Path of Exile 2 pushes action RPG technology to the absolute limit with 'meta gems' that you socket other gems into

path of exile 2 meta gems
(Image credit: Grinding Gear Games)

World of Warcraft has a category of items called meta gems, which go in special gem slots and can only be equipped if you have a specific number of other gems already slotted into your gear. They can have powerful bonuses, but in practice they mostly just make me frustrated enough to yell at my computer as I trek to the auction house to buy another round of color coordinated gold sinks.

Path of Exile 2, shown off in detail today at ExileCon, also has meta gems, but they're part of a revamped skill system that throws away item links in lieu of skill gems that you socket into… more gems.

Gemception, if you will.

PoE 2's meta gems are capable of all sorts of nonsense. The spell totem meta, for example, can be used to equip multiple skills into your totems that will cast intelligently. For example, they could be arranged so that you immobilize enemies first, then curse them to debuff, and finally hit them with a huge damage spell. The cast on shock meta gem can be used to link multiple attack skills, resulting in a huge cacophony of destruction once you've zapped some mobs a few times.

With Path of Exile 2 being announced as a fresh start, I wondered if it might present an opportunity for a bit of simplification—Path of Exile is notoriously difficult for new players to pick up, and I joke that it requires an advanced math degree to come up with a build for it. What did the game director Jonathan Rogers have to say about that during a press briefing?

"Simplicity is not a goal of ours."

He expanded on that, of course, to say that the skill gem system in Path of Exile 2 has some improvements to be more user friendly despite not actually paring down the available options, sort of a 'have your cake and eat it too' situation. And honestly, I was relieved to hear him say that. Path of Exile is great largely because of the absolute craziness involved in building and customizing your character, not in spite of it.

(Image credit: Grinding Gear Games)

There are plenty of great ARPGs for players who don't want to dig through a 1500 node skill tree, and hearing that Path of Exile 2 wasn't going to sacrifice the craziness on the altar of a largely imaginary 'appeal to a larger audience' made me even more excited for its release.