Last updated on August 14th, 2020
In this Path of Exile Beginners Guide (2020) we are going to cover basic necessary information for new players in Path of Exile. It is a complex game that requires a lot of time investment, especially if you go about it the wrong way, so the goal of this Guide is to focus on what will reduce this investment. There are plenty more in-depth Guides delving into every aspect of the game, so don’t worry if you want to dig further, we have you covered. See the details on the Harvest Expansion here. And check our 3.11 Path of Exile Builds & Guides.
Path of Exile Beginners Guide 2020
Path of Exile is a free-to-play hack n’ slash RPG with what is ultimately a very fair business model. To succeed you do not need to buy anything with real money, but there are some things that are worth getting to improve the overall experience, giving you complete freedom to play the game as you wish. We will dive into these further on in the article, but for now let’s start with the basics.
Before picking the Class of your choice, you will have to choose in which League that character will exist. Leagues are essentially game worlds, and there are 3 League types: Standard, Challenge and Private.
The Standard League is always available to join by anyone, and it splits into Hardcore and Solo Self-Found versions. The Standard League is the default, and has no modifiers. The Hardcore variant introduces its own version of a perma-death mechanic, but you will not lose the character if it dies, and instead the character goes back to the default version of the Standard League upon dying without losing items and progression. Solo Self-Found is another variant, and in this variant players cannot trade or party with other players, thus converting the game into a single player experience.
Challenge Leagues are special “temporary” Leagues that only last for a certain amount of time, and they usually have specific modifiers or features. When these Leagues end, your character is transferred to one of the Standard League, so there is no lost progress. This is where the majority of players will be playing, so it is recommended that new players begin in this League, which is currently called Betrayal. In Path of Exile, players usually play in the Challenge League until it expires, and then create a new character when the next Challenge League is released.
Private leagues are custom made Leagues that allows additional modifiers. They are purchased with real money, and the initial cost is 120 Points, or roughly 12$ USD. The default duration is 10 days and it has 10 player slots available, but these both can be increased with further purchases. Private Leagues can be based around the Standard League or the current Challenge League.
There are total of 7 Classes in the game, and every Class is connected to its core Attribute. There are 3 core Attributes: Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence.
- Strength: Every 10 Points increase maximum Life by 5 points and increases Melee Physical Damage by 2%.
- Dexterity: Every 10 Points increase Accuracy by 20 and Evasion by 2%.
- Intelligence: Every 10 Points increase maximum Mana by 5 and Energy Shield by 2%.
By choosing a Class you choose which Attribute bonus you start with. The following is a list of all Classes and what Attributes they begin the game with:
- Marauder: 32 STR, 14 DEX, 14 INT
- Ranger: 14 STR, 32 DEX, 14 INT
- Witch: 14 STR, 14 DEX, 32 INT
- Duelist: 23 STR. 23 DEX, 14 INT
- Templar: 23 STR, 14 DEX, 23 INT
- Shadow: 14 STR, 23 DEX, 23 INT
- Scion: 20 STR, 20 DEX, 20 INT
Note that the Scion Class is unlocked upon reaching Act 3 and rescuing her with any character. She is the most flexible class but also is not meant for new players due to build complexity.
Class Differences & Which One To Choose
While different starting Attributes can lead to shaping your character’s build, it is ultimately the least important choice. What defines your character the most are skill points invested into the Passive Skill Tree, Gems slotted into gear and your Ascendancy Subclass choice.
Passive Skill Tree
When leveling in Path of Exile up you will acquire Skill Points. By placing these Points you increase core Attributes, other Stats, and can modify various other “things”. Every Class has a unique starting point on the passive Skill Tree, and that difference is a crucial one, since it limits how far you can go in each direction. There are 99 passive Skill Points you can get from leveling up and 22-24 from Quests. The maximum level is 100, but it is extremely hard to reach since it requires huge time investment, so 80 is more realistic goal. Keep this in mind when planning your Build.
Following Attributes on this massive Skill Tree, that are connected to your starting Class, is usually recommended. Let’s take Shadow as an example. Its increased starting Attributes are INT and DEX. On the tree both of these attributes spread out into many INT and DEX based passives. STR does not have any immediate passives connected to it, meaning you are going to have to invest heavily in that direction to reach lots of STR based passives. It is doable but it needs careful build planning.
In addition, plan ahead to reach Keystone Nodes that would improve your build a lot. These are very powerful passives that modify how some things behave. In the case of using Shadow, the closest Keystone Nodes are Pain Attunement, Acrobatics and Perfect Agony. Some skills might benefit tremendously from some of these Keystone nodes but it all depends on the skills you are using. As you can see, there is no one way of going about this huge skill tree, and because of this, planning is the most important thing because there is no respec option (so choices are mostly permanent).
Path of Exile does offers refund points, that are gained through some side quests, and by way of Orbs of Regret. Orbs of Regret can be farmed, but are uncommon. In addition, the devs sometimes offer every character a full respec for free, which can be used on the passive skill tree screen. This is usually offered when major changes are made to the game. Note that respecs given this way must be used before allocating or refunding any other points otherwise the option will go away. Check out the online passive skill tree planner as well, where you can plan your build ahead. It is a very useful tool.
Active skills are associated with Gems, and every type of equipment has sockets where you can slot and remove Gems at will. By slotting the Gem, Active Skills become available on your quickbar. These sockets come in 3 colors, which are the same as gems: red, green and blue. Gems and sockets need to be of the same color in order to be slotted. The more you progress through the game, the better equipment becomes, and the more prevalent sockets on this equipment becomes. The maximum amount of sockets available depends on gear type and level. Only items above level 50 can have the maximum number of sockets.
- One Handed Weapons and Shields can have up to 3 sockets
- Boots, Helmets and Gloves can have up to 4 sockets
- Body Armour and Two Handed Weapons can have up to 6 sockets
There are 2 types of Gems – Active and Support. Active Gems grant active skills when slotted, as explained above. Support gems add modifiers to active skills. Support Gems cannot function solo, meaning sockets need to be linked, and Active Gem needs to be in one of these slots for the Support Gem to have any effect. Multiple Support Gems can be linked to one Active Gem to add multiple modifiers to one skill. However, multiple Support Gems of the same name linked to one Active Gem will not grant a stacking effect. Read the description of Support Gems carefully to understand what type of active ability it can affect. If it says, for example Support Minion, then it affects only Active Skills with the Minion keyword.
Gems can be leveled up. By leveling them up not only does their effectiveness increase, but also the attribute requirements to use them as well. At higher levels, make sure to pay attention so that you do not lose access to your favorite abilities when changing equipment.
Every Class, except Scion, has 3 subclasses that are unlocked upon completing the Labyrinth for the first time. After completing the first six Trials of Ascendancy, the player can enter the Labyrinth through the Statue in the Sarn Encampment. The plaza has a waypoint that can be accessed from any Act (it appears next to the hideout icon).
The Ascendancy Skill Tree is a special small tree that grants powerful passives. This skill tree does not use the normal Skill Points that you gain when leveling up, but instead uses Ascendancy Points that are obtained by finishing each version of the Labyrinth, for a total of 8 points (2 per Labyrinth).
Currency System & What Loot To Pick Up
Path of Exile uses a unique currency system, and there are no usual gold coins to pick up, and instead you trade looted items for Orbs at vendors. Orbs can be also traded for other Orb types, and everything has a recipe that if you match, will give you an item from the vendor. The following are some examples:
- 8x Blacksmith Whetstone = 1x Glassblower’s Bauble
- 1x Orb of Transmutation = 5x Scrolls of Wisdom
- 4x Orbs of Augmentation = 1x Orb of Alteration
The amount of Orbs/Shards you gain from a vendor depends on the item type, level, rarity, quality, number of sockets and if the item is unidentified or not. Path of Exile has tons of recipes and here you can check them all out. However, beginners don’t need to bother as much with them, as this won’t impact you greatly at the start of the game.
To identify an item you need a Scroll of Wisdom, and although it is one of the most common items in the entire game, there will be far more unidentified items in your inventory than Scrolls of Wisdom when just beginning. There is no need to waste these scrolls on Magic (Blue) items, so just trade them Unidentified if picked up. Only use Scrolls of Wisdom on Rare (Yellow) and Unique (Orange) items, because it is going to give you more currency back when traded at vendors then Magic quality Identified items will.
There are more then 20 different currency orbs, and at the beginning it can be very confusing as to when to use them. While it is fairly clear what they do, their actual worth is impossible to know for new players. The best advice I can give you is to not use any of the Orbs until end game has been reached, and when the basics of the game’s mechanics have all been understood. Hoard them, because everything has value when trading with vendors or players. For example, Chaos and Exalted Orbs are the most valuable currencies when trading with other players.
In Path of Exile there is a ton of loot. If you plan on picking everything up then you will soon run out of Portal Scrolls just to vendor items, not to mention it is very time consuming to do so. Using item filters helps to minimize this issue, by highlighting which loot is more important. Item filters can be changed under UI options, and the following are some tips on what to pick up and why:
- Items with a high number of sockets, especially if they are linked, are fantastic for builds (max number of sockets can be only found on equipment lvl 50+)
- Vendoring any rarity item with linked Red, Blue and Green sockets (RGB) will grant you a Chromatic Orb
- Pick up every Currency (Orbs, Shards, Scrolls) that drops
- Skill Gems with Quality property are a must pick up, even if duplicate, because they have high trading value with other players
- Do not pick up White and Blue items unless they have lots of linked sockets, RGB, or Quality property because you’ll end up traveling to town every 2 minutes for very little value
- Smaller items like Rings and Amulets are always worth picking up since they use only 1 inventory slot
- A full set of lvl 60+ Rares (either 2H weapon, 1 Handed and Shied, 2 Single Handed or 2 Shields with every Armor piece, 2 Rings and Amulet) gets you a Chaos Orbs when traded. A full set of unidentified lvl 60+ Rares gives you 2 Chaos Orbs
Inventory & Stash
Inventory gets clogged all the time due to the sheer amount of useful loot. Thankfully there is Stash you can use at the Hideout and every Town you encounter. This is “shared” storage as well, meaning you can access these items with all of your characters, as long as they are in the same League. Things you should store are unique items, high level gear with lots of linked sockets, skill gems and currencies. There is no need to hoard other stuff, just vendor everything else.
The amount of stash tabs is not enough to store everything relevant that you find after getting to higher levels. At the beginning it will be, but soon you’ll find yourself with no space at all due to currency hoarding and useful build items. This is where Path of Exile’s free-to-play system is quite limited and will require some real money investment. New Stash tabs are not expensive and for 10$ you can get 100 Points, which can buy you 2 extra stash tabs and 1 currency tab. That is enough of an investment to help significantly with your storage problem. Or, you can create more characters just to use their inventory space as storage, just remember that they have to be in same League in order for this to be possible.
There is a lot more to Path of Exile then what was written in this guide, and that will be covered in future guides. Beginners should not focus on end game stuff since it gets complicated. Instead focus on playing the game and hoarding currencies and useful items. By playing the game you will start to understand what is valuable and what isn’t. So here is a recap of some tips mentioned in this article, and a few extra as well:
- If you do not know how valuable and useful something is hold onto it. There is high chance you can use it for trading or in builds.
- Plan your build ahead so as not to waste passive Skill Points. Use the online passive skill tree planner to help yourself or follow builds from other players.
- The game has a really fair free-to-play model so you will only have to buy extra stash and currency tabs which is not a big investment (10$).
- Sell RGB linked items for Chromatic Orbs.
- Pressing CTRL + Left Click on an item transfers it instantly from your inventory to stash or vendor.
- Use Global Chat to ask for help, players tend to be accepting of newcomers, but watch for trading scammers.
- Holding ALT or L3 (click Left Analogue Stick with Advanced Mod Description Option toggled) while hovering over an item shows its Item Level
- Quicksilver Flasks are very useful since they increase movement speed significantly, which leads to getting through areas faster.
- All equipped Flasks are filled by a certain amount upon killing an enemy, so using them alternatively is the best way to keep yourself alive.
- The more you progress through the game, the more dangerous content you are going to face, and this is where Elemental Resistance becomes important. If you have low Elemental Resistance later in the game you are going to have serious issues surviving. Having every Elemental Resistance, except Chaos, capped at 70% is highly recommended at that point.
Now you ready to tackle Path of Exile. Good luck and hopefully this guide will serve you well. Stay tuned for our Guides on Maps, Crafting, and Prophecies!