Being the deep and sophisticated game that it is, Path of Exile is something that most people can't learn entirely all at once, even for the most hardcore of players. But for those who are either just starting out or had been playing just a week or two, the game seems very intimidating and inaccessible. From Path of Exile items to character builds,
One of the things that make Path of Exile fun is the ability to choose which league you play in. These leagues give the game more variety and challenge in letting players choose who they want to play the game, whether they can do so at a leisurely capacity or play in what separates the hardcore from the casual.
First of all, before you get to choose which league you play in, you first encounter options for which Gateway you want to play in when you log into the game. Typically, you should pick the one closest to you, but you should consider the ping numbers to get the best one.
They don't signify separate servers like in other MMO games as you can still communicate and play with other players from all over the world in whatever gateway you're in, but your choice does affect your latency.
Standard and Hardcore
You then choose your league in the character selection screen, with two major options to choose from. Standard, or colloquially known as softcore, is the baseline wherein you can play to your heart's content, without stakes when your character dies. This is not so in Hardcore leagues as you have to do everything under your own power to survive while getting stronger.
The difference in Hardcore is that if you die, the character and the items in your stash get transferred to the Standard league, which is basically like being booted out as eternal punishment. If you wish to hit it as a better player in this game, then you can work your way into the hardcore league.
There are also these time-limited leagues wherein you try to become as strong as you possibly can within the time limit and compete against other players to see how good your game knowledge and skill are. These challenge leagues usually last for four months, after which new challenge leagues are established and the cycle repeats.
It's a novel idea that has proven to be good in practice. In the other leagues, things tend to stagnate after a while since it's all about who farms and grinds the hardest, and that's it. If you're just starting out, you can't get ahead and become one of the best in the league unless you suddenly have no life and grind 24/7, and maybe it still won't be enough.
In challenge leagues, you all start off from absolute zero and play as optimally as possible. Players who usually play in challenge leagues are those who have played standard and/or hardcore for a considerable amount of time, so they know quite a bit about the game. They know what to do and where to grind, as well as which character build works best for their intended goals.