Okay so I've just got started on Path of Exile and already I'm hooked on it. I've received very little information about this game (mostly intentionally so I can explore it) and so far I'm a level 13 Shadow. All I've heard from friends so far is that it's like the game Diablo 3 could have been, and I have to say I agree.
There are so many things I can say are great about this game, so let me start with the Skill Forest. Damn, at first the Passive Skill Tree looks daunting but you soon get used to it, and it's actually very well designed. For those who haven't seen it, it looks a little something like this:
As you can see, it's fucking huge. Anyway, onto the gems and sockets: I think it's very well done. Your active skills are earned by adding gems to a socket. As far as I'm aware, there are Blue (Intelligence skills), Green (Dexterity skills) and Red (Strength skills) gems, each one fitting in the corresponding coloured socket, which adds to the whole randomised drop design of the game. You can find an amazing weapon with great damage and stats, but if it has the wrong coloured socket, it could be worthless to your character. Gems also need experience to level up, as well as stat requirements, so your skills get more powerful as the game progresses.
Oh and one more thing I love about the game is the currency. You don't have gold like in the Diablo series. Instead, you're forced to "sell" items for various different fragments and resources, which you use to purchase other goods (or in the case of Portal Scrolls and Scrolls of Wisdom, use them to make a portal/identify an item). I'm not sure how effective this is at combating gold farming ching chong Chinamen, but I imagine it at least slows them down considerably.
Another great thing about this game is that you could be in a world with 1,000 players and you wouldn't have them interfering with your gameplay once you're out killing shit because you and your party get your own randomised map. You can only see other players whilst in town to create parties etc. So far, it's pretty much what I hoped Diablo 3 to become, but didn't, and although I do enjoy Diablo 3 still, I'd have to say Blizzard really missed the mark on this one and Path of Exile really outshines D3.
It's also fucking free, so cheapskates like me can enjoy it without having to spend money! Like all other free games, they make their money from microtransactions, which as far as I'm aware, don't really give the people an option of pay2win. I could be wrong.
For me the controls are awkward as fuck, maybe I'll get used to them though.