Edited by anguscsirke on April 19th, 2019
Welcome to Wraeclast: Fresh Exiles, Start Here
Path of Exile is an enormous game with so many different facets it can make your head start to spin. Players new to the game, in particular, are sometimes discouraged by how intricate and interlocking many of the game’s systems are. Failing to understand some of the fundamentals will cripple your ability to make progress in the game, or make it feel far more difficult or sluggish than should be.
With that sobering message out of the way, we can jump right into our Beginner’s Guide to Path of Exile! Stay sane, exile.
As we discussed in the introduction, many of the systems in Path of Exile are interlocking, and it can be difficult to fully understand one concept without explaining another. If you encounter unfamiliar words and concepts, rest assured we will cover everything you need to know within this page.
Perhaps the most discussed portion of Path of Exile is its infamous passive skill tree, spider-webbing in all sorts of directions.
This intimidating tree has over 1200 nodes available to choose from. While we will discuss the Passive Tree in greater detail later on, suffice to say that it is not nearly as complex as it appears at first glance.
Character Classes and Core Attributes
The first deviation from the standard video game formula is the class design in Path of Exile. Choosing a class affects where you start on the Passive Skill tree, rather than what abilities your class has. Certain classes are more suited to the use of certain abilities, as they reach passives that synergize with their build for less skill point investment.
There are three core attributes in Path of Exile. They are each associated with a certain color, which is important as it relates to many other systems within the game.
The core attributes are:
If we divide the passive tree roughly into three slices of pie, each slice has many nodes related to one of the core attributes. While this is not an absolute rule, it is a helpful way of gaining some insight into how the Passive Tree works.
All combat skills and items have attribute requirements; for example, using the Farrul's Fur chest requires at least 95 Strength and 116 Dexterity. Attributes also have their own benefits for every 10 points you obtain. They are as follows:
|Attribute||Bonus Per 10 Points|
|Strength||5 Maximum Life, 2% Melee Physical Damage|
|Dexterity||20 Accuracy Rating, 2% Increased Evasion Rating|
|Intelligence||5 Maximum Mana, 2% Increased Maximum Energy Shield|
These attributes are associated with the classes of Path of Exile, as well as the passive tree itself. There are seven classes in Path of Exile, and each of them begin at a different point on the Passive Skill Tree you saw above. The starting areas of the core classes look like “wheels” on the tree. For example, here is a low level Marauder investing points from his starting wheel.
Each time you level up, you are granted a skill point to invest into your tree, however, you must always remain connected to your class’ starting wheel. The seven core classes are:
|Marauder||Strength||32 Strength, 14 Dexterity, 14 Intelligence|
|Templar||Strength/Intelligence||23 Strength. 14 Dex, 23 Intelligence|
|Witch||Intelligence||14 Strength, 14 Dexterity, 32 Intelligence|
|Shadow||Dexterity/Intelligence||14 Strength, 23 Dexterity, 23 Intelligence|
|Ranger||Dexterity||14 Strength, 32 Dexterity, 14 Intelligence|
|Duelist||Strength/Dexterity||23 Strength, 23 Dexterity, 14 Intelligence|
|Scion||Strength/Dexterity/Intelligence||20 Strength, 20 Dexterity, 20 Intelligence|
The Scion is a special class that starts in the center of the tree. It is not available to new players until you have rescued her during the main storyline of the game. The reason for this is the extreme degree of customization possible, coupled with an extremely weak early game, making it very unfriendly to new players.
One thing to emphasize is there is not a “best” class in Path of Exile. Unlike typically role playing games or MMORPGs, choosing a class is one of the least important decisions in Path of Exile, as there are practically infinite builds to choose from for each class.
One of the main differences between classes is their Ascendancy options, which we will cover in full detail in a later section. Ascendancies are essentially “sub-classes”, or specializations, which further diversify playstyles. Each class has 3 Ascendancy options, except the Scion, who only has 1.
Gems – The Abilities of Path of Exile
Path of Exile has a unique take on skills and abilities. All players start the game with no abilities, save for a default auto attack. Almost immediately, however, you will acquire a weapon and a skill gem.
Skill Gems are the abilities of Path of Exile. When a skill gem is placed into a socket, the ability can be used by the player, assuming you meet the requirements. The color of the skill gem denotes the required attribute. Gems must match the socket color in order to be slotted in. Gems gain experience the longer you use them, and leveling up gems increases their power and effectiveness, however, the attribute requirement also increases.
Gem sockets are only found in certain items. While there are a few esoteric exceptions to this rule, gem sockets can typically only be found in the following types of equipment:
|Equipment Type||Maximum Number of Gem Sockets|
Players can attempt to reforge the number of sockets on a piece of gear using Jeweller's Orbs, but not above the maximum listed above. The likelihood of achieving higher numbers of sockets in an item is reduced at an almost exponential rate for each additional socket (e.g. getting 5 sockets on a Chest item is significantly more likely than 6). An item with a higher Quality bonus has a greater chance to receive a higher number of sockets.
Sockets can also be recolored using Chromatic Orbs.
Additionally, there are restrictions on how many sockets a piece of gear can have based on its item level. This means that a 2-handed weapon you find near the beginning of the game will not be able to have 6 sockets, no matter how many Jeweller's Orbs are used. The easiest way to see item level is to hold the ALT key and hover your cursor over an item. The item level restrictions on sockets are as follows:
|Number of Sockets||Minimum Item Level|
Gem Sockets can be linked together using the Orb of Fusing currency. As with Jeweller's Orbs, the chance of obtaining a higher number of links is significantly lower than achieving a low number of links. An item with a higher Quality bonus has a greater chance to receive a higher number of links.
Perhaps even more important the skill gems themselves, support gems augment empower existing abilities in unique and interesting ways. For a support gem to take effect, however, it must be linked to the skill gem in a gem socket chain, as described in the section above. Support Gems do nothing on their own, or if they are not linked to an active skill gem.
There are a massive variety of support gems in Path of Exile, and they vary extremely greatly in effect. Certain support gems will not work with active skill gems; for example, Greater Multiple Projectiles Support will only support Projectile skill gems, as you might expect. Here is an example of the skill gem Elemental Hit being used with and without Greater Multiple Projectiles Support.
Support gems are subject to the exact same restrictions as Skill Gems; they must match the color of the socket, and have attribute requirements based on the color of the skill gem. Support gems do not have to match the skill gem color.
Setting Up Your Skills
Path of Exile builds typically revolve around one or two main skill gems, augmented by multiple support gems in a link. In the end-game, your goal will be to have a chest or 2-handed weapon with 6 linked sockets. In such an instance, you will always have a single skill gem supported by 5 support gems. The result is that your main skill will become exponentially more powerful than if was not linked to support gems. Here is an example 6-Link a player might use in the end-game of Path of Exile:
|Firestorm||Concentrated Effect Support||Fire Penetration Support||Elemental Focus Support||Spell Echo Support||Controlled Destruction Support|
As you should be able to piece together from reading the tooltips, Firestorm is the skill gem in this link. By adding these support gems, we are reducing the area of effect of the skill but increasing its damage using Concentrated Effect Support. Elemental Focus Support and Controlled Destruction Support both increase the elemental damage of the skill, while Fire Penetration Support grants the skill the ability to punch through monsters with Fire resistance more easily. Finally, Spell Echo Support allows you to cast multiple instances of the spell rapidly. The damage difference between this setup and Firestorm on its own is absolutely enormous. Hopefully, you are starting to understand how important it is to link your skill gem to support gems.
Additional gem links, such as in Boots or Gloves (that have a maximum of 4 Links), are typically used for defense or mobility. Every build in Path of Exile incorporates at least one mobility skill, such as Whirling Blades.
Here is an example mobility link used in some builds:
|Whirling Blades||Faster Attacks Support||Fortify Support||Blood Magic Support|
Whirling Blades is the skill gem in this link, and we link it to Faster Attacks Support to increase the speed of the skill. This allows us to travel quicker through areas in the game. By linking it to Fortify Support, we will gain a nice damage reduction when we dash into a pack of monsters, granting additional defense. Finally, Blood Magic Support makes the skill cost Life instead of Mana, which can be helpful for Mana hungry builds.
Aura gems are technically considered skill gems, but instead of granting a combat skill, they provide a buff that lasts until canceled in exchange for a portion of your maximum Mana pool.
There are a variety of Aura gems in Path of Exile. Some are focused around enhancing damage, while others bolster the players defenses.
Vaal gems are a special class of gem, as they can be both Skill Gems and Auras. Vaal gems only exist for specific skills and abilities, and provide empowered versions of the base skill gem. When using a Vaal gem, the player gains the use of both the base skill gem, and the empowered Vaal ability. For example, if Reave was your main ability, you could use the Vaal Reave gem instead, and still be able to use the normal Reave ability. To activate the Vaal version of them, a fixed amount of “souls”, or enemy kills, are necessary. Here is an example of a player using the Fireball skill, and then activating Vaal Fireball.
The majority of Path of Exile players choose to play on the temporary Leagues, which typically last around 3 months. You can think of Leagues as seasonal or quarterly resets on the game, each of which brings a new special twist to the game. For example, during the Beyond League, slaying groups of monsters in close proximity could causes monsters from the “Beyond” to appear and attack you. This adds some new flavor to the game every few months that many players quickly come to appreciate.
Another key benefit of League play is the economical reset it provides. All players begin on an even playing field, and the economy never has a chance to stagnate. This makes farming for items a lot more exciting, as they are worth significantly more than on the permanent “Standard” league, where there are limitless quantities in the game already.
Finally, Leagues afford experienced players the opportunity to “race”. Whether it is the first person to kill a new boss, or the first to reach maximum level, there is always an objective that the best players want to make their mark on before anyone else.
Hardcore leagues are identical to their “softcore” counterparts, with the added caveat that the player only has a single life. If the player’s character dies, it is moved to the permanent Standard league.
All leagues have a “Solo Self-Found” variant, commonly known as SSF. In SSF leagues, players will neither see, nor be able to form a party with any other player(s). Trading is impossible, and as the name implies, everything must be acquired by the player themself.
SSF leagues are not recommended for new players, as there are specific strategies followed to help make obtaining key items a lot more manageable. There are no benefits to playing on SSF leagues versus “trade leagues”, as they are often referred to, and the difference is merely a choice of playstyle.
Now that you understand some of the most basic mechanics of the game, you will want to choose a build and create your first exile. We recommend browsing our guides for a build that is budget friendly or a “league starter”. League Starters are a type of build meant to function well without much currency investment or items. Many experienced players use these builds for their first character on a league, to build up wealth before embarking on a more ambitious and expensive build later on.
New players often make the mistake of choosing a build that boasts “insane damage”, or “all content viable” — this is a trap. Typically such builds are difficult to level, require a vast amount of wealth to properly outfit, or involve difficult gameplay mechanics. Many a new exile has chosen such a build, only to get smashed while leveling and have a miserable experience with the game. A mistaken belief is that if they persevere long enough, they will eventually acquire the necessary means to complete the build. This is a fallacy, however, as new players also lack the knowledge to quickly accrue wealth and identify valuable items.
Certain classes are also easier to level than others. The Marauder, for example, starts very near to a large number of Life nodes on the passive skill tree, making him more innately tanky than other classes much earlier in the game. This means you will be much less likely to die from mistakes or lack of knowledge. The Witch, on the other hand, is generally a much more fragile class early in the game, and requires some finesse to safely level without dying.
Getting Started in Path of Exile
Select your preferred League and chosen class, christen your character with a name, and enter the dark and dangerous world of Wraeclast. You will be immediately confronted with your first enemy, and provided with a weapon to defeat it with. The weapon will be automatically equipped, and all you will need to do is simply left click to auto-attack it to death.
Pick up the skill gem that it drops, and socket it into your weapon to acquire your first special attack. By default, the skill will be assigned to the right mouse button. You will be able to move using left click, and attack enemies with a right click.
At this point, you should change your auto-attack (left click) keybind to be move only. The basic auto-attack is virtually never used in Path of Exile, as all damage is done via our attack skills. Having your left mouse button configured as move only allows for much easier movement, as you cannot mislick on enemies and interrupt your movement with an auto-attack.
To change this, simply left click on the binding itself at the bottom right hand of the screen, and select move only.
Make your way down the beach, looting your first support gem from the chest you come across. Place it into your weapon’s second socket to bolster your newly acquired skill gem. Continue to venture further down the beach, until you encounter Hillock, the first Unique enemy you will encounter. Unique enemies are denoted by their orange flavor text, which signifies they are either intended to be a boss or an enemy with several unique mechanics.
Defeat Hillock, who should not pose much of a challenge. If you need more Life or Mana during the battle, use your Flasks, which are bound on the 1-5 numerical keys by default. If it is your first character, you will likely want to pick up the items that Hillock drops and equip them if possible. After Hillock’s defeat, the door to the game’s first home city opens, inviting you into Lioneye’s Watch.
Each Act in Path of Exile has its own home city, which functions as a sanctuary and travel hub to help you move quickly around the game. Quest givers are always located in the home cities of the game, and often double as vendors that you can sell your drops to.
There is also a Waypoint in every home city, which is a means of fast travel throughout the world of Wraeclast. While you adventure throughout the game, you will encounter inactive waypoints which can be activated by simply left clicking on them. Once active, they are permanently unlocked for your character and can be used to quickly travel between other unlocked waypoints.
Quests are designated by exclamation marks above the quest giver’s character model, and speaking with them will automatically accept the quest. Quests do not have to be accepted to be completed, and will automatically be added to your log if you complete an action that is related to the quest. Picking them up manually is helpful for new players, however, as it makes navigating much easier and allows you to follow the story thread without interruption.
Press ”U” to open the Quest Log, which also shows any connected areas and waypoints. You can select a different active quest by left clicking on them, however, this is only helpful for navigational purposes.
Understanding Experience Gain
Unlike many RPGs, Quests do not grant experience in Path of Exile. The only way to increase the experience of your character and level up is to kill enemies that are within your level range. Killing enemies that are close to the level of your character grants the maximum amount of experience, however, killing enemies that are too high or too lowly leveled grants nothing.
For a new player, you will likely want to stick to killing monsters that are roughly the same level as your character to avoid any difficulties. Press Tab to see the instance information displayed at the top right, including monster level.
A common mistake that new players make is trying to fully clear every zone of monsters. While this does become necessary late in the game, it is extremely inefficient to do so in the early acts, as you will end up extremely over-leveled. Additionally, the drops for these low level monsters are extremely poor, so there is practically no incentive to kill any more than necessary.
For peak efficiency, it is ideal to be a few levels below the zone you are currently in. Advanced players will often intentionally ensure their character is 2-3 levels below the zones they are progressing in, as that is generally the range that maximum experience is rewarded.
Experience values to level up taper very heavily as you gain levels. While you will only need to kill a few monsters to go from level 1 to level 2, you will have to clear entire zones to level up once you are in the 50s. The maximum level is 100, although this is a hefty milestone that many players never reach. The experience jumps are so extreme in the 90s that it actually takes more experience to go from 99 to 100 than all the levels from 1 to 97.
Dying in Path of Exile imposes an experience penalty. Players progressing through Act 1-5 will receive no penalty on death, however, in order to give newer players time to familiarize themselves with the basic mechanics of the game.
Once Kitava is encountered for the first time, at the end of Act V, a hidden penalty will be imposed. Each death will remove 5% of your experience bar. Once Kitava is encountered for the second time, at the end of Act X, this penalty is increased to 10% per death.
Players cannot lose levels from dying; the experience bar will simply reach 0% but go no further.
Currency in Path of Exile
Path of Exile has one of the most unique and engaging currency systems in any game to date. There are a variety of currency items, called “Orbs”, within the game world. The orbs all have a practical usage; for instance, the Orb of Fusing can be used to link together sockets in an item. The value of the orb is determined by a combination of practical value and rarity.
One orb, in particular, is used for most transactions, or as a relative “dollar value” within the game that all other orbs are measured against. This unit of currency is called the Chaos Orb, and is the most common form of payment accepted when trading with other players. Most other orbs are measured in their relative value to the Chaos Orb. This is best tracked using the website poe.ninja to determine their values.
The value of currency is not fixed, and is determined by market demand. For example, the Orb of Fusing usually starts the league quite cheap, being worth about 0.25 Chaos each. After a week or two, however, when players are trying to link their newly acquired end-game gear, the value can often double or triple as the demand for them greatly increases.
Installing a Loot Filter
There are thousands upon thousands of items and currencies in Path of Exile, and it would be impossible to teach a fresh exile every single one to keep an eye out for. Fortunately, a Loot Filter is a great way to highlight the best and rarest drops, while filtering out the items that are not worth picking up. It only takes about two minutes to do, and is absolutely necessary at higher levels, where so much loot is dropping that it can obstruct your screen entirely. Take a look at this comparison below, showing the same loot with no filter (top) versus a basic loot filter (bottom).
To get started installing a basic loot filter, take a look at the following steps.
1. Go to https://www.filterblade.xyz/
2. Set your basic options. We recommend “semi-strict” for new players.
3. Name and download your filter.
4. Put the filter file in your Documents/My Games/Path of Exile folder.
5. Log in to Path of Exile. Press Escape, then Options, and navigate to the UI tab. The last option on the page will allow you to select a Loot Filter in-game.
Having a Loot Filter will greatly reduce confusion for new and seasoned players alike, highlighting the rarest and most valuable items with colors, sounds, and more visible text. Most of the useless items are filtered so that they are longer seen, and this level of strictness can be changed later on if need be. Higher level players, or those with greater wealth, often choose to run stricter filters, only stopping to loot items that are “worth their time”.
About the Author
Furty has been playing Path of Exile since the release of the Onslaught League in 2013, and has a deep and diverse well of experience within the game. Equally comfortable playing on Hardcore, Softcore, and Solo-Self Found Leagues, Furty finished the Betrayal League at Rank 186 on the ladder playing Elemental Hit. You can follow him on Twitter, or check out his occasional streams on Twitch.