Welcome and thank you for joining me for Rebel’s Rants: Episode Two. I’ll be giving my report on Epic Games’ new, third-person MOBA, Paragon for PS4. I wanted to clarify because Paragon is actually played cross-platform between PS4 and PC players. This game is still in the early, paid-access Beta stage of development but will be open for anyone who signs up on Epic Games’ website on specific weekends to be announced at a later date. The other option is to purchase a “Founder’s Pack” which gives you access to the game and a number of extras including: character skins, experience boosts, and “master challenges” the number of which depend on the price of the founder’s pack purchased. I have about 20 hours of gameplay under my belt and this is only the third MOBA I have ever played, please keep that in mind as I give you my thoughts.
Rebel Rating: 8/10
Outstanding Graphics – Visually Stunning
Lots of Fun
Being Disconnected Frequently – Matchmaking Times
Lack of Different Game Modes and Maps
Lack of In-Game Chat
The gameplay would be a little difficult to explain without delving into exactly what a MOBA is. MOBA, for reference, is an acronym for mobile online battle arena. Traditionally MOBAs have been played from a top-down vantage point and share some common components. Teams of five player-controlled heroes each, battle on a map with three main lanes. Areas of smaller pathways, and camps between the lanes comprise what is known as, the jungle. The lanes have a number of towers that have to be destroyed as you progress towards the enemy base. Mobs of minions spawn from each team’s base and it is the job of the player-heroes to aid the minions, and each other, naturally as they march towards their ultimate goal: The destruction of the enemy base. Heroes have to clear the path for the minions by destroying enemy towers, enemy minions, and enemy heroes alike. Each hero has a number of special abilities that become unlocked and progressively more powerful as they earn experience by defeating enemies. Depending on their skill sets, heroes fulfill different roles on their respective teams. In some form or function MOBAs generally include items for heroes to use also, the number and nature of which are game specific.
Alright, so, now that the lesson is over, what makes Paragon special? What sets it apart? What about Paragon is going to make me want to cheat on my other, more cherished, MOBA games like Defense of the Ancients or League of Legends? Astute question members of the audience, well-played. My response:
As previously mentioned, Paragon is a slight departure from the more traditional MOBAs in that you play from a third-person perspective. Personally, I enjoy the over the shoulder play style over the bird’s eye view. Players have to be more precise to land attacks, move around the map, and use abilities. Also, I feel like I am the hero as opposed to a guy, sitting in a comfy office chair, instructing the hero by clicking buttons on a keyboard and mouse. Another obvious difference is the item system. Paragon uses cards to build decks for each character in a style similar to that of Magic: The Gathering. Each hero has room for six cards in the game. These cards can be either active or passive, the active being used to obtain an instant effect, while the passive cards offer continuous benefits to the hero for the entire length of the match. To continue the comparison to Magic: The Gathering, cards are purchased by the pack using in-game currency, with each pack containing five cards. Decks of up to forty cards for each character are built using a combination of equipment and upgrade cards (three upgrade cards can be used to upgrade a single equipment card). Each card has a point value assigned to it and can be purchased during a match when you have earned enough experience. These card decks allow for a level of hero customization far beyond what I have experienced in other MOBAs and they also reward gameplay with the possibility of adding something new and/or vital to your hero’s deck of cards.
From a bi-pedal lynx in a mechanical exo-suit, to the unholy spawn of a crocodile and a Rastafarian gorilla, to an angelic alien with overly sophisticated retractable wings, there is no shortage in the variety of heroes available. Per the standard MOBA recipe the heroes have a specific amount of health and mana (energy to perform abilities). Each is also rated on a one to ten scale in five categories: Basic Attack, Ability Power, Durability, Mobility, and Difficulty of Use. As various as the heroes themselves, are the armaments they carry: be it, guns, bows, energy staves, fists, or missile launchers. Each hero also has affinity to one or two (for lack of a better word and to continue with the Magic: The Gathering reference) color. In a similar fashion red corresponds with fury, white with order, green with growth, blue with intellect, and black with corruption. Hmm, sounds familiar. The only mechanical effect that color has (at least that I have noticed) is that they affect what cards that can be put in a hero’s card deck. There are universal cards that can be used by any hero, but, there are also cards that correspond with the hero’s affinity and can only be put into a deck with a hero with said affinity. I would hope to see some sort of synergy between characters of the same affinity, or cards of the same affinity at some point, however, I have yet to see any other factors impacted by the affinity. I do hope Epic releases something soon in the way of plot, story-line, and character biographies. As of now we are left to postulate our own theories. Thirteen heroes have been released thus far, with at least twenty-six more to follow. Epic Games plans to release a new hero every three weeks. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how they’re going to top the original thirteen.
Aside from the difference in game mechanics, the area where Paragon really sets itself apart from other games is in visual quality. The graphics in this game are astounding. Every crack in every rock is exquisitely detailed. The map itself, despite having to succumb to the stringent qualifications of the MOBA genre, is wondrous to behold. Beautiful, ancient rock formations and advanced technological contraptions are somehow seamlessly blended into a backdrop of white cliff faces, rocky outcroppings, and waterfalls. It’s no wonder the heroes are fighting over this place. Speaking of: The heroes themselves share the same amount of graphic detail. Every hair, every scale, every robotic appendage reacts to the environment as naturally as you would reasonably expect. We are dealing with alien races here after all. The movements and animations are smooth and fluid, and the lighting effects are incredible. The screenshots don’t do the game justice, so I’ll be sure to post some actual gameplay footage on my YouTube channel soon.
I did have a few issues while playing Paragon, as is the nature with playing a Beta version of any game. The menu screens are a bit buggy. When navigating between tabs or pages in the menu screens I would sometimes get weird colored lines or various objects on the page wouldn’t load correctly. There are also some issues with the display on the hero screen where the ability bar next to a specific trait would not match the number, or buttons would appear on top of each other making one impossible to click. However, none of these compare to the horrifying experience of matchmaking for player versus player matches. At times it would take up to twenty minutes to find five players for our team. This wouldn’t have been so bad if there was not also a tendency to get disconnected every third or fourth game. Thankfully, the developers have included a rejoin feature so that if you do get disconnected, you are able to get back into the same game you were playing. The in-game chat is limited to a sequence of button presses to spit out short and simple commands on screen. In a game that demands a strong strategy between the whole team, however, this doesn’t seem to be enough. It would have been great to be able to chat with the other members of my team in real-time, in-game.
Ah, there’s the rub. In the end, Paragon is a MOBA, and as such, demands a high level of coordination and strategy. I recommend playing with people you can get along with. If you are competitive, play with others who are. If you play casually, make sure everyone else on the team feels the same way. There are as many snooty MOBA veterans who send you threatening messages for not knowing exactly when to engage, retreat, push a lane; as there are idiots who run around in circles to torpedo the match for your team for fun. I plead that you try and be somewhere in between those two extremes.
The other issues I had were more of a wishlist than actual issues. Although the map in Paragon is incredible to look at, there is only the one map. It would have been nice to see a few other maps. There is also only the classic MOBA game mode: three lanes – five to a side – destroy the enemy base. I would have loved to see a survival mode with a single hero against a horde of minions, or even a capture the flag or king of the hill style game. The good thing about a Beta is that different game modes and maps may already be on their way.
Paragon is a fun, exciting twist on a tried and true game genre with incredible graphics and sound gameplay. Learning how to use all of the characters effectively has been a rewarding challenge, and with a new hero set to come on scene every three weeks, it looks to be a challenge that will continue to be rewarding for a long time. I would highly recommend buying Paragon to anyone, but here’s the catch: It’s actually going to be free to play in the future. So, by all means spend the money on a Founder’s Pack, or wait until the free Beta weekends, or just wait until the game releases, but do give this game a try.