Currently, the penalty for dying in Path of Exile doesn’t result in the loss of Path of Exile items, but instead in a 10 percent decrease in experience points in Merciless. Some players argue that the penalty for dying in Merciless is something that is necessary, being that it is the game’s main limiting factor.
Many players, especially those who may be unaware of this “death penalty,” or those who are new to the game, may wonder whether there actually is an impact of the loss of experience points at all. In order to assess this, we must understand that every player’s experience is different, and so are their goals in playing the game. Some players prefer to finish maps in record time, others like to gather as many PoE items as possible, while others play a slower, conservative, or even passive game. Meanwhile, some players have a very good map pool, whereas others may be stuck in the middle of an unlucky streak, having to grind lower level maps.
Long story short, every player is different. Players even at the same level, say for example level 85 may have different circumstances and conditions that make their experiences different, and it would be incorrect to say that losses of experience points at the time of death are the same for players at the same level.
Why does the “death penalty” exist, to begin with? Without any official word from the developers over at Grinding Gear Games, we can surmise that it serves to limit the number of players who come close to, or reach a maximum level, as well as to delineate players who have achieved circumvention of the penalty from the player pool as a whole.
From an emotional standpoint, with higher levels of achievement comes a greater feeling of loss. Even if such a loss takes place within the confines of a mere video game, the feeling is real. And since Path of Exile punishes players for dying, it becomes increasingly problematic. There’s a fine line between a game being challenging while still fun, and punishing while suddenly stressful.
Punishment for dying also has the danger of driving players away from the game. The rationale is that the game takes away rewards that have been rightfully earned. Much like an employee who is paid an hourly wage to do a job that comes with an expected exposure to risk and hazards, the pain of loss or injury is enough to endure already. Getting one’s pay docked as well would be certainly unacceptable.
So what would be the acceptable modifications to this penalty? Perhaps removing the deduction of experience points altogether after a player achieves a certain level, or after having played a certain number of hours. Another alternative would be to reward players with a buff, based on reaching a landmark number of minutes or hours lasted without dying. Either way, the goal is to encourage players to keep playing and improving their skills; not to punish them for it.