Back in 2010, when I was hankering for a Diablo clone, I tried out a lot of games … Torchlight, Guildwars, World of Warcraft, Borderlands, Fortune Online, Path of Exile (it was still in beta), Deus Ex, The Elder Scrolls series and finally found some solace in Rise of Nations. As someone who had spent the better part of his undergrad days playing Diablo II and its expansion, I always have a fond memories for this series.
In fact I attribute my Post Graduation to a friend of mine who used to come over to my place to play the game so that I could study for the CAT (one of the most competitive exams in India). I cleared the CAT and he became a fan of Diablo!! This is a shout-out to you Nikhil!
The Gap left by Diablo II
Having said that, the expectations that Diablo III set were pretty huge … and unfortunately, Blizzard failed to meet those expectations. The dynamics which made the game addictive back then were simply not there in the new version … albeit they are doing better work with the expansion and Loot 2.0, but this is neither the place nor the time to discuss Loot 2.0. This is the time to discuss the burning need by a horde of Diablo fans to find a Role Playing Game which had the same dark, macabre environment that Diablo II had.
A lot of games have tried to make up for this gap … a LOT. But none came as close as Path of Exile (PoE). Here’s why.
A Thriving and Helpful community
Although a lot of games have huge community, but the Path of Exile community is helpful. I mean you can just ask a question on Global Chat (#) and expect a useful answer. Try that in any other game and be sure to get trolled, or be called a n00b. The community on reddit is one such shining example, the difference between r/diablo, r/dota2 and r/pathofexile is huge. As a starter, you do get help.
One of the major factors in me sticking to this game is the non-hostile community.
A Mature Beta Testing playground or the Leagues
In a lot of games, there is a clear advantage for players who start the game earlier than the rest. They have good items, powerful characters, unique weapons … you know how that goes. Path of Exile helps stop creating this divide by creating 4 month long leagues. In any league, everyone starts afresh … yes that means you have to roll a character to participate in that league. So the economics starts from ground up (more on this in a bit).
Any new features that each patch comes out with does not hit the entire game, it first gets tested over a period of 4 months, and then is available to the Standard league (the main set of characters). What this means is that everyone is given a period of 4 months to farm and beef up before hitting the Standard league (which you can directly jump into and experience the item loot divide).
Properly Designed Free to Play
Did I mention that this game is Free to Play (F2P). Yes. Completely Free. Free to Play should not mean Pay to Win, PoE does this perfectly. If you want awesome looking characters then you will have to pay for visual effects, but money does not overpower your weapons!
All these things add up … they add up in this free game overtaking the Diablo series over a period of time.
The graph that is embedded will show you how the search intent in the Diablo series has dwindled and how the PoE search trend has gone up. The one spike in the Diablo search trend was when Diablo III was being launched.