Path of Exile is a free to play action-RPG game similar in style to the Diablo franchise. A game focused on deep customization through using unique feeling characters. This is all offered for free, with in-game purchases available for cosmetic items and improved inventory storage.
Pro Endless theorycrafting in regard to building unique characters
The number of skills and skill combinations makes for a ton of unique ways to build characters, which keeps the game from getting stale. Unlike many RPGs where you pick a class of character and are limited in your build options, Path of Exile gives you near-infinite ways you can create a build no matter what base class you pick. Some are really bad and some are truly groundbreaking, but either way, the options are almost limitless.
Pro Free-to-play that is done done without nagging or abusing the player
Path of Exile demonstrates a strict "anti pay-to-win" mindset, which is great because it gives everyone a fair chance at competing and succeeding. The only in-game purchases are extra stash slots, non-combat pets, and cosmetic upgrades that don’t significantly affect gameplay.
Pro Intuitive yet deep customization thanks to an expansive skill tree upgrade system
The skill tree in Path of Exile is quite expansive and allows you to create characters with heavily customized abilities to match your preferred play style. The tree is so large that there are numerous guides online that describe how to build specific, optimized characters, as well as an unofficial companion app for Android.
Pro Hundreds of possible character builds
There's a staggering amount of builds and skills you can try out in Path of Exile. There are 7 classes, 19 subclasses, 194 active skill gems, 107 support gems, and over 1000 skill nodes on the expansive skill tree. As a result, there are hundreds of possible combinations, allowing you to spend hours theory-crafting just to create the perfect build. Even if you don't feel like planning out a build from scratch, you can just look up one of the many guides online and get straight into the action.
Pro Great setting
Path of Exile is set in a dark fantasy world where everything is gradually becoming worse. At the foreground, you have the massive continent of Wraeclast that once was the home to a flourishing empire, but now is a place filled with the undead, evil spirits, ruins, and echoes of the past. To make matters worse, malicious entities from another dimension seek to corrupt the world and its inhabitants, giving birth to disfigured monstrosities that seek to end you. The end result is an immersive setting with dark motifs, body horror, loads of gore, and a very tense atmosphere, which is refreshing in an era dominated by family friendly content.
Pro Feels exhilarating to play
While the gameplay might feel a little slow and clunky in the beginning, it gradually picks up speed as you progress, allowing you to swiftly destroy large groups of monsters with any skills you choose. Whether you're shooting ice arrows with your bow, freezing and shattering every enemy on-screen, or if you're cleaving enemies with a massive axe, causing them to bleed and explode on death, it just feels incredibly satisfying.
Con Depth results in an extremely high skill floor and ceiling
Your first attempt to create a good character will probably get you through the main game once, but if you plan on continuing on harder difficulties, odds are that your character will be severely gimped. This can be overcome through extensive research and planning, or following someone else's build. The former can be quite boring and literally take hours upon hours of studying the game, the mechanics, the skill trees, and not to mention grinding extensively for unlikely and specific gear that fits your build. The latter can lack the excitement that one would expect from so much customizability. This high skill floor and ceiling is seen as a pro for players who are deeply committed and excited by that aspect, but makes casual play less successful after normal difficulty levels.
Con Very high learning curve
There's quite a lot to learn when starting to play Path of Exile. There are the mechanics, the crafting system, and the skill gem system. However, the most intimidating factor is the massive skill tree with over 1000 skill nodes, 6 classes and 19 subclasses, allowing you to create hundreds of unique builds. Unfortunately, creating a functional build is really difficult, taking hours of theorycrafting, so it might be better to stick to guides as you're starting out, unless you're fine with possibly messing up.
Con Situationally laggy game engine with less powerful pc's
Due to it's custom-built poorly-optimized engine, the game can lag quite a lot in certain (generally small minority of) areas, as well as when there are many players in the party using system-intensive skills.
Generally only experienced, high level players who play this game a lot get this issue though, and if you have even a remotely modern system (lets say anything made past 2013, assuming cheap CPU/GPU weren't used), you probably won't even be affected much or at all either.
Con Clunky trading system
The western PC version of Path of Exile currently requires using an external site to find deals or sifting through scam attempts in the trade chat. After you find an item you want to buy, you need to message the seller, and if they respond, enter the same area as them to make a direct trade. There is no auction house, no mail, no automated trading posts, and to sell stuff you have to buy a premium stash tab via a microtransaction.
Con Anti-experimentation for new players
The game heavily punishes any experimentation for new players. Unless you have near perfect understanding of late game and the various viable build-options you are more or less unable to experiment your way into viable builds (and the options for correcting mistakes are limited at best). So, unless you are fine with having to scrap a bunch of characters for being sub-optimal, you are more or less forced into following player-made guides to learn the game rather than through engaging with the game itself. This may or may not be a problem for you.
Con Some aspects of the graphics look dated
While the graphics have received updates over time, a lot of the visuals still lack polish you'd see in most AAA games. Some textures are fairly low res, certain character models look weird when they have armor on, and the animations feel somewhat stiff and clunky. You probably won't notice this during active gameplay, but when you stop for a moment to look around it becomes painfully obvious.
Con Endgame can get really repetitive
It takes an exceptionally long time to get any wealth, useful items, or access to endgame bosses in this game. You endlessly farm the same maps, hoping you'll get lucky with a few good items, but that usually won't be the case, which can be really discouraging to keep playing. This is made worse by the fact that your character progression comes to a grinding halt near the upper 80s of character levels, requiring you to buy insanely expensive items to feel any progression at all. If you don't like grinding, you'll get quickly bored of Path of Exile.
Con Rubberbanding disrupts play
Online play with melee classes may lead to some "rubberbanding," where the lag causes your character to seem to jump back to where they were a few seconds ago. This happens when latency causes the player's computer to desync from the server, and is worse the more people you have congregated in a small space.
Flagged Pros + Cons
Pro Completely free without pay to win mechanics
You can just download and install the game without any purchases. On top of that, there are no pay-to-win mechanics and the only things locked behind paywalls are cosmetic effects, pets, and additional storage space. You can easily play the game for hundreds of hours without spending a dime.