Just because Path of Exile is more than five years old doesn’t mean the influx of new players has dwindled. In fact, for quite a few leagues now the player base and participation has continued to grow with each new launch. Some are returning players, sure, but thanks to the very nature of leagues, PoE is primed for new players to jump in; everyone is starting over when a new league begins. And I’ve already met a number of new players just getting going!
That said, that’s not my focus here. Today starts a series of getting-started guides to help those folks who are either new to the game or just looking into it. Path of Exile is a fun game definitely worth checking out, even if you don’t want to devote all your gaming time to it and don’t have/want to spend hours upon hours researching all the ins and outs. (Save that for later when you get the urge to deep-dive the complexities more!).
Where’s the best place to start? At the beginning. Here’s a guide to PoE classes.
Before we even mention the classes, I need to make one thing perfectly clear: Nothing about a class dictates what skills you will have or even what weapons you can use or armor you can wear! Because skills come from gems added into gear, any class can make any build it darn well wants to. Also, every piece of gear in game is equippable by anyone (that includes after you have already used a piece and now want to pass it along). If you want to be an atypical archer that only wields swords or an atypical caster that bludgeons mobs with a giant hammer instead, go for it. If you think it, you can build it; it may take a while, but you can.
However, due to the design of the skill… web, let’s call it a web… some types of gameplay are easier to pair with certain classes by design. For example, the Witch, who typically casts, has passive skill lines spreading out that focus on casting speed, intelligence, and spell damage, while the Marauder, known more as a melee-monger, has strength, melee attack speed, and armor. Each class just has easier access to its standard core attribute/s: dexterity, intelligence, or strength. Skill gems are also split along these attributes. Gear type is slanted toward specific classes (or playstyles) as well, but we’ll cover those more in a later guides. Which class you start with also dictates which weapon, gem, and support gem you are given in the intro area to start your adventures.
When you start the game, you have the choice of six classes. (Once you have played one class through to the end of Act III, you open up the seventh class, the multi-purpose Scion, which will be available from then on out). Think of it, however, more as which avatar you really want: Beginning classes are gender locked with only a single model and no customization. Three of the starting classes are slanted toward one core attribute while the other three are hybrids of two attributes. Only the Scion has equal access to all attributes.
Here’s a general overview of each class to help get you started. For full base stat information, follow the links to the official site.
A dexterity/strength hybrid swashbuckler type to deal and avoid damage. Effectively uses shields, two-handed weapons (including longbows), or duel wield. Armor preferences include scale and brigadine. Male.
A pure strength class, typically seen as tank and melee monger. Plate mail armor pieces and tower shields are preferred. Male.
A pure dexterity class that focuses on critical damage and evasion using ranged weapons, notably the bow. Gear preference includes leather and tunics. Female.
A dexterity/intelligence hybrid that prefers pairing fast weapons (like daggers) with evasion and/or setting magical traps and mines. Armor preferences include jackets, spiked shields, and other dex-based items. Male.
An intelligence/strength hybrid comfortable using a shield (as protection or a weapon) as well as magical abilities. Tank-like enough to be on the front lines. Chainmail and kite shields are suited to this class. Male.
A pure intelligence class, focuses on casting spells, be it elemental, chaos, disease, or creating minions. Typically wears robes and uses wands and spirit shields. Female.
A blank slate with equal access to all skill lines and attributes. Has closer skill route to explore and mix playstyles, but can dilute specialization much faster. Preferred gear depends on which skill direction taken. Female.
One thing that is set in stone when you pick a beginning class is which Ascendancy classes are available to you later in the game. If you want to aim for a specific playstyle and gain access to the skill tree of a specific Ascendancy class, you will have to pick its corresponding base class. While we’ll cover these advanced classes in depth later, here is an overview.
Champion: A combination of support and defense, can tank using buffs and debuffs
Gladiator: A supped-up Duelist, focuses on bleeds, blocking, and frenzy
Slayer: Focuses on power and sustainability, using life leech and stuns
Berserker: Focused on fast battle, gains its power when killing and being hit
Chieftain: Focuses on fire damage and totems
Juggernaut: Focuses on defense and physical damage reduction
Deadeye: Focuses on projectile damage and AoEs
Pathfinder: Focuses on flasks, with skills granting bonuses during use
Raider: Focuses on maintaining buffs
Assassin: Focuses on offense and critical strikes
Saboteur: Focuses on traps and mines
Trickster: Focuses on getting in and out fast and using DoTs like poison
Guardian: A combination of tank and support with passives that enhance and protect
Hierophant: Focuses on damage and defenses using spells, totems, and brands
Inquisitor: Focuses on elemental damage
Elementalist: All things elemental
Necromancer: Focuses on minions
Occultist: Focuses on DoTs from cold, chaos, or curses
Ascendant: Player’s choice — picks ascendancy class passives from base classes