The characterization of a massively multiplayer online game, or MMO, is self-explanatory. Or is it? By definition, it means a large number of players on the same server — hundreds, thousands — and a big open world that continues to evolve. So does Path of Exile, the “online-only action RPG” developed by Grinding Gear Games, measure up?
Well, the team behind the game says no. Despite being played on persistent servers with thousands of other players, “Path of Exile is not an MMORPG,” wrote Chris Wilson, one of the company’s founders, in a post on the game’s official website in 2010. Case closed then, right? Nah. Let’s still dive in.
Path of Exile uses instancing for all areas, including towns. That means servers never get overloaded because more just get added if so — which is good. However, that also means you won’t encounter those thousands of other players — which is bad (for my argument). When in dungeons, the maximum size for a group is six, but players may encounter up to eight others in total. And when you’re in a town, there’s usually only a dozen or less people hanging out (who are open to trade with too). As for PvP, there is the Arena which holds up to 24 players at a time.
While this element of the game clearly negates the “massive” part of MMO, there’s something actually interesting here. Many MMOs come and go, and when they’re on the way out it’s typically because the population reached an all-time low. A town in a dying or dead MMO will be a ghost town, meaning no one is around. But in Path of Exile — due to instancing — there’s always going to be some sort of liveliness when players are in towns…giving off that MMO feeling.
Aside from the multiplayer aspects, the game features an expansive storyline, loads of quests, meaningful character customization, classes with unique abilities and playstyles, and endless growth and progression. Saying all of that is exclusive to MMOs would be silly, but the genre sure does almost always include most, if not all these things.
Overall, I disagree with Chris Wilson from Grinding Gear Games when he said: “Path of Exile is not an MMORPG.” That’s a stretch, because the game kind of is an MMO. Not entirely, but slightly.
About the Author
Matthew “dinofries” D'Onofrio is a writer, content creator, podcaster and — most importantly — a gamer. With such a strong passion for video games and a severe case of FOMO, it's no surprise he always has his finger on the pulse of the gaming world. On the rare occasion Matt's away from a screen, you'll find him strumming away on his acoustic guitar or taking care of his cat Totoro.More Stories by Matthew D'Onofrio
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