A note before I begin: I love Diablo. I didn't get a chance to play I and II during their heydays, but I have since gone back and played them through. Even without the overwhelming player base, I was still able to experience Diablo the way it was meant to be played. I am writing this for two major reasons, one of which is in all likelihood completely futile, and the other is hopefully slightly less futile. They are, respectively, to encourage Blizzard to humble themselves and adapt some of Path of Exile's mechanics in order to fix what is broken, and to discourage future idiocy on these forums regarding Path of Exile. I don't mean to sound crass, but some players in this community are so ignorant and childish it makes my head spin.
With that out of the way, I'll begin. I have seen two major complaints from people in regards to Path of Exile. The "graphics" and the slow and clunky game play. I will address each topic independently. As far as the graphics are concerned, I'll share a quick bit of my personal gaming history with you. My brother (admittedly a much more avid gamer than myself) always chides me for not giving games a chance if the graphics do not impress me. I simply refused to play them. It took me a long time to get over the graphics of Diablo I and II when I went back to play them, after having been spoiled by Diablo III. After having given Path of Exile a chance, I am now prepared to sacrifice some visual quality to get an improved gaming experience, overall.
Not only did I find that within 20-30 minutes of game play I was no longer bothered by the graphics, but I also discovered that Path of Exile's graphics offer something that Diablo III cannot, and never will be able to, deliver. The textures in Path of Exile are dark, they are gritty, they actually fit within the schema of the world. Wraeclast (the equivalent of Sanctuary in Path of Exile) is a dark and gritty world, as Sanctuary is. In Diablo III, there is an enormous disconnect between the style, not the quality, but the style of textures and the overarching themes of the game world. You only have to make it to the Fields of Misery in Diablo III to feel this disconnect, and it may even hit some people before then. When you contrast the aptly referred to "cartoony" graphics of Diablo III, with the gritty and dark graphics of Path of Exile, you simply cannot claim that Diablo III wins out in that category. However, in terms of quality, Diablo III is crisper, more refined, and definitely more pleasant to look at.
This brings me to the game play. Players who have reached even level 15 or so in Path of Exile can tell you that the game starts ramping up in speed very quickly. It is an admittedly very slow and clunky start. Your character's animations will feel like super slow motion when compared to the Diablo III starting point. This simply has to do with the approach both developers took when designing the feel of a hero in an ARPG. In my opinion, and you are entitled to your own, a character in an ARPG should start out slow and completely underwhelming, eventually growing into a powerful force. While that does happen in Diablo III, the character development arc is just much less drastic. You start off steamrolling and continue to improve your efficiency of steamrolling as you progress. In Path of Exile, you start off fumbling around and occasionally missing your targets and only reach steamrolling efficiency after many hours of play. An investment of time; one that is akin to what we expect from an RPG.
That brings me to my next point. Path of Exile brings us back to what an RPG, and more specifically, an ARPG actually is. Diablo certainly has the action aspect nailed. It is fun if you play it solely for that purpose, but other action games do it much better, albeit in different genres. In Path of Exile, we are given back our choices. Real choices that aren't just "which set of abilities do I want to put on my bar?" These choices are far more permanent and bind us to our characters, which is what RPGs are all about. The Passive Tree is everything you could hope for, and those of you who played Final Fantasy X will be pleasantly reminded of the times you had in that game. The amount of choices and customization alone have kept me theory crafting and entertained since I first installed the game. I won't go into details for brevity's sake, but you owe yourself the opportunity of making yourself your own unique build and giving it a try. It is free, after all.
You already know the praises that people have sung about the itemization and customization choices in Path of Exile; I won't go into them here. I will admit that the story was lackluster and I felt like I had to engage it rather than it engage me, which is not how I personally like to immerse myself in a game. So if the storyline is crucial for your enjoyment, I actually would encourage you to stay away from Path of Exile, despite the fact that everyone has experienced the Diablo III story already and there isn't too much to be said about it.
All said and done, I haven't logged in to Diablo III since Path of Exile's Open Beta launched, and I sadly regret to say that I have no plans on doing so. I was hopeful that the Q&A would have some answers for the community on the core issues of the game, but we all saw what the developers had to say; it was clearly meaningless PR fodder that really answered none of the burning questions this community has been asking since launch.
While I love the game that GGG has made, and as much as I want them to succeed, I want even more for Blizzard to fix Diablo III and make it what it was supposed to be. I have been playing Blizzard games since Warcraft II (not sure how I missed Diablo back then, but oh well), and I love this company. I played World of Warcraft on and off for nearly seven years. I bought Diablo III the day it launched and played right up until I played Path of Exile and it opened my eyes. There is so much to take from what this game has brought, and brought back, to the ARPG genre and Blizzard would do well to revisit their design philosophy with some of the GGG concepts in mind. I want to come back to Diablo more than anything, but I can't abide it in its current iteration after having been exposed to Path of Exile.
So, again, I am not trying to discourage people from enjoying Diablo III as I have, nor am I trying to pull you away from Diablo III in favor of Path of Exile. I am just hoping that things can change for the better for Diablo III, and I don't see that happening with the current design philosophy. Path of Exile may have followed in Diablo II's footsteps, but it will pave the way for future ARPGs for years to come. I encourage you all to at least see for yourselves before making a judgment based on hype, opinions of myself or others, or youtube videos (which, believe me, do not do an ounce of justice to the game itself).
Happy hunting to those of you who are still hunting,