What Makes Path of Exile Different from Diablo 2 & 3?
Upon commencement of Path of Exile's open beta, players immediately started comparing it to Diablo 2 and 3, the perennial giants in the action RPG genre. For those who don't really see how different they are, here are some of the big things between them.
First off, Path of Exile feels a lot more like Diablo 2 than Diablo 3, from the graphics to the kinesthetic of the gameplay. Perhaps it's to be expected since Diablo 2 inspired the design of most action RPGs, but it is worth noting that Diablo 3 tried to do more and players seem to have not taken to it as a result. It was most likely the writing and the Auction House that caused its relatively short shelf life, and that's where Path of Exile thrives. All this game has is a rich backstory and an innovative gameplay system from developers with little to fear and much to gain.
Builds and customization options are more diverse in Path of Exile due to the passive skill tree and itemization. Your active skills come from gems that you put into corresponding slots on socketed items, so picking the right equipment is crucial. The passive skill tree is a diverse jungle of what you can make use of with your character, giving you a distinct balance of offense and defense that's more unique compared to others, more diverse than in the other two games. All of the passive skills are useful, so putting more points in one than necessary is still good in the long run.
The end-game is way better in this game as well, since there are still lots of stuff to do, even if you reach max level. In the other two games, you're basically farming and item-hunting, and that's just about it. In Path of Exile, there is still so much more other than just upgrading your equipment like crafting any other mechanics to keep you interested.
It has a better and more sophisticated trading system than the other two games. Instead of gold, you have a bartering system that uses currency items, which have uses in themselves other than just for money. They're crafting items that can help you make better equipment in the game, so making items for yourself and for trade also cost what is essentially your money. Being able to trade items for items creates a more dynamic economy that works better for online RPGs than just gold, since that is much easier to have third party real money trading (RMT) services butting in on the action if you use gold.
But perhaps it is the challenge that really makes Path of Exile a better game. In Diablo 3, Diablo himself (or herself) was the most powerful enemy, and he is still easy enough to kill once you have good enough equipment and at a high enough level. In contrast, the first miniboss in Path of Exile could kill you multiple times over, and you're not even an hour into the game. That supposedly should discourage casual players, but most people who get themselves to play RPG are gamers anyway, so they'd feel fine with this level of difficulty.
This is in no way written to demean the other two games since they're good games in their own right, but it also shows just how much evolution the action RPG genre has undergone through Path of Exile.