Is PoE Pay-to-Win?
The first and most important thing on this page: no, PoE is not pay-to-win. All content is accessible even to free players. PoE's microtransactions are not quite limited to cosmetic effects, but they are not mandatory, and you won't run in to any "gating" in gameplay.
In practice, serious players will probably want to sink between $20 and $40 into the game (I'm a serious enough player to be writing this guide, and I've spent $40 total after playing for several years). This covers a few basic quality-of-life items and gives you enough storage not to run out too quickly. PoE's Microtransactions often go on sale, so if cost is a concern for you, you may want to try to wait for the one you want. In particular, stash tabs (described in the next section) typically go on sale about once a month.
Most Microtransactions cannot be earned in-game, although once in a while the developers will give a few away for some sort of a special event. However, each Challenge League (described in the "Getting Started" section) rewards special cosmetic Microtransactions for certain levels of character progression.
You can browse the Microtransaction shop on the official PoE website here.
For the most part, the only non-cosmetic Microtransactions in PoE are extra storage tabs for your account's Stash. These come in a few basic types, listed below, and will always be available on your account:
- Extra Stash Tabs: Your in-game Stash starts with four tabs, and these are simply more of them.
- Premium Stash Tabs: Premium tabs allow your items to be indexed by out-of-game tools, allowing them to be (for example) listed on unofficial trading sites. They otherwise function just like regular tabs, except that you can rename and recolor them. Most serious players will want at least one of these. Note that all of the following tabs are effectively premium tabs in addition to their other effects, and will allow items in them to be indexed.
- Currency Tab: Can store many thousands - effectively as many as you're likely to ever have, particularly as a new player - of your Currency items. Most Currencies normally make stacks of between 10 and 40, but the Currency Tab allows you to store up to 5,000 of each. Highly recommended for anyone planning on sticking with the game.
- Map Tab: Similarly to the Currency tab, stores many copies of Map items, which are used to open end-game zones after you've completed the main story. Organizing maps can be a pain, so this is also a very nice quality-of-life purchase for players sticking with the game long-term.
- Other Premium Tab Types, like the Divination Card tab or the Essence tab, are less important and not likely to save you any large amount of trouble. If you've got a lot of money to throw around, or if you particularly care about keeping your stash very organized, you might purchase these - but they're much less important than the above.
You can also purchase extra character slots, although a new player will not need those for a long time, if ever.
These have no effect whatsoever on gameplay (and if that's all you care about, you can skip this section), but serve to make your character, skills, or equipment flashier. They come in a few main groups:
- Skill Effects, which replace the normal appearance of a Skill with a different one (usually very different from the original, not just a different color). For example, instead of summoning Skeletons, you might summon (otherwise gameplay-identical) Statues instead.
- Weapon & Armour Skins, which replace the appearance of your equipment entirely. These usually come in sets, which sometimes go on sale together or are sold as a bundle, but you can buy them individually.
- Pets, which simply follow you around. They can also be placed in a personal Hideout as a decoration.
- Footprints, which leave glowing prints behind as your character walks.
- Character effects, which give your character various overlays like a glow or a dark cloud.
- Portals, which change the appearance of your Portals to town (and to your Map areas) from the default.
- Hideout Decorations, which can be placed in your personal Hideout. Hideouts are described later in this guide.
Most cosmetic Microtransactions are reusable, with the exception of skin transfers (which are consumed on use).