Path of Exile Progression
A big part of playing Path of Exile is following the main storyline and going through the quests in sequence. Doing so gives meaningful progression to the gameplay, lets you experience the in-game world, learn about the lore, and makes rewards and other bonuses available to you. It is what makes Path of Exile compelling by being more than just another regular online grinder. For those who want to get into the story, then here's a guide to making the most of that experience.
Path of Exile proceeds like how most action role-playing games do, with quests triggered by talking to NPCs throughout each of the 3 Acts. Each act has its own setting and set of circumstances within Wraeclast, and you have to get into the bottom of each perdicament as an exile who has set out to forge his/her own path in this place of vast isolation.
The quest system in Path of Exile is not like the usual one that you encounter in most other ARPGs as you can retroactively complete the quests if you so happened to have completed the requirements beforehand. The event triggers are not strictly linear, so you don't even have to talk to the NPC beforehand before you go off to get what needs getting to finish a quest.
If you so happened to know what to do in order to complete these quests, it should save you time and effort, which is crucial for gameplay experience that gains from speed of progression. This also makes for progression strategies that can balance between completing the main storyline, doing side quests, and grinding in optimal farming zones with minimal delay and disruption. There are guides that provide such strategies, as well as benchmarks that help you track your progress.
Those strategies are especially helpful when you have to complete the main storyline in a higher difficulty level, wherein you get to gain more experience points and items in a planned sequence. You have 3 difficulty levels to get through, namely Normal, Cruel, and Merciless. Some may find having to go through the same storyline again to be tedious, which is understandable. At the very least, Grinding Gear Games has done their best to make the tedium as bearable as possible, including the retroactive completion that was just mentioned.
There are a few things that should help you get through the game with as little effort as possible. One of the most fundamentals is that you don't need to kill everything in the map. Most ARPG players are hardwired to kill everything that moves, to the point that they explore every nook and cranny of the area in order to take out all the enemies. This is mostly a waste of time as you'd rather spend the time wasted on needless exploration on more killing, which is why you should plan for every area you get into and figure out which ones you don't kill in every run.
Plenty of things can be learned throughout your adventures in Path of Exile, most of which can then undergo more theorycrafting so that you may come up with something that works better than what you've been doing before. One of the things that set Path of Exile apart in the genre is that it's very open to new ideas and strategies that its loyal player base may be able to figure out along the way.