Ready, set, grind: Path of Exile’s Race Season 1 starts this weekend


We’ve been watching Path of Exile’s open beta unfurl with the kind of close interest befitting The Game Diablo 3 Should Have Been, but something that completely passed me by are its Race Leagues.

PoE’s races strip away the major factor in action RPG success – sleepless night investment – and ask players to compete in timed events lasting anywhere between one hour and one week, during which time they can “demonstrate their mastery of the game” in a brand new, temporary economy. To the victors the spoils – tradeable items with alternate, unique art.

Apparently they’ve been a great success. Today, developers Grinding Gear Games announce their first ranked season of race events, beginning this weekend and running through til April.

109 events of varying lengths will take place in the next month and a half, and each will reward success with points. The more reward points you garner, the more prize thresholds you’ll cross on the season’s point counter. What’s more, the top player of each class in the shorter races will an additional prize – for this season, most often a Demigod’s Triumph unique wreath.

The prize items aren’t especially powerful, but offer a certain amount of status and unique customisation thanks to exclusive artwork, which ought to be enough to light the fires of competition. In past events, Grinding Gears have given out orbs and other currency items as prizes, but their existing known values had an adverse effect on “both the economy and the incentives to play races”.

“If the prizes were low, races seemed unappealing,” writes Grinding Gears lead developer Chris Wilson in a comprehensive blog post. “If the prizes were high, it became mandatory to participate in races to keep up with the inflation the orbs caused. We have avoided this in Open Beta by designing new custom prizes for race events. We still want them to be tradeable, but we want to let the market decide their value.”

Grinding Gears plan on adding a league ladder in the near future, which will track players according to their event reward point total. At the end of the season, the very best players will be awarded further prizes – likely alternate art Demigod’s Triumphs for the top 20 – adding a pleasing element of persistence to proceedings.

At the end of the season, all reward points are wiped and the uppermost rungs of the ladder are left unoccupied once again. However, a separate lifetime reward system will see more prizes offered to the most dedicated.

“We understand that this system greatly favours players who play in more events,” say Wilson. “That’s true of almost any sport or hobby. We’ve pitched the prizes so that there are still cool things to win even if you can only play in one event per week.”

See the whole season’s schedule here.

I think this is a superb idea – the sort of thing likely to propel PoE into the upper echelons of hobbyist goblin-slaying alongside LoL and Diablo where it belongs. What do you reckon?