or an orb of fusing on an item supposedly consumes the quality to increase the odds of a good result but no one seems to know exactly how it helps. It does sound like people think it's a good idea though?
Items also have a rarity which gets displayed by what colour it is. A white item has no special ability. An orange item is unique and has fixed abilities based on the unique item. The tricky parts come from the blue (magic) and yellow (rare) items. A blue item gets 1 or 2 mods on it with one being from the prefix pool and one being from the suffix pool. A yellow item gets up to 3 of each. A given affix can only be assigned to an item if it has a high enough item level from above. My zone is a 67 zone which means the item level of the items I can find are in the 67-69 range. My primary defensive stat is energy shield and I can up to an average of +90 on the 67 or 68 items and up to an average of +121 on the 69 items. If I could find an item of item level 75 or higher that average could go as high as 140. That's more than 50% better than the 67 item which shows me that while my current item options are better than what I'm wearing they're not the best possible at this point. Elemental resists are in a similar boat except all my potential items are the same and the top end stuff is only 18% better.
There are tons of items to fiddle with affixes. You can turn a white item into a blue one and get 1 or 2 free affixes in the process. You can turn a blue one into a yellow one and get an extra affix. You can add one affix to a blue item. You can add one to a yellow item. You can completely reroll the affixes of a blue item. Or of a yellow item. You can reroll the stat range of all the affixes on an item. You can turn any item into a white item. There's a way to dupe an item. Many of these could make the item worse than it was before you use the item so there's even an item you can use to save the state of an item so you can undo the damage you did.
All of these options, coupled with the socket options, provide a stupid amount of ways to try to make an item better. If you have a bad item you can make it better without a ton of expense. But taking a mediocre item and making it good is hard and taking a good item and making it awesome is really hard. Our guild has a whopping 58 jeweler's orbs in it which sounds good until you realize the expected number to get an ideal result is something like 224. Ditto with orbs of fusing except there we only have 8!
I want to make really good items. Especially since some of my stuff sucks. But in order to make a really good item I need to get a good base item type to drop, and I need it to be high item level, and I need it to have the maximum number of sockets, and I need them to be the right colours, and I need them to all be linked, and I need the item to roll the affixes I want (energy shield, resists, magic find), and I need those affixes to roll big values. Egads! And I probably need to make a good set of items out of the zone I can farm so I have the stats to play in maps where the really good stuff drops and have it all happen again... I'd better start farming!