Who would have thought that Blizzard Entertainment, the uber-successful creator of the world's most revered action role-playing games, would be out-Diablo'd? A year after Diablo III was released, developer Grinding Gear Games created a dark and oppressive clickfest that seemingly rose from the ashes of Diablo II. After a notably long beta period, Path of Exile was released to great acclaim in 2013--yet, somehow, doesn't cost a penny to download, play, and love.
So yes, it's a wonder that Path of Exile is free, though you can certainly toss some cash the developer’s way by buying unnecessary cosmetic enhancements. But Path of Exile’s greatness has little to do with its price, or lack thereof, but is instead a result of its ridiculously complex skill tree, exciting action, and moody atmosphere. At first, the adventure hews closely to its obvious inspiration, but this familiarity is merely a stepping stone that allows Path of Exile to find its footing. Once it's clear you are on rock-solid ground, the game establishes an identity all its own--an identity that makes Path of Exile a worthy winner of GameSpot's award for 2013 PC game of the year.