If you play Path of Exile, chances are you already know that melee isn't very good, and in fact, it really hasn't been for a while. Sure, there are some expensive, niche melee builds that can be cracked, but for the vast and overwhelming majority of them, it's an uphill battle where you're spending much more for much less.
But why? Not to worry, because in this article we'll explain everything you need to know about why melee is so bad in Path of Exile.
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The Problem With Melee in RPGs
There's an existential problem with melee in RPGs, even in RPGs balanced almost entirely around melee. Take a look at Dark Souls, any of the games. These are games, first and foremost, designed to be played with melee characters. Sure, there's lots of build variety, but for the vast and overwhelming majority of players, there's going to be some kind of melee weapon involved.
Now, once you build out your melee character, find the right weapon, and do all that, you can do tons of damage, no problem. But, inevitably, you're going to have to learn the fights, unless you're tanking through everything. You have to learn when to roll, where to position yourself, how many attacks to go for before retreating to safety, all of that.
Once you start heavily specing into ranged weapons or magic, you instantly no longer, really, need to both with dodging or learning attack patterns or all of that. Maybe you will a bit, sure, here and there, but now you can simply hang back where it's safe and spam your ranged attack. Inevitably, this is just going to be easier than getting up close, even if you end up doing less damage per attack with a ranged ability, because it's just going to be safer and easier to consistently damage an enemy at range.
That's why all the meme insane builds in FromSoftware games tend to be all about ranged weapons, magic, miracles, that kind of thing. It's an easy way to break the game, do stupid damage, and not even have to worry about dying all that, or at all. This problem translates perfectly over to Path of Exile where it's actually a lot worse.
See, PoE is like Diablo, not Dark Souls. In these loot-focused RPGs, the games aren't really built around dashing, dodging, avoiding damage, and outplaying an enemy, though that's a part of it, and it's really more about your gear, build, and stats, which will make encounters much, much easier or nigh impossible.
So, ultimately, being forced to get up close and personal with enemies in Path of Exile is just always going to be dangerous, and there's not too much you can do to outplay your foes outside of getting better gear and building a stronger character, while enemies with ranged attacks can hang back where its safer and do consistent damage.
Melee In PoE Doesn't Do Enough Damage
So, how is melee traditionally balanced to make it a viable option in comparison to ranged? In short? Damage. If you're going to be forced to get up close where it's dangerous, you should be able to do lots of damage, and most importantly, you should be able to do more damage (meaningfully more, too) than ranged abilities.
This isn't the case in Path of Exile. In fact, melee characters tend to be one of the toughest to get to do crazy amounts of damage, because of how gear and scaling reliant these kinds of characters are. Generally, skill points are dumped into a particular thing that then scales with your weapon and gear, so having great gear and a really strong weapon is essential, but that's also extremely expensive at the high end.
However, spell builds, and the like, tend to have easier times gearing up because these builds are less focused on scaling all their damage from their skill points and their gear. In effect, this means that not only are ranged builds easier to make, but they're usually more powerful, too.
It's not unusual for an endgame melee character to struggle to complete an endgame boss encounter, like the Maven, at all, while a similarly-leveled ranged character with less expensive gear can complete that boss encounter with their eyes closed in half the time because they're just so much more powerful.
What's more is that melee characters have less time to do damage, too, because often, they've less survivable than other builds. See, because melee gets all of its damage out of scaling, you need a ton of passive points put into upping your damage, which leaves fewer points free to invest in health nodes.
Accordingly, melee builds often do less damage and have less health and defenses, not to mention that melee builds usually don't have particularly strong mobility skills or ways to move around the map in comparison to other types of builds. In short, everything melee is supposed to be good at, it's not particularly good at.