POE by Grind Gear Games is a small indie studio of real gamers that wanted their classic D2 style game play back, and succeeded in that regards but yet wanted a free to play model that was ethical. Well what the hell does that mean? http://massively.joystiq.com/2014/03/03/grinding-gears-wilson-talks-f2p-ethics-in-path-of-exile/ for the interview with GGG. It means that therer is absolutely no pay to win in this title. It is so popular that Metacritic scores have garnered over 85% approval and a large fan base. The game is a Diablo clone, but that would be an understatement as it is more Diablo gameplay then even Diablo 3 is currently. Permanent choices and stat upgrades, robust loot system, MASSIVE SKILL TREE, unique skill system to boot compared to D3s current casual "pick the flavor of the month on a whim builds." This is not to bash on D3 as it still has amazing gameplay and production value, but with POE it feels fresh compared with a lit of nostalgia.
Graphically it is dark and gritty, comparative to Diablo 1. Many areas with gore and bodies laying around, boosted by great lighting, good ability effects, and smooth edges from AA. You wont find a lot of recycled textures in its 4 act campaign (with the expansion...did I mention that was free too?).
The story is simple and can be summed as your character messed up some how and has been exiled from their home continent to Wraeclast, a inhospitible land where everything wants to kill you (much like Australia).
Gameplay is mared only by occassional Dysncs having to do with server issues, and yes the game is always online too but has WAY less down time then D3 and never suffered from Error 37 launch failures. There are leagues in addition to a hard core and soft core mode which tweaks the way the game is played adding in new rule sets, loot oppertunities, boss challenges, and traps. These run for about 4 months then your character is booted to either standard softcore or hardcore mode after the league time is over. This nice touch adds replayability and experimentation to your builds and forces you to try new things keeping the game fresh. The skill tree has over 1000+ nodes to experiment with and the choices are relatively permanent, meaning your character is unique and there is a lot of balance in the game meaning lots of viable options for end game content and life. But with the tree, you really want to make new characters to either perfect previous builds or try brand new combinations which breathes a lot of life into such a saturated Genre.
Free to play as defined by the ethical interview link provided above means the ONLY things real money will get you is cosmetic changes and vanity pets, and maybe designing your own unique in game item for other players (you dont even get a free copy of yours as that gives you an edge and would be unethical). This is a AAA game in free to play form that many developers could learn from, and should. If anything GGG and Chris Roberts (Star Citizen) is teaching the Gaming industry, is that customers drive the experiance and the market, not Day 1 DLC and coorporate Fat Cats (looking at you EA/Activision).
Overall this game is tragically beautiful and dark, and possibly the greatest entry into ARPGs since Diablo 2 and Torchlight 2 (sorry D3, bring back your RPG elements and we will talk). Do yourself a favor and check it out. This gets the Rarity Certification of Excellence: