It must feel bittersweet to be an ARPG fan right now. On the one hand, we have such colossal releases like Diablo 4 in our hands, while existing games continue to grow and expand, to say nothing of upcoming, highly-anticipated sequels like Path of Exile 2.
As disrupting as they are, these pitfalls act as a lesson, and a warning, to Blizzard’s competition. Case in point: Path of Exile 2. Coming off the announcement fiesta of ExileCon 2023, Path of Exile developer Grinding Gear opened up about the inevitable comparisons between the upcoming sequel and Diablo 4.
More specifically, how the team believes Path of Exile 2 will differentiate itself from Diablo 4. For one, the game will intentionally avoid Diablo 4’s MMO-like structure.
“[Blizzard] certainly have a lot more around like cool down rotations and things like that, but also just the more open world design and that kind of thing,” director Jonathan Rogers told IGN.
“Whereas we’re going more in the kind of like Elden Ring sort of direction. It’s much more action-focused, but with a sort of hardcore bent.”
Elden Ring is, of course, an open-world game, but perhaps what Rogers is referring to here is the game’s less-is-more approach, where the scale of the world is only revealed through exploration and discovery, and not laid out in quite the same way modern open-worlds are.
That said, Rogers admitted that he’s a fan of Diablo 4’s core combat, just not the way Blizzard designed the flow of the action.
“I’m definitely preferring more of the action game stuff,” he added. “Like, not much in the way of cooldowns, very much more, ‘What skill is best to use here in this moment because it’s just the right situation.’ Things like the way you never lose control of your character…
“We just want to make sure that we’re kind of going in that direction. So that’s kind of our main focus.”
So that’s exactly what Grinding Gear set out to do with Path of Exile 2’s combat, which focuses on fighting fewer elite monsters, but ups the challenge of every encounter. It’s also much more of an item game than Diablo, which he believes will reward experimentation.
“I mean, it is more complex in a lot of ways, but I think that that’s something that a lot of players crave and you can do a huge amount of experimentation in our game with the character classes and builds,” Rogers explained. “It’ll keep you going for a very long time. So yeah, there’s just a lot more going on with regard to the depth in Path of Exile.”
Path of Exile 2 started life as a total overhaul meant to replace the original game, but has since grown into a massive standalone project that will live alongside the first game when it releases. Unfortunately, that means we won’t be playing it for a while yet. The next Path of Exile 2 closed beta is set for June 2024.