There’s a genre of games called action role-playing games, or ARPGs. Often epitomized by Blizzard’s Diablo II title, other franchises have leaned heavily into the idea of a fast-paced, kill-monsters-by-the-dozens RPG where loot and gear components play an integral role into determining character effectiveness.

Recently I was introduced to Path of Exile, a free-to-play ARPG that consistently puts out new content. PoE is rather unique in that every character can wield every type of weapon and make use of every kind of armour. Even the traits and skills the player is able to select through leveling up aren’t restricted by class; the combinations are truly endless, and there’s almost nothing stopping a mage focusing on freezing blasts from also picking up a large two-handed mace.

I try to give games a healthy try before passing judgment on them, and I was starting to feel the pangs of not enjoying PoE very much around the level 30 mark (out of 100). I was following a guide that was recommended to me by several veterans, and I just wasn’t having the success everyone claimed the build was supposed to be capable of, until unexpectedly, something clicked.

My character is a rogue, meaning they typically rely on feats of dexterity and trickery to get the job done. In this case I was building toward a mine/trap focus, where the majority of my damage comes from having enemies detonate explosives I placed in their path. Whether it was when certain spells, abilities, or character elements all came together, I went from having a mediocre time with the game to absolutely rolling through maps, demolishing whole waves of creatures in what felt like ten minutes. Here’s what I saw after that turning point:

Being a nimble-figured sort, my character can place 19 mines on the ground in roughly two and a half seconds. Instead of regular explosions, these mines each cast Chain Lightning when triggered, which arcs lightning from foe to foe. As well as doing primary damage, lightning also shocks the subject, making them more susceptible to future damage. My character has two mini-robots which follow him around and are completely invulnerable. Though they don’t do any damage themselves, they do set off any mines I had placed, re-arming them in their wake. I can set off my mines at will with a remote detonator.

Due to certain buffs and auras on my character, each mine not only dealt the base Chain Lightning damage, it also inflicted cold damage, physical damage, and even more lightning damage. Every time I threw a mine, I had a 14% chance of throwing an extra one, a 9% chance of throwing two extra, and a 5% chance of dropping three extra mines. This chance triggered on each of the 19 throws I could do within 2.5 seconds, meaning I would regularly have north of 25 mines on the ground at any one time, which would be auto-detonated and re-deployed by my drones every few seconds.

Because of course that isn’t enough, I had charms and baubles on me which caused everyone within melee range to become blind. Additional bonuses meant I suffered 10% less damage from blinded enemies, and all blinded enemies also took 30% more damage. Each time I struck or dealt damage to an enemy, regardless of range, I had a 25% chance to blind them as well.

More auras and curses further empowered the build. Every time I killed an enemy that had recently suffered lightning or cold damage (two separate checks), a phantom skull could be automatically (and freely) summoned, which would go and harass more foes. Every time I dealt damage to an enemy who was suffering from lightning shock, a series of lightning bolts exploded out of my body to strike those foes around me.

This means that, the more enemies that surrounded me, the more each one would contribute to the damage taken by the others. One-on-one I struggled, even with all the damage buffs, but in a pack of 100 monsters, so long as I survived long enough to deploy and then trigger my mines, the whole room would explode into viscera and loot.

I’ve now ascended to higher-level play and while the core conceit of the game has remained the same—kill monsters, get loot, kill more monsters—there are new and varied gameplay elements which I appreciate, and which I imagined were rolled out over the years of the game’s history, adding new content and systems to provide increasing interest for those who reached the endgame.

It was funny to me that, early one evening I was telling a buddy not to worry with installing the game, when mere hours later I was telling him about the veritable laser lightshow my trap-throwing lightning rogue was able to deploy at a moment’s notice. The game is interesting, and I appreciate how they’ve implemented their F2P/microtransaction model, enough that I think I’ll finish out seeing what the near future holds as the parent company works on developing Path of Exile 2.

Header image taken from promotional material for Path of Exile