Path of Exile is one of the most popular ARPGs out there. However, it isn’t as beginner-friendly as compared to other popular titles like Diablo 3, Torchlight, and Grim Dawn. In fact, it can be really punishing for a complete newbie, even returning players. The game’s mechanics are fairly complicated than any other game. Add to that its deep armor and weapon system, unique build possibilities, tons of skills, and the overwhelming passive tree – all these and more can be too much for newcomers, even returning players, to handle.
Due to how complicated the game can be, we have created this ultimate beginner’s guide to Path of Exile with the aim of helping new players progress through the entire game without being turned off by the game’s seemingly ambiguous mechanics and the countless deaths their characters are going to face.
We have divided this guide into sections to make them easy to read and understand.
Disclaimer: While this is primarily intended for complete beginners to Path of Exile, this ultimate beginner’s guide will also help returning players who haven’t played the game for a while and have forgotten the mechanics or got overwhelmed by the recent changes.
The basic mechanics of the game can be pretty confusing to most new players. If you’re one of them, we highly recommend reading this guide from start to finish. This ultimate guide will tackle everything you need to know about the game mechanics, how the system works, class archetypes, and other essentials to help ease your way into loving the game.
Table of Contents:
● Character Creation
● Class Selection
● Important Settings to Configure
● Item Looting
● Towns and Waypoints
● Quests and NPCs
● Loot Filtering
● Loot Management
● Item Links and Sockets
● Item Socket Colors
● Active Skill Gems for Leveling
● Support Skill Gems
● Main Skill and Support Gem Setups
● Auras and Heralds
● Flask Usage
● Gem Leveling
● Maximizing Experience
● Elemental Resistances
● Chaos Damage and Resistance
● Final Words
During your very first character creation, the game will have you choose between three different game modes. This one can be fairly complicated to explain, so we’ll just cover the basics here. You have the following game mode to choose from:
● Standard – this is the default game mode. Everything you earned from the other leagues (currencies, items, achievements) gets accumulated in the Standard game mode, especially after each league ends.
● League – a league refers to a game mode that lasts for up to 3 months and gets updated a few weeks after. Each league will have its own unique content which then carries over to Standard after it ends. It also features unique challenges and allows all players to start in a fresh economy.
● Hardcore League – this one’s basically for hardcore players. It has the same content as its corresponding league. The only difference is that once your character dies, it will be transferred to Standard.
For beginners, we recommend getting into a league for a few good reasons. First, you get access to a couple of challenges that reward microtransaction items (cosmetics) based on completion. Second, if you manage to play at the beginning of a league, you will start in a fresh economy alongside other players.
Third, prices for items in a league are far more affordable than the ones at Standard. Lastly, leagues have unique content that is not yet carried over to Standard.
By default, you have six different classes to choose from, each with their own attributes and unique ascendancies. Your choice of a class will determine your starting point in the passive skill tree (more on that later). This also means that the class you choose will determine how effective your chosen build will be (but since POE has tons of customization options, you can still make any build viable with proper planning).
For now, you have the following classes to choose from and their corresponding attributes:
● Templar – strength and intelligence
● Shadow – dexterity and intelligence
● Marauder – strength
● Ranger – dexterity
● Duelist – dexterity and strength
● Witch – intelligence
● Scion – strength, dexterity, and intelligence
Note: By default, you have a total of 6 classes to choose from in Path of Exile. The 7th class, the Scion, can only be accessed once you cleared Act 3 of the game. She’s a fine balance between strength, agility, and intelligence.
Important Settings to Configure
Before you progress through the game, let’s first go through some important settings you should configure first. Path of Exile’s default settings aren’t exactly that intuitive, and as a new player, this will have you looking at those bits of information at the wrong places.
First, we’ll start with the interface options. One of the most important settings you should change is the map’s transparency. In Path of Exile, map knowledge and awareness are key since the map’s layout changes every time you enter an instance.
You want to go your settings by pressing Esc then clicking on Options. In the UI tab, look for Map Transparency and Landscape Transparency. You want to drag the sliders all the way to the right for maximum visibility. This will make your map (can be accessed by pressing Tab) and your minimap to be easier to read.
You can also play around with the Map Zoom options and set it to your preference. You also want to check the Always Highlights and Always Show Sockets options. Always Highlights allows you to items, objects, and waypoints at all times. Meanwhile, Always Show Sockets allow you to see how many sockets your items have and their corresponding colors. We’ll be talking about item sockets and more about them in a different article.
In the lower right section, you’ll find the Default Attack button (sword icon). You want to change that to Move only (footprints icon) by clicking the Attack icon then choosing the Move only icon. You NEVER really need the Default Attack button at all, and it can be pretty annoying when moving around a large mob of monsters.
This is what it should look like:
Get your gear quickly by buying POE Currency
and Exalted Orbs
The amount of loots in Path of Exile is pretty absurd. For a complete beginner, it can be really tempting to loot every item you see on the screen, especially since there can be TONS of loots on the ground. Fortunately, as you progress through the game, you’ll realize that you don’t really need all those loots that dropped from every monster you’ve killed.
You only need to loot the currencies and a few other items that will help you level up quickly and play the game in a very efficient manner. Other than that, you have to leave the items in white text behind (those are trash loots). Just keep this very basic concept in RPGs: the best item drops can be found from high-level enemies and bosses.
While you’re still leveling, you’re likely in a low-level zone. This means that any trash loots, except for Unique items that are highlighted in an orange text and a few Rare items in yellow text, are not worth looting at all. These are the items you want to use a Scroll of Wisdom on as they can have nice stats and combinations that will help you level up quickly.
Before looting, you should also take a look at your equipment. If you’re still using a Common helmet (white text) for example, then you should loot that Magic helmet (blue text) on the ground and identify it using a Scroll of Wisdom. However, if you see a Rare helmet nearby, you should prioritize it over the Blue helmet due to it having more and better stats.
Just keep these item rarity levels in mind: Common (white) -> Magic (blue) -> Rare (Yellow) -> Unique (orange).
Once you reach the endgame, however, a Rare item could sometimes be stronger than a Unique item, though it varies depending on certain factors (we’ll cover that in a different and more advanced guide).
As you progress through instances and gain levels as you go, it’s about time you start leaving some items on the ground. If your inventory isn’t full yet, you might want to pick up those Rares then make a trip back to town and sell them. Always make it a habit to empty your inventory before heading out.
If you play on a Solo Self Found league – which I don’t recommend if you’re new – you want to identify as many Rare items as possible since they might end up being useful to your build.
Towns and Waypoints
Path of Exile’s campaigns are divided into Acts starting from Act 1 up to Act 10 which is then followed by an Epilogue. After you have progressed through the very first map (The Twilight Strand) and managed to kill Hillock, you’ll across the very first town in the game which is Lioneye’s Watch.
Each Act has its own town which serves as your sanctuary with its own NPCs including quest givers and vendors. Also, each town serves as a travel hub that will allow you to fast travel from one place to another via waypoints.
When you adventure throughout the game, you’ll come across inactive waypoints in certain areas. These can be easily spotted with their round designs and runic symbols.
An example of an inactive waypoint
A waypoint after activation
In order to activate a waypoint, you just have to click on it. After that, you can then use it to travel to that Act’s town or to another active waypoint. You can check the number of activated points in every Act by clicking on an active waypoint or pressing U.
Active waypoints are the ones with the blue indicator on them while the town is indicated by the house icon. The empty circles simply mean that they don’t have a waypoint.
On the other hand, this is what an inactive waypoint looks like, as indicated by a tiny blue circle. It’s highly recommended that you activate each waypoint you encounter so you can fast travel between zones with ease.
Once you have activated a waypoint, it remains permanently unlocked for your character. However, if you create a new character, you’ll have to activate the waypoints again as they are not shared between your account.
Quests and NPCs
Early on in the game, you’ll have to complete certain quests in order to gain access to the next Acts. These quests can be easily recognized by the exclamation marks on top of a quest giver’s model. You can also see them as yellow exclamation marks on your minimap. By clicking on these NPCs, you will automatically accept the quest. Turning in the quest is also automatic upon clicking its respective quest giver.
For quest tracking, you can press U to show your current quests. The quests are displayed in the highlighted bar as shown here:
By clicking on a quest, you’ll be able to track its location as indicated by the yellow crown icon.
Path of Exile’s loot drops can easily overwhelm a new player, and with tons of items dropping on the ground, it can be quite a chore to figure out which item is worth looting. Fortunately, you can lessen the amounts of loots you see on the ground and show only the ones worth looting with the help of a Loot Filter.
What a Loot Filter does is simply hide trash loots so you can only see Rare items and currencies on the ground. Here’s a before and after comparison to show how helpful a Loot Filter is:
Without a loot filter, you’ll see all of the loots lying on the ground. It will even make it harder to see your character and any nearby enemies due to the absurd amount of drops. As you progress into higher-level zones, the amounts of loots will get even higher.
After applying a loot filter, you’ll notice that your screen’s a lot less cluttered and only valuable items are shown. You’ll also get shining lights to indicate Unique item drops.
To use a Loot Filter, kindly follow these steps:
1. Visit filterblade.xyz.
2. In the Overview tab, set the Strictness level to Semi-Strict. You can customize the filter based on your preferences, but as a new player, this is the most recommended option you should use.
3. Click on the Download tab, create a name for your filter, then click Download.
4. After that, find the downloaded filter in your Downloads folder and transfer it to Documents/My Games/Path of Exile folder.
5. In-game, press Escape > Options > UI tab. Scroll to the very bottom and look for the List of Item Filters option.
6. Click the dropdown menu then select the loot filter you just downloaded.
7. Click Save. You should now notice the changes in your loot display.
Managing loots on Path of Exile can be fairly easy as long as you know what you need. As a beginner, you probably don’t have the currency to buy some Unique leveling items. Therefore, your best gears can often come from Rare drops, unless you got lucky and a Unique item drops.
Once you have successfully installed a Loot Filter, you want to loot Rare items and identify them using Scrolls of Wisdom. Once you manage to identify them, you want to look for the following stats, likewise known as mods:
● Attack Speed/Cast Speed
● Physical Damage/Spell Damage/Elemental Damage
● Movement Speed (boots)
● Life Gain on Hit/Mana Gain on Hit
Here’s an example of a chest armor with okay rolls:
However, early on in the game when you’re still leveling, you shouldn’t place too much emphasis on getting good mods and rolls. As you progress through leveling, your Rare gears will get replaced a lot, especially when you reach higher-level zones. The rule of thumb here is to upgrade your equipment to better gears to allow better survivability and higher damage output in the higher-level areas.
Another item you want to loot are flasks. However, compared to the other equipment, there are no Rare flasks, only Normal, Magic, and Unique. That said, you want to pick Magic life and mana flasks as well as Unique flasks (if you’re lucky enough). You’ll need life flasks that give higher life recovery to ensure survivability and mana flasks that give higher mana recovery to sustain your skills.
As you go on identifying Rares, you’ll notice that your Scroll of Wisdom supply is quickly depleting even if you’ve been looting them the whole time. If that’s the case, then you simply have to look for an Orb of Transmutation in your inventory.
After that, look for a vendor in town then sell your Orbs of Transmutation in exchange for Scrolls of Wisdom. The ratio is 1:4, so for every 1 Orb of Transmutation you sell, you’ll end up receiving 4 Scrolls of Wisdom in return. This is just one of the many so-called “vendor recipes” that you can learn along the way as you keep on playing the game.
We’ve covered more about that in another guide: Beginner’s Guide to Currency via Vendor Recipes. We recommend you check it out!
Also, every time you visit a town, make sure to deposit any currencies you looted into your Stash except for a stack of Scrolls of Portal and Scrolls of Wisdom.
Item Links and Sockets
In Path of Exile, active skills are not available via a Skill Tree compared to most RPGs out there. It does have its own skill tree, but the skills are all passives which apply various effects and creates endless possibilities for builds.
Instead, you get your skills via the so-called skill gems. Right after you create your character, the game will give you an active skill gem which you can use to progress through its very first level. As you progress with the game’s campaign, more and more skills gems can be purchased from certain NPCs in every town. These skills are then inserted into an item via “sockets” and get synergized via “links”.
As you keep on playing the game, you’ll occasionally find Orbs of Fusing and Jeweller’s Orbs as loots. However, using these currencies early on is not really recommended since they’re more useful during endgame when you need to craft some of your own gears. However, if you are using a Unique item, linking them will be necessary depending on the situation.
An item with four sockets but no link and a single stack of Orbs of Fusing
The same item with 4 links using only two Orbs of Fusing
With the help of the Loot Filter you installed, you will be able to easily find 3-link and even 4-link items on the ground. You can also check the vendors in town as they will occasionally sell linked items for cheap.
Note: An item can have a maximum of four sockets and four links, except for two-handed weapons, bows, and body armors which can have a maximum of six.
Item Socket Colors
Skill gems are available in either red, blue, or green – with Portal (white) as an exception. However, you can’t just socket them into any item you want. The color of the socket should correspond to the color of the skill gem you want to socket.
This means that in order to use a red skill gem, your item should have a red socket in it, otherwise you won’t be able to socket it in the first place. Here’s an example:
Gloves with socketed gems
As you can see, the skill gems in the image can only be socketed to the corresponding socket color. However, most items will have a different set of colors in them, and before you can socket your gems into one, you need to correctly recolor it first.
For example, if you picked a Rare glove with all green sockets but want to socket red and blue gems, you’ll have to recolor it first so the colors can become green. To do this, you have to use a currency known as Chromatic Orb.
Basically, a Chromatic Orb changes the socket colors of an item but in a random fashion. This means that obtaining red or blue sockets on an all-green item will still require RNG and a bit of knowledge about item attributes.
Items that have strength as its requirement will have a higher chance of rolling red sockets. Meanwhile, items that have dexterity as its requirement will have a higher chance of rolling green sockets, and the same applies to intelligence items with a higher chance of rolling blue sockets.
Meanwhile, items that have hybrid attributes (strength and dexterity requirement for example) will have a higher chance of rolling red and green sockets, and so on.
As you level your character, you’ll need the right socket colors in order to achieve a synergy of your skills. However, since the chances of getting a 6-link item (or even just a 5-link) early on are fairly slim, the highest number of sockets and links you can realistically get from an item is 4.
Therefore, it’s best to start with an item that you can recolor realistically by using only a small number of Chromatic Orbs. If you want to get all red sockets on an intelligence item, you’ll most likely need hundreds of Chromatic Orbs which is quite an expensive investment early on in the game.
As you go on recoloring your items’ socket colors, you’ll eventually run out of Chromatic Orbs. Fortunately, with the help of a Loot Filter, you can easily identify items that can be sold to any vendor in exchange for a Chromatic Orb. These items have at least 1 Blue, 1 Green, and 1 Red socket all linked together, like this one for example:
Even though the orbs themselves don’t really have a high value in the marketplace, they are quite practical since you can recolor your items’ socket colors whenever necessary, so it’s best to gather them when you can.
Active Skill Gems for Leveling
As mentioned earlier, the game will give you an introduction to skill gems from the start of the game when your character lands on the shore. As you progress through the game, you will receive skill gems as rewards from various quests.
However, one thing the game doesn’t tell you is that these rewards will vary depending on your class and its main attribute. For example, if you pick a Marauder, you’ll receive more Red skill gems as rewards. The same applies to the other classes depending on their attributes.
It’s worth noting that each class leans more toward a specific attribute which was mentioned above.
Therefore, the skill gems you receive during rewards will be based on your class’ main attributes, with strength for red gems, intelligence for blue gems, and dexterity for green gems. A Dexterity-based Ranger will receive more green gems while an Intelligence-based witch will receive more blue gems.
Here’s an example reward that’s given to a Ranger character after completing a certain quest.
While skill gems are normally rewarded from various quests, there are some that can be purchased straight from a specific vendor after completing certain quests. For starters, you can find your first skill gems for sale from Nessa in Lioneye’s Watch in Act 1 (the very first town you encounter). The number of skill gems she has for sale will increase as you complete the main quests in the first Act.
Once you reach Act 3, you can gain access to a lot of skill gems from Siosa who can be found in the Library. It’s when you reach Act 6 that you can buy every available skill gem from Lily Roth, with the exception of very rare gems that can only be obtained via drops or from player sellers.
Now that we’ve had a brief overview of skill gems, which skill gems would be best for leveling up your first character?
Technically, if you’re following a particular build guide, then you should level your character using that build’s main skill gem. In most cases, however, build guides tend to use skill gems that can’t be accessed early on in the game, only upon reaching around level 20 or higher.
On the other hand, if you simply want to level your character without any specific build guide in mind, then the best skill gem you should use will depend on your preferred playstyle.
If you’re planning to play a caster, the most recommended skills for leveling would either be Firestorm (usable at level 4), Spark (level 4), or Freezing Pulse (level 8). If you’re a fan of melee combat, then you can choose between Molten Strike (usable at level 1), Cleave (level 1), or Sunder (level 12). For bow characters like Rangers, you want to go Ice Shot (usable at level 1), Rain of Arrows (level 12), or Toxic Rain (level 12).
When you’re still leveling your character, it’s important to focus on using an active skill gem that has a wide AOE (area of effect) compared to gems that focus only on single target damage. This is because you want to clear monster packs as efficiently as possible in just a few attacks.
Support Skill Gems
Path of Exile has the so-called support skill gems which basically enhance the effectiveness of your main skill gems. Each of these support gems has its own unique property that can empower an existing skill gem and even give it unique effects. However, in order for that to happen, it should be socketed in an item socket that’s linked to your active skill gem. Here’s a comparison to make it easier to understand:
In the above example, our gloves have two red sockets and two blue sockets. Our main skill gem, which is the Firestorm in this example, should be socketed in a blue socket and supported by 3 support gems (two blue and one red).
However, as you can see, there are only two red sockets that are linked to each other. Therefore, even if you socket the blue Firestorm gem, one blue support gem, and one red support gem, they won’t have a synergy with each other since they are not linked at all. This is where the currency known as Orb of Fusing becomes handy.
What the Orb of Fusing does is randomize the linked sockets of each item until it becomes fully linked. After using a few Orbs of Fusing on an item, this is how it should look like:
It’s now fully linked, and you can then start adding your active skill gem and the other support gems to make it look like this:
However, in our example, we only have two blue sockets. So if you want to get all three blue sockets and only one red socket, then you should use Chromatic Orbs as mentioned earlier. One important tip I want to share is that you can actually tell whether a certain support gem has a synergy with your active skill gem.
To do this, simply remove all other gems in the item where your main skill gem is socketed, except for the main skill gem. Make sure your character has equipped the item. After that, hover your mouse to the support gem you want to socket. You will see a tooltip like this one:
What this means is that the Faster Casting Support gem can be linked with the Firestorm skill to give it an increase in casting speed. However, if a support skill gem won’t work on a certain skill gem, it will give this tooltip instead:
With this, you can experiment with any support gems you want and see whether they can synergize with your skill gem or if the effects they give will suit your playstyle preferences. Since Path of Exile has a massive variety of support gems, you can have endless opportunities to try out various combinations.
Also, one thing to remember is that while support skill gems should match the color of the socket, they don’t have to match the color of your main skill gem.
Main Skill and Support Gem Setups
Most builds in Path of Exile normally revolve around a single main skill gem which has its effectiveness enhanced by several support gems in a linked setup. As you get into the endgame, your main goal will be to get either a 6-link body armor or a 2-handed weapon. Doing so will cause your main skill to exponentially increase in power which allows you to go even deeper into the endgame.
However, during the early game, the highest link setup you can realistically aim for is a 4-link gear. Therefore, you want to maximize this setup by using your main skill gem and linking it with the best possible support gems in that setup.
Using the previous setup we had, using Firestorm as the main skill, you want to get a 4-link gear with all blue sockets and socket the following support gems:
● Concentrated Effect
● Faster Casting
● Arcane Surge
The idea this is that Firestorm is a spell and AOE gem, so it can benefit from support gems that enhance casting speed, spell damage, or AOE damage. The support gems we mentioned above all provide Firestorm with the enhancements it needs. Moreover, they can be used once your character reaches level 18, thereby allowing you to massively increase your damage output.
For melee builds, you can benefit from any of these following support gems:
● Melee Physical Damage
● Faster Attacks
The same idea applies to other builds and playstyles. You basically have to get a 4-link gear or use Jeweller’s Orbs and Orbs of Fusing until you get a 4-link setup, decide on support gems that synergize with your main skill, recolor your item’s sockets accordingly, then socket your support gems.
Auras and Heralds
Apart from your main skill gem and support gems, you’ll also come across aura gems that grant various buffs and herald gems that grant unique effects in exchange for your maximum Mana pool.
Typically, you can only have a limited amount of auras and heralds running at once since they will take up a portion of your maximum Mana pool. This is what your mana bar looks like when you’re running auras and heralds on your character:
As you can see, a large portion of your mana pool is reserved for the heralds and auras. While this means that you’ll have increased damage to your main skill, you’ll run into mana issues. For a beginner, this can be a really major issue since it will prevent you from killing monster packs, thereby hindering your leveling progress.
Ideally, you want to keep your reserved mana to just around 50% so you can still have enough mana left for your skills. You can see the amount of mana a herald or aura reserves by hovering over its skill gem.
In this example, we’re using Herald of Thunder which gives us a significant boost to our damage by adding lightning damage. You can see the percentage of mana it reserves by checking the Mana Reserved section which shows a value of 25%. This means that it will take up 25% of your maximum Mana pool.
Therefore, you want to manage how much mana you want to reserve for your heralds or auras and make sure to leave enough to use your main skills. Do keep in mind that the more support gems being linked to your main skill, the higher its mana cost will be.
It’s pretty normal to run into mana and life issues early on in the game, especially if your items don’t have mana or life regeneration or some form of mana or life gained per hit. Fortunately, these issues can be solved with the help of flasks.
To be fair, flasks are one of the most important mechanics that will help you speed through the leveling process in the early game while allowing you to sustain your character in the end game. This goes to show that having a basic knowledge of flask usage and setup will make your entire leveling process a breeze, especially if you reach the higher level zones.
Your flasks go in these slots and have hotkeys 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 by default. You can see the remaining charges of your flasks as well as their duration when used in the left bottom corner.
From the start, you’ll be given two Life flasks and one Mana flask. However, most new players make the mistake of not using them thinking that they will run out. One VERY important thing you should keep in mind as a beginner in Path of Exile is that flasks will refill themselves whenever you kill monster packs. Therefore, you should make sure to use your flasks whenever necessary since you can quickly refill them as long as you keep on killing monsters.
Perhaps the most important flask you should get while leveling is the Quicksilver Flask. It’s basically a flask that allows you to run through zones by increasing your movement speed by 40% for 4 seconds. Ideally, you want to keep two of them in your quick slots so you can alternate between them while running through zones.
You’ll have your very first Quicksilver Flask after completing the Act 1 quest “Mercy Mission” from Bestel in Lioneye’s Watch. You can get your second Quicksilver Flask after completing the Act 2 quest “The Great White Beast” from Yeena in The Forest Encampment.
Apart from a Quicksilver Flask, you should also watch out for Magic Life and Mana flasks lying on the ground. Make sure to update your old life and mana flasks with newer ones that give better bonuses since they will allow you to survive zones and keep on spamming your skills to level quickly.
Another important flask you should consider is the Silver Flask. Like the Quicksilver Flask, it’s a utility flask that provides the Onslaught buff for 5 seconds, granting your character 20% increased attack speed, cast speed, and movement speed which is really great for leveling. You can use it at level 22, but the quest that rewards the flask is available at Act 5 (you’re most likely around level 40 or so by that time).
There are various other flasks you’ll find in the game, and most of them are really useful in the endgame. Upon reaching Act V which is “Part 2” of the game’s campaign, you should rely more on utility flasks instead of the simple Life and Mana flasks.
At this point, mana flasks will become obsolete for leveling. If you have mana issues, you should instead run the Clarity aura which gives you mana regeneration while leveling. You should only limit your Life flask to one, keep your Quicksilver Flasks to two, then use the other two slots for utility flasks like the Silver Flask for the Onslaught buff, the Granite Flask for +3000 added armor, or the Jade Flask for +3000 evasion rating.
As you go on killing monsters, your gems will also gain experience and level up as you do. Whenever your gems level up, they will gain an increase in their effectiveness or effects, thereby increasing your overall damage output as well.
However, gems don’t level up on their own. You will have to manually increase their levels once their experience bar has reached the required experience for that level. In order to do this, you’ll have to click the “+” icon located on the right side of the screen just below your Quest tracker. This will indicate which gem is ready to level up. Here’s an example:
You’ll see the text “Click to level up” to increase the level of a gem by one. However, there are instances when a gem has a full experience bar but can’t be level up like the greyed out one, for example.
When this happens, it’s because you haven’t met the level requirement or your specific attribute is lower than the gem’s requirement. In this example, the gem that is greyed out is the Elemental Focus Support gem. The reason why we can’t level up this gem is because the gem’s level requirement is 26 while the character’s current level is only 25. You can hover your mouse on the gem’s icon to see the specific requirement for a gem you can’t level up.
The maximum level of a gem is normally at 20, though there are certain factors that can raise its level by several numbers (we’ll talk about that in a more advanced guide). Once your skill gems are at level 20, you’re most likely at the endgame already.
For now, you want to focus on leveling your gems as much as possible while leveling your character at the same time.
One of the most common mistakes that new players tend to make when playing the game for the first time is that they try to fully kill all of the monsters in every zone. Even though it can be really necessary for endgame progression, it’s not really that efficient at all when done in the early game.
Doing so will only cause you to become way over-leveled, and the drops you can get from low-level zones are basically trash. Therefore, you don’t want to do that and focus on maximizing your experience gain instead.
The way XP ranges work in Path of Exile is based on a specific formula which is base level +-3. This means that if your character is at level 10, you can get full experience when killing mobs in level 7 up to level 13. However, if your current character level is more than 3 levels above or below the current zone, then the amount of experience you get is significantly reduced.
To maximize the experience you gain, it’s highly recommended to be within 2-3 levels above or below the current zone level. You can easily check the level of the current zone you’re in by pressing Tab.
The current zone’s level is the one at the top right that says “Monster Level: 23”. In other words, your character should be around level 20 to 26 in order to gain full experience when killing enemies in that zone.
Aside from that, in order to fully maximize your experience gain, you have to avoid dying whenever possible. During Acts 1-5, the game won’t penalize you for dying in order to give you enough time to familiarize the game’s basic mechanics.
However, once you reach Act V and encounter Kitava for the first time, you will receive a 5% experience penalty each time you die. By the end of Act X, the penalty is doubled to 10% per death.
Fortunately, there are no level reductions from dying. Your experience bar will just reach 0% as the limit.
Once you reach the midgame, you’ll notice that despite having high armor or evasion rating, you’ll have a hard time surviving a number of enemy attacks. This is because apart from your physical damage reduction and evade chance, there’s a different stat that governs your damage mitigation. This stat is in the form of elemental resistance.
In Path of Exile, elemental damage is categorized into three major elements: Fire, Cold, and Lightning. Both players and monsters will have resistance to the mentioned damage types, thereby massively reducing the amount of damage they receive.
Apart from that, each elemental damage also has its corresponding status ailment. Fire damage applies Ignite which is basically a DOT (damage over time) burn effect. Cold damage applies Freeze which prevents your character from performing any action for a few seconds and Chill which slows down the target by 30%. And lastly, Lightning damage applies Shock which causes you to receive increased damage from all damage sources.
However, higher resistance values will also significantly reduce the chance of the said ailments to be inflicted. Critical Hits will always have a 100% chance to apply a status ailment while Chill can always be applied to every successful hit.
Therefore, once you reach the midgame, you want to pay attention to the values of your Elemental Resistances, especially if you’re struggling to survive since they are key to your character’s survivability. To check your current Resistance values, simply press C, then head to the Defence tab. You’ll see your resistances in the highlighted part:
All of your resistances are normally capped at 75%. Any excess value is considered an uncapped resistance. For example, if you manage to reach a total of 100% Cold Resistance, only 75% will be applied to Cold damage reductions while the remaining 25% is uncapped resistance.
Uncapped resistances, however, aren’t entirely useless as they can be really helpful in certain situations. For instance, if you receive a curse that reduces your Cold resistance by 20%, the 25% uncapped resistance will serve as a buffer. As a result, you still have a total of 80% Cold resistance and will still benefit from a full 75% Cold damage reduction.
There are some passives in the skill tree as well as certain items that can increase your maximum resistances. The Saffell’s Frame shield, for example, grants +4% to all maximum resistances, thereby effectively raising the cap of your elemental resistances to 79%.
For midgame, even a 30% value for each of your resistances will be enough to help you survive. However, if you can push that value even further, the better. As you reach the endgame, however, it’s highly recommended to get 75% on all your elemental resistances.
Rare items will normally have some form of elemental resistance in some cases, so it’s worth checking them out when upgrading your gears.
Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to resistances is that as you progress through the game, you will receive penalties to your resistances. During your playthrough from Act 1 to Act 6, your character will have a default resistance value of 0%. However, once you complete Act 6, you will get a -30% resistance penalty.
Therefore, if you have around 60% on all of your elemental resistances in Act 5, then you would only have around 30% by the time you complete Act 6. However, as you reach the Epilogue, which means you have completed all of the Acts, you will receive a -60% penalty, causing your elemental resistances to drop to around 0%.
If you don’t have any elemental resistance at all, then your resistance value will be at -60% for each of the elements.
Chaos Damage and Resistance
Chaos damage is one of the five damage types in Path of Exile. Compared to other damage types, Chaos damage has a different mechanic and can only be mitigated with Chaos resistance. Compared to elemental damage, chaos damage is damage over time that will bypass the Energy Shield of the target.
This means that if your character has a ton of energy shield and an enemy happens to have chaos damage, its damage will directly affect your life pool. After reaching the Epilogue, your Chaos resistance will be at the default -60% value. This is just a normal occurrence that happens to everyone in the game, especially if there’s no form of Chaos resistance in your gears or in your passive skill tree.
Fortunately, most forms of Chaos damage from monsters are balanced around this. If your current Chaos resistance value is at -60%, then there’s really nothing you have to worry about. In fact, most other builds won’t even bother putting Chaos resistance at all. There are, however, certain builds that use Chaos resistance as well as builds that revolve around Chaos Inoculation which are completely immune to Chaos damage, though such builds often have very specific requirements.
For someone who’s completely new to Path of Exile, learning more about the game’s mechanics and choosing a playstyle you can comfortably with is important. There’s really no need to rush the leveling part, but it’s really important to know the tips and tricks that will make it less of a hassle.
Don’t bother too much about which builds work, which has the highest damage output, etc. You can follow a build only to find that it’s too boring for your playstyle.
Lastly, have fun. The game can be unforgiving, but as you learn and discover more of its mechanics, the more fun and exciting it can get.