Never let it said that violence can't be for a good cause. Starting this Saturday, Path of Exile will offer its players the chance to participate in a new Ambush/Invasion race event. So far, so biffy-'n-bashy. The difference is that this particular slaughterfest is all in the name of charity. Throughout the event, an exclusive new helmet skin will be made available for purchase, and 100% of its proceeds will be donated to Child's Play.
Compulsion is a dubious sort of pleasure, but it’s what action-RPGs excel at. With their slow levelling curves, gradually unlocking skills and swelling hordes of foes, Diablo, Titan Quest, Torchlight and now Path of Exile all aim to ensnare rather than instantly delight.
The 15-year-old formula has barely evolved, but is still effective. You must always start in rags, punching zombies with your bare fists in some gloomy town, because any grander beginning would curtail your slow ascent to godhood. A start anywhere more glamorous than a dark field or Path of Exile’s grey beach would lessen the triumphant moment 12 hours later when you annihilate a 20-strong giant spider brood and think back to those first moments. Sometimes you’ll find folk waiting beneath yellow exclamation marks to give you quests and deliver lore points in tiny boxes of text, but mostly you punch, loot, level up, equip your stolen gains, grow strong and slowly mould your bedraggled vagrant into a killing machine.
It’s a character arc of sorts, albeit one plotted to the sound of a thousand repetitive mouse-clicks, but that comes with a quiet satisfaction of its own, a feeling of incremental achievement earned over many hours. If you value that feeling, Path of Exile is the 200-hour time sink you’re looking for.