UI & Basic Controls
In-game, your screen will look like this on P.C. The UI on the Xbox version is similar, though rearranged somewhat:
At the bottom of the image, we see:
- The Life orb (left, in red) and Mana orb (right, in dark blue). Run out of life and you die; run out of mana and you cannot use most skills. A portion of this character's mana is Reserved by a skill, rendering it unavailable, which is shown by the gray color replacing the top half of the orb.
- Energy Shield (displayed as a bright blue cover over the Life orb): Energy shield functions more-or-less as additional Life, so it displays over the Life orb. The more Energy Shield you have relative to your Life total, the wider this light blue section will be.
- The Menu button (left, just right of the Life orb). This opens a menu of possible information windows.
- Flasks (center-left, the bottles). Flasks are PoE's answer to the consumable potions of other games. They provide beneficial effects, like restoring your life or mana, and refill as you kill enemies. In this image, the character's flasks are filled up, but drinking them makes the bottles visibly emptier until their charges are refilled. By default, Flasks bind to the keys 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Flasks with durations will have those durations shown by a small bar next to the flask while active.
- The Experience bar (center). Once this fills up, your character gains a level. Each of the smaller bars is 5% of a level, so this character is about 25% of the way to levelling up. Mouse over it to see an explicit count of your Experience, the amount needed for your next level, and an estimate of your current rate of Experience gain.
- The Skill menu (bottom right, collection of icons). This shows what Skills your character has hotkeyed. Skills don't have to always be hotkeyed to be used; most notably, toggled skills like Auras can be removed from the bar if needed and will remain active. By default, skills bind to the left, middle, and right mouse buttons (upper bar) and to the Q,W,E,R, and T keys (lower bar). You can click these icons to select a skill to place in that slot from the list of skills you have equipped.
- The Chat window (bottom left, text). Press [Enter] to chat.
At the top, we see:
- The Minimap (top right): It's a map. Do you need more explanation? Press [Tab] to swap between the top-right minimap (disabled by default, but a recommended UI setting) and an overlayed map shown transparently at the center of the screen. The light blue curve shows the edge of the area you've explored so far.
- Temporary effects (top left): This character has only one temporary effect, but characters can in general have many more. Buffs (beneficial effects) are shown with a green border, debuffs (negative effects) are shown with a red one. These terms have somewhat more specific meanings than I'm presenting here, but this part is about the UI (not about game mechanics).
Basic Hotkeys & Menus
You'll want to know these by heart pretty early on.
- [Enter] to chat. Start a message with # to send it to Global chat (which is where most discussion happens), with nothing to send it to Local chat (which reaches only people in the current area), a $ to send it to trade chat, and an @Username to whisper to a specific player. When you open the chat box with [Enter], there will be a dropdown menu on the left side that has all of these options in it.
- While chatting, hover over an item and press [Alt]+[Ctrl]+click to add a link to that item to show it to other players. Linked items do not show any socketed gems, but do show the sockets themselves and links between them.
- To respond to a Whisper from another player, press [Ctrl]+[Enter].
- [i] to open your Inventory, including character equipment.
- [c] to open your Character screen, showing your stats and equipped skills.
- [p] to open your Passive tree.
- [v] to open the current League's mechanics panel
- [h] to open the Challenges, Bestiary, and Prophecy panel
- Left-click items on the ground to pick them up.
- Left-click on an item in your inventory to pick it up, left click again to place it. Placing a gem on an item socket will place the gem in the socket.
- Right-click a socketed gem to remove it, and right-click a Currency item to use it (usually by left-clicking on a target item, although Portal Scrolls and Orbs of Regret aren't used on items and will be consumed instantly).
- [Tab] to toggle between a top-right minimap and an overlaid transparent map.
- While the map is overlaid, the arrow keys will scroll it.
- [u] to open your Act Map. This map shows all the zones in the current Act of the game, as opposed to the minimap you'll find at the top right of your screen or overlaid over the center.
- [Esc] to open the menu (does not pause, even when solo), change options, or exit the game.
Less important to know right out the gate, but very convenient later, and may as well be introduced now:
- [Shift]+Right-click a stack of Currency items, then continue to hold shift, to use them one after another by simply left-clicking once per use. Useful when using large numbers of a currency like Jeweller's Orbs or Orbs of Fusing, or when identifying an inventory full of drops.
- Hold [Alt] while mousing over an item to display explanations of some of the Keywords on it. Enabling the "Advanced Mod Descriptions" setting in the options will make this also display the affixes and each of their possible roll ranges on that item.
- [Ctrl]+Left-click while at your Stash in town to place an item into (or remove an item from) your Stash. If the item is stackable, it will automatically join any stacks of that item in your Stash or Inventory respectively. This can also be used in some other settings, like the window when selling to a vendor, as well.
Settings You Might Want to Change
Many of Path of Exile's default settings are not typically used by most players, and here are a few you may want to change immediately on starting the game. Some of these defaults may have changed since the writing of this guide, so if something is already enabled/disabled, don't worry.
Press [Esc] -> Options -> UI tab and consider changing:
- "Show Mini Life Bars on Allies/Enemies/Above You": "...on enemies" is particularly worth enabling.
- "Show Trade Chat": most people use various out-of-game utilities for trading, and as a new player you shouldn't trade much until you know what's going on. Disable this.
- "Advanced Mod Descriptions": allows you to see the Affixes (and roll ranges) on items by holding alt while mousing over them. Enable this.
- "Default Loot Allocation": If you intend to play in parties, you should figure out how to set this. "Free for All" lets anyone loot any item, "Short" assigns each item to a player briefly to make loot distribution somewhat fair, "Permanent" assigns every drop to a player permanently.
- "List of Item Filters": You may want to enable the default Item Filter for now. We'll cover Item Filters in a later section, but the short version is that they can hide items far below your level and highlight items of great value.
You can also change key bindings from the "Input" tab.