Sceadeau got me to give Path of Exile a try today by telling me it's free to play but not pay to win and he'd group with me. I'd heard pretty good things about the game when it was in beta many months ago so now that it's live and I have people to play with I figured it was worth a shot.
Path of Exile is essentially a Diablo clone in that you run around, kill things, and take their stuff. It has a couple of twists in the leveling system that remind me an awful lot of Final Fantasy games. Your personal levels give you a point to spend on a gigantic talent tree. It reminds me of Final Fantasy X and the sphere grid in that game. It even has 7 different starting locations on the grid! It has some weak nodes and some strong nodes and you need to pick and choose which strong nodes you want to have for this character and grab the right weak nodes along the way. It's pretty insane just how big the grid is and I can imagine some really hefty number crunching going into plotting out what you want to do.
The next aspect is how you learn spells. FFX had the spells on the grid itself but PoE instead takes a page from Final Fantasy VII's playbook and has spells as items that drop from monsters or as quest rewards. In order to use a spell you need to socket those items into your equipment. It's pretty much exactly the same thing as the materia system in FFVII with the materia leveling as you do and with support materia that you can junction in a linked node with another materia in order to make the second one better in some way. There are 7 different classes but it seems like any class can use any ability if they get their hands on the right piece of materia. Your class determines what shows up from quest rewards which seems to be a key way of getting new skills at low level at least.
I started as a witch which gave me the fireball spell to start. So I headed down the sphere grid to enhance my fire damage. My next quest reward spell was one that summoned some zombies and I've since spent my time trying to get to nodes to make my zombies better. Unfortunately I skipped picking up the skeleton spell from the next quest which makes me sad since all the zombie buffs also buff skeletons. It makes me want to start over to pick up skeleton instead. I think all your characters share a bank so maybe I should make a new witch and just play to the point where I get that quest and transfer the materia over...
I don't even know if zombies and skeletons are any good. I'm playing in a 3 person party right now with Sceadeau and Robb and it felt like I just wasn't very good compared to them. I do have a mana regen aura which seems to help them a lot so it's probably a net positive to the team having me around?
Loot is 'interesting' in that items drop on the ground for everyone to see like in Diablo II but anything good gets rolled to have an 'owner' who has something like a 5 second window to pick it up. If they don't bother then anyone who wants it can have it. I think I'd prefer an actual loot window of some kind for rolling instead of this since it means people have to be quick to run over to an item or they risk losing it. Especially since my highest damage ability required me to stand still and channel it! Also apparently you can body block people away from items which I managed to do to Robb once. On the plus side our group of 3 have each chosen a different primary stat so it's pretty unlikely for more than one of us to actually want any given item anyway. Except the crazy crafting materials, anyway! There are items to reroll or resocket or add mods or all sorts of other things.
It feels a little like they decided to throw balance out the window and focus on letting people do fun and crazy things. I like doing fun and crazy things so I suspect I'll keep playing this game for a while. Maybe it'll get old fast (graphics are really mediocre and it did crash twice on me) but maybe not!