I'm pleased that I got a chance to play this game with my friend, but sadly, our session was cut short by an emergency errand, so this post is only going to be half-multiplayer.
My general impression of Path of Exile is that it's a shockingly good game for a free-to-play, which is to say, it's a good game, and only the "for a free to play" is shocking. As far as I can tell from the first couple of missions, it's basically Diablo, but with a few novel ideas.
For example, you don't have gold pieces. Instead, your basic currency is identify scrolls and gems which enchant weapons. Similarly, you don't buy consumable potions to restore your health and mana. Instead, you have "health flasks" and "mana flasks" which fill up as you kill enemies.
Taken together, these two things represent a clever distillation of the Diablo-esque gold economy. In similar games, you can pretty much represent your gold total as a function of time played and assume a certain amount of that gold will be filtered into basic utility items.
Path of Exile's approach simply cuts out the middleman. The basic unit of trade is also the smallest unit of utility (okay, technically, the smallest unit is 1/5th of a scroll, but still that's not much of a difference), which means you don't have to worry much about pocket change. It's an elegant idea which I'm surprised I've never seen before. My only concern is that since my money is useful in its own right, I might be hesitant to spend it and because my useful items can be saved up for extravagant purchases, I might be hesitant to use them. Intellectually, I know this is the same thing as bartering junk in a game like Fallout, but with one fewer step. Yet, I tend to be a hoarder in those sorts of games too. Only time will tell if Path of Exile will mitigate or exacerbate that instinct.
I've immensely enjoyed my time with this game so far. I have two characters built up to level 4; one I played with my friend Daniel, and another I played after I got back home after being suddenly called away. It's still too early to fairly compare the experiences. I really liked hanging out with my friend while playing a game, though I might have to ask him about setting up some kind of voice chat, because having to drop what I'm doing to type in the chat box meant we couldn't talk as much as I'd have like.
On the other hand, my second time through, I had a vague idea about what I was doing, so the first few missions went a lot smoother (I know I died unnecessarily a couple of times with my first character because I was too slow to use healing flasks, not knowing that they automatically refilled).
It's my hope that today's multiplayer session was not a one-time thing, and that we can coordinate our schedules to play again in the future. Still, I'm learning to my regret that gaming with adult responsibilities can sometimes be a little rough.