Path of Exile: Helpful Websites and Tools

A list of the important websites and tools I use to improve my Path of Exile experience.

My Top 10 Games of 2017

Ten of my favorite games in 2017, with a few honorable mentions at the end, and quick thoughts on each game.

Black Desert Online: The Valencia Desert

Crossing the desert in Black Desert Online without a minimap, avoiding sunstroke and hypothermia, and digging in the sand.

Preparing for Path of Exile 3.0: The Fall of Oriath

Some useful links and information, mostly for new players, about loot filters and character builds in preparation for the launch of Path of Exile's enormous The Fall of Oriath expansion.

Black Desert Online: Journey to Port Ratt

A summary of my trip across the ocean in Black Desert Online to visit Port Ratt, thoughts about the related questline, and criticism of the frustrating swimming.

March 3, 2018

Path of Exile Bestiary League Day 1

Day 1 of the Path of Exile Bestiary league was a mixed bag for me. I reached level 52 with my Inquisitor using Molten Strike with Ancestral Call. I am mostly following this Ele Claw Inquisitor guide by GornoDD (video at bottom). I have had pretty poor luck with leveling drops so far, but I used the new beastcrafting system to create some helpful items like a triple resistance helm, a unique belt (ended up with The Magnate), and some helpful flasks. I tried to craft a few claws, but they all turned out poorly.

Unfortunately, on launch, the beast capture mechanic in Bestiary league was an exercise in frustration. The Bestiary UI wasn't working for about 45 minutes at the beginning of the league, which left a few of the leveling recipes skipped over. The net throwing is clunky, managing nets is tedious, new recipes block a large portion of the screen, targeting rare beasts in the middle of player skills and enemy skills and enemy summons is difficult, and the enrage mechanic, where beasts break out of nets (and heal), is poorly implemented and poorly explained.

Luckily, and impressively, Grinding Gear Games has already started to fix some of these issues the community has brought up. In a thread titled "Bestiary Improvements So Far," GGG lists changes to the recipe UI (including a way to turn off the notifications altogether) and improvements to how rare beasts are captured. Only two hours later, another thread detailed additional changes (coming later), adding a three-second capture window and new nets which can capture dead beasts.

I still think more work needs to be done on the visibility of traps and/or rare beasts. We already went through this with Abyss, where the visibility was improved over time. I am very glad that GGG is quickly moving to address the other issues, though. With some past leagues, like Harbinger, league mechanics sometimes went weeks before some problems with them were addressed. I am looking forward to playing with a better Bestiary system, seeing how the mechanic works at the endgame and fighting all the new bosses (including Uber Elder/Shaper).

March 1, 2018

My Top 10 Games of 2017

I played a lot of great games in 2017. Here are 10 of my favorite games of the last year, plus some honorable mentions at the end.

1) Persona 5 (PS4)

Persona 5 took me completely by surprise. I had never played any of the earlier games in the series. I always had an interest in playing them, but never really got around to it. I was wary of the time-limited mechanics as I usually don't enjoy those pressures, but with Persona 5 I finally dove in. I am very happy that I did.

I was enthralled for nearly 100 hours. The evolving story and intriguing cast paired with enjoyable combat, dungeon crawling, and other activities meant there was never a dull moment. I even had fun managing my limited time, choosing which activities to pursue or relationships to grow. The uniquely styled art consistently impressed me, even down to the menus. The soundtrack is a wonderful mix: peaceful, frenetic, relaxing, tense, upbeat, sad, and always unique. I even love the battle track's use of vocals which would normally bother me.

When I reached the end of Persona 5, I wasn't ready. I had finished most (but not all) of what the game had to offer, and I still wanted more. I'm sure I will start another playthrough eventually, but for now, I am happy with one satisfying, memorable experience. Maybe I will try to play some of the older entries in the series first.

2) Divinity: Original Sin 2 (PC)

I played and enjoyed Divinity: Original Sin a lot when it was released, then again with the Enhanced Edition. I played both alone and in a co-op game, both of which were great fun and very different experiences. I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that Divinity: Original Sin 2 improves almost everything from the first game. The writing is better, the characters are better, the progression is better, the choices and consequences are more impactful, the world is more reactive, and even more freedom is offered.

In Original Sin 2, you can accomplish goals in almost any way you can think of. Many quests can be solved by combat, or stealth, or diplomacy, or manipulation, or magic, or trickery. Quests can be failed by your actions, NPCs change their opinions of your party members, and those party members can even insert themselves into conversations, forcing hard decisions.

The premade "Origin" characters were a great addition, each with their own backgrounds, storylines, unique abilities, and personalities. I chose former Lone Wolf assassin Ifan Ben-Mezd, along with arrogant lizard The Red Prince, exiled dwarf pirate Beast, and undead Fane searching for others of his race. Each of these characters has specific motivations, individual quests, and potentially major effects on the story.

The unique tactical combat is improved as well, with a new armor system that I initially disliked but grew to really appreciate. Tying most crowd-control effects to physical or magic armor and making them guaranteed once that armor is removed solves the "randomness" that could sometimes ruin battles in the first game. Instead of fishing for stuns on round 1 and hoping the enemy doesn't succeed in doing the same, you can plan around consistent effects. The capped action points (sorry, Glass Cannon) made each skill feel more meaningful instead of just spamming out as many skills as possible each round.

I was completely engrossed for my entire solo playthrough of Original Sin 2. I actually had to consciously stop myself from immediately starting a second playthrough when I was finished. I had other games to try, and I also wanted to save my second playthrough for when I could play the game in co-op. I can't wait to experience the game again in a different way.

3) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U)

I do not own a Wii U or a Switch, but I actually borrowed a friend's Wii U to play Breath of the Wild (and also Tokyo Mirage Sessions after enjoying Persona 5). I don't think I played anything else for days and days. Breath of the Wild showed just how interesting an open world game can be. All around you can find natural puzzles, shrines, NPCs, and other points of interest. Almost everything in the world is interactive. You can roll boulders down hills towards enemies, chop down trees to create bridges, spark spreading fires, use metal objects as lightning rods, and probably whatever else you can think of. Link can climb almost anything and use his paraglider to get around. The game even goes so far as to make climbing more difficult in the rain, which is frustrating, but a nice touch. Add in the magical runes for bombs, magnesis, stasis, and cryonis and you can do all sorts of crazy things.

The combat itself can be a bit dull, but all these interactive elements carry the gameplay. Weapons frequently degrade and break, especially early on, encouraging the use of these alternate combat methods. In many cases, you can even just avoid combat altogether, except for one disappointing forced stealth segment. The story is similarly average, but some of the support characters are entertaining. I will say the worst aspect of the game is by far the terrible inventory management. I was constantly trying to pick up items, realizing my inventory was full, opening the inventory, dropping an item, closing the inventory, and trying to pick up an item again. On the other hand, I absolutely loved the in-game compendium which catalogs items and creatures once you have taken a photo (and then uses your photo as the image). I spent a lot of time tracking down new entries for the compendium and trying to grab good photos to make my compendium my own.
Horizon: Zero Dawn was another surprise for me, though in a different way. I was confident that I would enjoy an open-world robot dinosaur hunting game. The trailers showed off some unique combat and imaginative art and world design. But I did not expect such a well-designed story with fleshed out villains and heroes and mysteries. I was more invested in characters who I only experienced through audiologs and written logs than I was in any character in other, similar open world games. The conflict between Ted and Elizabet, the motivations driving Sylens, Aloy's past (and her father's past), and the discovery of just what exactly happened to the world drove me through the main plot with a sense of urgency I rarely have in these games.

Similarly, I never grew bored of the combat loop. Even after gaining access to the majority of weapons and encountering the majority of enemies, I never felt the combat growing stale. The combination of unique weapons & tools with the physicality of the dinosaurs made every fight feel new. Whether I was tearing off armor pieces with a bow, setting up traps and tripwires, or diving into melee with a spear, the enemy reactions felt individual.

The only complaint I had about Horizon was the constricting inventory, constantly overflowing with all manner of dinosaur parts, plants, and materials. The arbitrary space limit was too high to feel realistic but also too low to feel good in a game of hunting, salvaging, and gathering.

5) NieR: Automata (PC)

NieR: Automata is hard to describe. It's a strange mashup of genres, perspectives, and styles. You even have to play the game multiple times to experience the full ending(s). The beginning drags a little, the second playthrough is almost identical to the first (but much faster), and yet I kept going. I was rewarded with deep, dark, complex stories hiding beneath the initial presentation.

With developer Platinum Games, Automata has the expected flashy, fast-paced, combo-based combat. For me, the combat was just good enough, but a bit tedious or even too easy at times, with infinite, near-instant dodges. An interesting chip system allows great customization that actually fits within the story of the game, and those were what made the combat more fun for me. You can even remove your OS chip for an amusing result. Other chips include stat boots, automatic item use, HUD elements, lifesteal, and more. On the Easy difficulty, you can add chips to automate attacking, dodging, etc.

Much of the lore and background information is hidden in logs, character conversations, sidequests, or even unlockable "weapon stories" (from upgrading weapons). It can be easy to miss a lot of what the game has to offer; some of the best work in the game is in the optional content. I was rewarded for exploring with not just physical rewards, but a better understanding of the world of NieR: Automata.

6) Hollow Knight (PC)

Hollow Knight came out of nowhere for me. I was unaware of the game entirely before its release, somehow missing its Kickstarter campaign. I believe I first saw Hollow Knight being streamed and it caught my eye, so I decided to give it a try. I ended up being blown away by what a great "metroidvania" game I had almost missed.

The world of Hollow Knight is exceptionally well-crafted, full of secrets, hidden passages, collectible items, characters, and sequence breaks to discover. I have seen the setting compared to Dark Souls, and I would have to agree. There is a sense of mystery around everything; NPCs offer vague hints about the lore, there is an abundance of environmental storytelling, and there are similar themes around the decaying world and its inhabitants. The hand-drawn art and atmospheric music create a great environment to explore.

Hollow Knight doesn't bring too much new to the table in terms of combat and platforming, but all the traditional elements have been brought together very well. Traditional upgrades like wall climbing, air dashing, and double jumping are used to great effect in both combat and exploration. An extensive system of runes can be found and used to alter your playstyle, offering bonuses that vary from simple stat boosts to entirely changed abilities. A great mix of difficult bosses, platforming challenges, and relentless enemies kept me on my toes throughout the whole game.

7) Cuphead (PC)

I have not finished Cuphead yet. I'm not even that far in (early in "world 2"). I can already tell I will be returning to Cuphead again and again until I complete it. The artwork is extremely well-drawn, the character animations are charming (even the bosses!), and the soundtrack perfectly matches the Cuphead's unique style.

I would probably love Cuphead even if the gameplay was average, but I'm finding the game a lot of fun. The bosses are challenging, but fair, with learnable patterns, attacks to parry, and windows to deal damage. None of them (so far) have seemed to drag on too long. Even the "run 'n gun" levels fit into the game well, offering a change of pace that requires a different set of skills. I even liked the occasional flying levels, though probably less than the grounded stages.

8) Cosmic Star Heroine (PC)

From the creators of Cthulhu Saves the World and other retro-influenced 2D RPGs, Cosmic Star Heroine brought a refreshing experience. Although most of the game is similar to a traditional JRPG, with an over-the-top plot full of absurd characters, the combat system stands out the most. Encounters and battles take place directly on the map similar to Chrono Trigger, but the actual combat plays out very differently. The developers describe it more effectively than I can:
In combat, there's no MP. Instead, most abilities you have can only be used once until you use a Defend/Recharge move to restore everything. As you choose abilities, your character's style score goes up and as that goes up, your abilities become more effective. 
There are also a few "Burst" abilities that you can use that will spend all of your existing style points for one massive effect. Every few turns, your characters will go into Hyper mode and abilities will deal double damage and ailments are more likely to work. Plan in advance to take advantage of hyper and style for combat success.

This makes many battles, especially bosses, almost like a puzzle. Trying to coordinate style increases, once-per-battle items, buffs/debuffs, and attacks with the periodic Hyper boosts, move recharges, and enemy attacks can get very complicated. A simplistic equipment system offers even more abilities, and for most of the game, your party is constantly being switched around with new characters, necessitating changes in strategy. Thankfully, the game also includes very limited grinding and very few filler battles, making most battles feel important and necessary. Cosmic Star Heroine would still be fun with a standard battle system, but the innovative combat really raised the game up for me.

9) Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy (PC)

Not much needs to be said about Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy. Bennett Foddy created QWOP. In Getting Over It, you play as a man in a cauldron who uses his hammer to climb up things. A strange commentary about game development follows your progress. The premise sounds absurd, but the game is surprisingly well crafted. The controls are very precise and every obstacle feels perfectly placed to provide enough frustration to make overcoming that obstacle feel great. On the other hand, you will fall and lose progress, often, again and again. But every time, getting back to where you were is smoother and smoother (until it isn't).

I have not finished the game yet (I have gotten slightly beyond "orange hell" at best). I keep coming back, making a little progress, falling, getting back to where I was, making a little more progress, and so on. One day, I will get over it.

10)  Warframe (PC)

I am cheating a little here by choosing a game that isn't really from 2017. Warframe is a free-to-play game with a long development history (the fifth anniversary is in March). I had always been vaguely aware of Warframe, but I had never really taken a deeper look. Warframe had a brand new open area with the Plains of Eidolon expansion, and after being disappointed by Destiny 2 and seeing some comparisons favorable to Warframe, I decided to give Warframe a try.

I have become a little trapped after finding Warframe to have a dangerous amount of things to collect and experience. There are hundreds of weapons and over 30 warframes to try out (and more always seem to be coming), and all of them can be leveled and customized. Many of the weapons are entirely unique; I have used a rifle that saps my life to create ammo, a sound blaster that sends enemies flying, and a blade that doubles as a shotgun. The warframes are similarly diverse, with frames for damage, support, crowd control, tanking, and more. Octavia is probably the most interesting example I've found, using customizable music which offers bonuses to players who jump, shoot, or crouch in rhythm with the song.

All of the weapons, warframes, and companions can be leveled, increasing an account-wide mastery rank which offers its own bonuses. A vast number of mods can be found, upgraded, and equipped to individual items. An expansive codex can be filled out by scanning enemies, resources, and even objects like storage containers and grates. Many enemies and mission types have unique and/or rare drops like crafting blueprints or mods. There are endless resources to be found in different locations. I can play for 10 minutes or 4 hours and never feel like my time is wasted or that I don't have anything to do. I am always gaining something: experience, resources, quest progress, etc.

The story does start very slowly, the tutorial is bad, and many of the game's systems are obscure or unexplained. Expect to have the Wiki and other resources open for a long time. I heavily recommend joining a clan in-game, both for assistance and a number of important benefits (and potentially beautiful player-designed clan dojos). Warframe can become quite grindy if you try to craft a large variety of weapons and warframes. But once the systems start to click and you reach some of the later quests (the Second Dream and the War Within are both amazing cinematic experiences), Warframe really shines.

I should also mention Warframe's premium currency, platinum, which can be used to buy weapons, warframes, cosmetics, and more. Normally, I would not like a system like that, but Warframe allows players to trade in-game items for platinum. I have not spent any money on the game (yet?), but have purchased dozens of extra item slots, two warframes (Harrow and Nidus), and some cosmetics. I acquired my platinum solely through trading rare mods and crafting components with other players. In a way, free players can sell their time, the time spent farming or acquiring rare items, to those who buy platinum to skip the wait. It's a very interesting economy.

Honorable Mentions:

In 2017, Path of Exile saw two major expansions released: The Fall of Oriath and War for the Atlas. I enjoyed the game more than ever with The Fall of Oriath finally eliminating the multiple difficulty playthroughs and adding six new acts to make the game a single ten-act playthrough. Near the end of the year, the War for the Atlas revamped the endgame mapping system with 32 new maps and an ongoing conflict throughout the map atlas between the Shaper and newly-added Elder. My characters progressed further than normal, I completed some endgame challenges for the first time, and really enjoyed the builds I chose to play. I can't wait to see what comes next.

Pyre (PC)

From Supergiant Games, developers of Bastion and Transistor, Pyre continues the trend of unique experiences with great music, narration, and characters. Pyre is only down here because I only just started playing it. I'm already very interested to see it through.


From Piranha Bytes, developers of Gothic and Risen, ELEX is another open RPG, though with a heavy "science fantasy" influence this time around. I actually loved ELEX a lot, but it still needs a lot of work. ELEX is buggy, unbalanced, and kind of a mess. The interface is just bad. But beneath the surface there is a great experience. The progression with each of the three factions from hated nobody to barely tolerated outsider to friend to ally feels natural and rewarding. Gaining access to a faction's armor and weapons after numerous intertwined quests was a huge ordeal, but well worth the trouble. Choices you make and characters you deal with have reverberating consequences across the world.

I was also surprisingly interested in the story, although its presentation can be very disjointed. I was both disappointed and excited by the ending, which answers a few important questions but leaves many more unanswered, clearly setting up for a sequel.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm (PC)

I really liked this prequel to Life is Strange, despite its development by a different team and the switch in voice actors (due to strike). I did enjoy the original game more though. Before the Storm is both shorter and more predictable, but it does have some great characters. I especially loved the quick dungeons & dragons games you can play with some classmates, and the relationship between Chloe and Rachel is explored very well.

December 9, 2017

Path of Exile Abyss League Day 1

My first day of the Path of Exile Abyss league (and War for the Atlas expansion) is over. I played for about 6 hours and reached level 48 and act 6. I am playing a Trickster using Essence Drain + Contagion, as well as Blight and Wither (eventually totem) for support. I am also running Blasphemy Despair (later Temporal Chains) and Clarity, plus Flame Dash for gap crossing. I will be using Shield Charge for movement soon, but I haven't switched off my wand yet.

I am mostly following Ghazzy's build guide for MoM ED/Contagion Trickster. I have also consulted Dsfarblarwaggle's Essence Drain Trickster league starter guide for some additional ideas and help. I am enjoying the combo of skills so far. Although my current gear has left me a little squishy, the ability to throw out the combo and then focus on avoiding damage (or moving forward) makes the leveling process pretty safe.

So far, the Abyss league is a lot of fun. The abysses themselves feel very similar to breach, spawning large amounts of monsters (some very dangerous) but feeling appropriately rewarding for the risk. The new Abyss jewels can have crazy stats like flat damage and life, mana regen while moving, various on-hit or on-kill effects, minion bonuses, and many other mods that cannot normally appear on jewels.

These jewels are so powerful that I think the new Stygian Vise belt type that includes an abyssal jewel socket is a no-brainer in most (non-Headhunter?) cases. Being able to roll the standard desired mods on a belt and then add a crazy jewel on top of that is really powerful. There is also a great flexibility in being able to switch out different defensive or offensive jewels as your build evolves.

A quick example of Essence Drain + Contagion from my Mayhem race character.

I have been to the "abyssal depths" which spawn at the end of some abysses a few times. The depths are a nice change of pace from the more frantic abyss chasing, and the boss at the end was challenging but not frustrating, despite a time limit.

Otherwise, I am enjoying some of the quality of life changes in the patch, especially the improved buff/debuff system. Flasks now show a duration bar, and by default, your flasks no longer clog up the buff bar. Similarly, your own auras do not show an icon by default, which makes sense as they should always be on anyway. Finally, debuffs now show on a separate line, making it much easier to notice dangerous debuffs like curses, shock, bleed, etc.

I was also glad to see the new quest reward screen which looks much better than the old repurposed vendor screen where you "bought" your quest reward. These small touches that have been piling up are going a long way towards making Path of Exile look less rough around the edges.

August 18, 2017

Path of Exile: Helpful Websites and Tools

Path of Exile is a complex game with many different interacting systems. Information is not always easily accessible or understood in-game. Luckily, the community has created some very useful websites, programs, and other tools to help players.

In my previous post on preparing for The Fall of Oriath expansion, I talked about a few basic tools for getting started, choosing a build, and setting up a loot filter. Here are many of the other tools I use to improve my Path of Exile experience as I get further into the league and improve my characters.

Last Updated: March 2018


PoETrade is currently the standard (popular) 3rd-party trading website. Using Path of Exile's public stash tab API, PoETrade allows players to search for items (and currency) available for sale. You can do broad searches, such as for a specific unique item, or increasingly detailed searches, like all boots with 30% movement speed, two resistances with a total greater than 80, and maximum life greater than 50. PoETrade makes it much easier to sell the loot you find and use the profits to acquire better gear for yourself.

You can read the original trade improvements announcement for more information about how to list items for sale using premium stash tabs. If you don't have premium stash tabs, you can use the programs Procurement or Acquisition to list items using the official forums.


PoEApp is another, newer trade website. I am not as familiar with the site, but it offers very similar functionality to PoETrade, including a currency market. I started using PoEApp more recently, especially early in the league when PoETrade was a bit overwhelmed with traffic. At this point, you can probably just use one or the other depending on preference, but I am personally more comfortable working with PoETrade due to experience.

Path of Exile Trade (Official Site)

Grinding Gear Games have also launched their own trade website. The functionality is very similar to PoETrade. The differences are mostly down to formatting and organization. I am mostly sticking with PoETrade due to familiarity, but to a newer player the official site is probably a fine choice.


PoENinja is a great supplement to the above trade websites (or trade in general), providing quick access to live average prices for currency, unique items, maps, etc. You can also see historical data to examine pricing trends. This is a great way to check prices of commodity items before you buy or sell on the trade websites. The green, yellow, and red bars represent the confidence in the displayed price, with green being highest and red being lowest confidence. More sellers provide more data resulting in higher confidence.

PoE TradeMacro

PoE TradeMacro is a versatile AutoHotkey script with a number of helpful trade commands. It includes the very useful PoE Item Info which shows otherwise hidden information like affix tiers and possible rolls, divination card locations, map data (bosses, layout, etc.), and more. The TradeMacro then allows basic price checking with fetched data from PoETrade or configurable advanced price checking. This is probably the best way to quickly check the prices of items in-game, similar to PoENinja but without leaving the game.

Whichever method you use to price check, be wary of players trying to drive the prices down with false listings. You will probably underprice (or overprice) your items a lot at first, or even miss valuable items entirely. The best price checking comes with practice, experience, and awareness of what makes items valuable or powerful. For some recent examples specific to jewelry, ZiggyD recorded himself crafting and pricing rings and amulets.

Engineering Eternity has a helpful video guide for using PoE Trade Macro.

Path of Building

In my post on preparing for The Fall of Oriath I mentioned Path of Building as something that many build guides will use. Once you move beyond the basics of importing builds, Path of Building is an incredibly powerful tool for improving your character. You can preview the results of every passive node, item, or skill change. You can configure the calculations for specific scenarios like fighting a boss in a map with specific modifiers while you have certain flasks and conditional buffs active. I often use Path of Building together with PoETrade to see how potential item purchases would affect my character.

The ability to easily calculate effective DPS and defenses is invaluable as you move towards the endgame. Path of Building can be overwhelming at first, but I cannot go back to trying to use the limited in-game information to plan my characters. As an example, here is an import code for my level 91 Righteous Fire Berserker (mostly based on Pohx's build) that I am currently playing in Harbinger League.

Engineering Eternity has another helpful video guide for using Path of Building.

CurrencyCop (Thread)

CurrencyCop simply calculates the total value of chosen stash tabs. I believe the prices are pulled from PoENinja. The calculation is not perfect, counting items you may never actually sell for example, but it can be used as a quick estimation of your in-game wealth. The best use is probably for tracking currency gains while testing out certain mapping/Atlas strategies or character builds.


PoEAffix has a simple interface for showing possible affixes on different item classes. This information is useful for crafting and trading alike. Although this information is available on other sites like the Path of Exile wiki, PoEAffix has the most concise and easy to use format.


As the name implies, POELab is all about Path of Exile's labyrinth. The layout of the labyrinth changes each day, and POELab quickly posts visual guides for each of the four difficulties. These guides show the quickest path and highlight the various side objectives like darkshrines, puzzles, keys/doors, reliquaries, and Izaro's pet Argus. The site also includes info on traps, rewards, and puzzle solutions. Whether you're just running the labyrinth for your ascendancy or you are interested in farming the the Uber/Endgame/Eternal labyrinth for rewards, POELab is invaluable.


PoECraft hosts a collection of unrelated tools, including affix info like PoEAffix, an interactive atlas planner, an area of effect visualizer, and even some guides.

Vorici Chromatic Calculator

This very specific tool calculates the odds for different methods of recoloring gem sockets in gear. You enter the item's stat requirements, number of sockets, and desired colors, and the calculator shows you the cheapest expected method of obtaining those colors. Note that in some cases this "off color" technique described in a video from Pohx may be more efficient, and is not taken into account by the calculator.


This small background program offers a few different methods for notifying the player of in-game whispers while the game is minimized or the player is away. The tool can be configured to play a sound or show a notification, send a PushBullet alert to your phone, or even send an email. The necessity of this tool has been slightly lessened as a recent patch made the Path of Exile icon flash on the taskbar if you are whisper while minimized. I still use the sound notification just to make sure I don't miss trade offers or other messages.


I am listing MercuryTrade at the bottom only because I haven't used it myself yet, but it still deserves attention. MercuryTrade is an overlay with features like buff and cooldown timers, chat scanning, stash highlighting, and a set of customizable trade notifications and responses. There is even a trade history.

More Tools

My list is not in any way exhaustive. You can find even more useful websites and applications on the Path of Exile wiki. There is also a subreddit for Path of Exile tool development where you can find some more information or check out works in progress.

An in-game price lookup for Kaom's Heart from PoETradeMacro.

August 4, 2017

Preparing for Path of Exile 3.0: The Fall of Oriath

Path of Exile's largest and craziest expansion, The Fall of Oriath, launches tomorrow (August 4th), bringing the game from 4 acts repeated across 3 difficulties to a single 10 act playthrough. There are of course many other changes in the patch, including a new tutorial/help screen, new items, skills, and support gems, numerous balance adjustments, and the new Harbinger League. While preparing for the launch myself and preparing to help some friends who will be playing Path of Exile for the first time, I've collected a bunch of useful programs, guides, and videos.

Since Path of Exile can be overwhelming and complex, especially for new players, I'm going to split these up into two parts. Part 1, below, will cover just the basics I recommend to start playing. In part 2, I'll include a list of websites and tools I use for most advanced aspects of the game, like trading, crafting, and developing your character.

Getting Started

Download Path of Exile (Steam).

Choose either the official client or the Steam client. The official client has a somewhat better patching process, while Steam offers the usual community features, achievements, Steam Wallet, etc. I play via Steam, but both options are good.

Choose a Loot Filter

Loot filters allow players to customize the display of the vast amounts of loot that drops in Path of Exile. Poor items can be hidden while important items can be highlighted with unique backgrounds, borders, colors, sizes, or even sounds. Some of the more advanced loot filters are adapted to the leveling process, the trade economy, and/or specific builds or playstyles. At this point in Path of Exile, I would consider a good loot filter to be essentially required, though they are technically optional.

There are many great filters to choose from, or you can try creating your own (mostly for experienced players). I personally use and recommend NeverSink's Loot Filter (generally semi-strict) plus his FilterBlade website where you can easily customize the filter according to your own specific needs. FilterBlade also has a fun "loot simulator" to test out how the filter will look in-game.

You can browse for other loot filters on the official forums or through FilterBlast (not to be confused with FilterBlade). FilterBlast also includes filter customization. There is also an older program, Filtration, which can be used to edit loot filters. The truly brave can use text editors but I don't recommend that.

Install a Loot Filter

All good loot filters should include installation instructions, but even if they don't, the process is simple. Place the filter in /Documents/My Games/Path of Exile, making sure it has the extension .filter. You can also open this folder from the interface options in-game if you have trouble finding the correct location. Once the filter is in that folder, you should see your filter available in a drop-down menu near the bottom of interface options. Select it, hit "reload" if needed, and that's it. You can have multiple filters available to switch between, though I usually just stick with one.

Choosing a League, Character, and Build

Choose a League

Before creating a character, you will need to choose which "league" you want that character to participate in. The permanent leagues are Standard and Hardcore, where dead characters are kicked out into Standard. There are also temporary, or challenge leagues, which last approximately 3 months, and come in Standard or Hardcore variants. You will also see a "Solo Self-Found" (SSF) option, which is a completely optional challenge that restricts you from interacting with other players in any way. No trading and no partying (you can still chat). There are no rewards for SSF mode except personal satisfaction.

The league that will be launching with The Fall of Oriath is the Harbinger League. These leagues have unique mechanics, usually, with some form of risk vs. reward, that may or may not be integrated into the standard game after the league is over. While playing you will encounter rogue exiles, strongboxes, prophecies, Nemesis monsters, etc. These are all examples of past league mechanics that are now part of the game.

These temporary leagues draw a lot of players in for the fresh economy, new mechanics, and challenge rewards (free cosmetics, given out for achieving certain amounts of objectives). I certainly recommend playing in the temporary league if you have the time to commit. You can certainly choose a permanent league if you don't feel you would make enough progress in a temporary league. Permanent Hardcore can be unpopulated relative to the other leagues, but Standard maintains a decent population, even during temporary leagues.

Choose a Character

There are 7 different character classes available in Path of Exile (one must be unlocked partially into the game), and a crazy number of potential builds with different combinations of passive trees, skill/support gems, and gear. All classes but the unlockable Scion have 3 "ascendancy" subclasses to choose from too (Scion has only one ascendancy). I am not going to go into too much detail because this post would never end.

In general, Marauder is good for melee/armor, Witch is good for spellcasting/energy shield, and Ranger is good for...ranged/evasion. The Templar falls between Marauder and Witch, the Shadow is between Witch and Ranger, the Duelist is between Ranger and Marauder, and the Scion is in the center of all of them. But these are not hard rules at all; there are successful spellcasting Marauders, melee Rangers, etc. Similarly, some ascendancy classes point towards certain build archetypes, but not exclusively. The Witch's Necromancer ascendancy implies traditional minion builds, but can also support other players, or provide defensive options for the Witch that may not otherwise be available.

You can definitely go in blind, pick a character, choose a skill that looks fun, and dive right in. For new players, your first character using this method will probably end up petering out somewhere along the way. That doesn't mean this method is wrong; as long as you enjoy the character and know that it may possibly "fail." Path of Exile does not offer true "respecs," and the limited respecs can be very expensive, especially for new players.

Choose a Build

If you don't have the time, stamina, or desire to go through that process, I recommend following a build guide. The official subforums for each class have many great guides available (example: Marauder), with the best guides giving a full breakdown of the passive tree, the leveling process, gems, gear, etc. Just make sure you are viewing guides updated for 3.0 (or whatever the current patch may be). You can also use the PoE Build Browser to search for forum guides, or PoE Builds to look directly at what the top players in each league are playing.

If you prefer video, many Path of Exile streamers have great video guides available on YouTube and elsewhere. Many of them also have guides covering game mechanics, leveling strategies, crafting, trading, etc. Some popular creators that I recommend are ZiggyD (probably the best beginner guides), Engineering Eternity (very beginner focused), LiftingNerdBro, Zizaran, and Mathil. Guides with keywords like starter, beginner, or budget are great for new players. ZiggyD and Zizaran also have Exiled, a joint podcast/video specifically about preparing for 3.0.

Many of these guides, especially newer guides, will include exported "Path of Building" info. Path of Building is an offline character planner with extreme amounts of detail, and you can import builds into it if you choose. All of the available data can be overwhelming, but the program allows you to very easily see how changing passives or items will affect your character. If the data is too much at first, you can just use the skill tree planner to guide your leveling.

I currently plan to start Harbinger League with some sort of life-based Righteous Fire (RF) character, probably a Berserker (Marauder ascendancy). Righteous Fire is a very old skill, but I have never actually used it in a full build. I am also looking at the three new skills coming in 3.0: Dark Pact, Storm Burst, and Charged Dash, as they each look unique, fun, and potentially powerful.

If you want to see more information about the tools I use to help me advance through the league, check out my list of useful Path of Exile websites and programs.

July 20, 2017

Black Desert Online: The Valencia Desert

After my detour into the ocean of Black Desert Online (Steam), my next destination was the desert city of Valencia. The Valencia expansion currently offers the highest level content available, plus two series of main quests. Part 1, the East Sands Kingdom Story, and Part 2, Treasure of Valencia, both reward relatively powerful rings for newer players. I wanted to grab the rings when I could so I could save resources for other, more pressing gear upgrades like weapons and armor.

The city of Valencia is across a long expanse of desert, and it is not an easy trek. Horses move slower in the desert, so you need a camel instead. Sunstroke by day and hypothermia by night drain your health but can be (temporarily) cured with stockpiles of water and tea. Even navigating the desert is a struggle; you cannot see your position on the map without a special three-part compass, and auto-pathing is disabled.

Standing at the Sand Grain Bazaar, a small settlement at the edge of the desert, all I could see was sand. Rather than following a road to the next easily located node on the map, I had to rely on manual exploration. Pilgrim's Haven, a small burial ground (and popular mining spot for players), was the first stop on the way to Valencia. Ibellab Oasis was the next and last stop before the city, and it was a long walk from there. Finally reaching the safety of the city, where the map and navigation worked again, was a big relief.

Compass or no compass, crossing the desert takes time, effort, and resources. I didn't see very many players during my time in Valencia. The journey may not seem worth it for many players (especially lower levels) when there are easier gains to be made elsewhere. There are benefits of course; higher level enemies equal more experience and better loot, or at least that's the idea. There are also villas you can buy weeklong access to for powerful buffs and vendors for convenience. The desert also includes the only two dungeons in the game, for high-level players.

As I was just passing through for the quests, I was probably at the bare minimum to be in Valencia. There was actually very little required combat so I didn't have too much trouble. I spent much of my time simply exploring the desert, meeting new NPCs, digging in the sand, and gathering new items. One side quest chain even took me in a long circle around the entire desert simply talking to people.

Despite the difficult travel, I actually enjoyed the desert more than the ocean. The quests were straightforward and the rewards worthwhile. I got a good preview of Valencia for when I progress forward and can deal with the stronger enemies. The desert was very different from the rest of the game, and the exploration felt more rewarding because of the effort required. I look forward to coming back, especially if it becomes more lucrative to travel there.

For more on my travels in Black Desert Online, see my previous posts on my exploration of the ocean and how I got started.

Part 1: Casually Exploring Black Desert Online 
Part 2: Journey to Port Ratt

July 6, 2017

Black Desert Online: Journey to Port Ratt

I recently took a break from the general grinding, leveling, and money-making in Black Desert Online (Steam) to complete the ocean questline, "The Uncharted Sea, History of Margoria." This series of about 20 quests took me from Port Epheria to a number of small islands, then across the sea on a 45-minute ferry trip to Port Ratt. The quests mostly required sailing, fishing, diving, and underwater exploration.

I started, regrettably, with nothing but the simplest raft. From looking ahead at the quests I knew I would receive a fishing boat down the road, so I decided to struggle through on my raft until then. I set my destination, turned on the autopath, and minimized Black Desert for a bit. This strategy worked well enough to get me through the first few quests and on to Lema Island, where I both received a fishing boat and caught the long ferry to Port Ratt. It is possible to make the journey on your own, but probably not a great idea in a tiny fishing boat.

Visiting Port Ratt was worth the trip. The charming little port, with its unique architecture and style, and a distinct lack of other players, was an appreciated respite from the normal bustling towns. Port Ratt has few NPCs and only a handful of quests, but they were just enough for me.

Although I enjoyed traveling around Port Ratt on my new fishing boat, discovering new islands, I would not say that the quests were particularly fun. The quests themselves were not the problem, but many of them required a lot of swimming, especially underwater, and frankly, the swimming in Black Desert Online is bad. 

The swimming controls are unresponsive, the movement is incredibly slow, collision issues are everywhere, and the underwater camera doesn't always work correctly. There is no danger; running out of breath simply forces you to the surface, unless you get stuck on something and have to watch the struggling animation repeat over and over again.

Worse, many of the underwater objectives are barely reachable with a full breath meter, a full stamina bar, breathing crystals in armor, a breathing potion, and high movement speed. At one point I resorted to logging out and logging back in to restore my breath underwater as I couldn't see any other way to reach the objective in time.

Of course, the cash shop does offer two swimming costumes. The "Splat Fisher Clothes" increase swimming speed and reduce endurance consumption in the water for only 2200 pearls (about $22). A shark-themed "Diving Suit," also 2200 pearls, offers the same, but with additional breathing time too. These are of course not strictly required but their purchase certainly seems encouraged.

Despite the swimming frustration, though, I did have a good time. For a few hours, I was able to mostly ignore combat. I could take my time fishing, gathering new items, and sailing the seas. Along the way, there were some nice rewards, like the fishing boat and a (cosmetic) diving mask. The finale, a dive into sunken, ancient ruins, had some valuable treasure.

I may not ever return to Port Ratt, but I am glad that I visited it once. If I do, I will probably build a better boat first, like the Epheria Sailboat. But that is another story.

For more on my travels in Black Desert Online, continue below to see my exploration of the desert or return to the beginning to see how I started out.

Part 1: Casually Exploring Black Desert Online
Part 3: The Valencia Desert