Path of Exile is Great on Xbox One, and it has Brilliant Sound Design!
So I've been checking out the new Xbox One version of Path of Exile, the free-to-play action RPG from Grinding Gears.
The port is an exceptional conversion, and aside from some very slight latency when ceasing character movement, the new console interface works very well.
More importantly than that...in spite of having played a good chunk of this game about two years ago on PC...I finally took notice of its sound.
Path of Exile has gorgeous sound design. I've been listening to it through my Logitech G433 headset and both the Dolby Atmos and Windows Sonic spatial audio options on the Xbox One.
Sound design isn't always a top priority in game development, sadly, but it's a key component for player feedback and immersion. The action RPG genre in particular can benefit from crunchy, satisfying sound, and Path of Exile delivers that in spades. Because you have to perform the same sorts of actions over and over, good feedback is essential to help the game feel fun and let you know when you've successfully hit an enemy.
Every weapon and weapon type has a different sound effect associated with it. When my arrows hit monsters, the sound effect is different depending on how they're armored. That's awesome!
Also, the environment comes to life with lots of spatial audio cues and dense audio design, filling in the world I can't see on the screen rather well. The background audio is awesome, multi-layered, and fully convincing.
Rounding out the audio package are voice acting and music that I'd expect from a much higher-budget production. In fact, the audio design here often rivals or bests Blizzard's work in Diablo III, itself no slouch in the audio department. Blizzard's audio design is more forward and in-your-face, whereas the design here is more of a cohesive soundscape that floats around the player. If Diablo III is like a bright cartoon or a slot machine, then Path of Exile is a realistically-mixed movie.
I'd urge you to give Path of Exile a shot on Xbox One if you've got one and you never tried it on PC. It's a very carefully-done conversion, and it's free! I'm not sure if its current exclusivity to that platform meant they were able to take better advantage of Microsoft's new spatial audio delivery systems (that links to a detailed article about how many channels Atmos and Windows Sonic can make use of on PCs and Xbox), but the results are undeniably great.
I'll have more coverage of this game in the coming weeks!