Platform: PS4, Windows
Reviewed on: PS4
Genre: MOBA, Third Person Shooter
Written by Dragoon 1st May 2016
I'd like to say I'm somewhat of an expert on the MOBA genre by now, having logged well over a thousand hours on League of Legends whilst also having dabbled in most of the others available. I'd have to say that out of all the ones I have played to date Paragon has to be one of the most unique. Mixing traditional MOBA elements with 3rd person shooter elements, Paragon aims to provide a unique and exhilarating gameplay experience. Can Epic Games pull off this ambitious project or does it end up being less Paragon and more Renegade?
Paragon is still in it's early beta phase which means nothing at this point is final. There are some things that are unfinished or to be added but even at this early stage you can see that it has all the things to be great with some tweaking. For those unfamiliar with the MOBA genre (MOBA standing for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) the fundamental elements are a map split into various lanes which are each dotted with structures. The players each control a powerful unit with unique abilities whose objective is to push forward with the weak AI controlled units to destroy these structures whilst battling against the enemy team who are trying to do the same. Traditionally MOBAs are played from a flat isometric viewpoint but Paragon plays more like a 3D 3rd person shooter. While it's not the first MOBA to be in 3rd person it does it in a unique way, focusing more on fast paced action and the ability to move freely on the map.
This would be great if that's what Epic Games could deliver but as the game is right now the main word I would use to describe the game is slow. Everything about the gameplay seems slow, the heroes plod down lanes and this lack of speed is amplified by the much more interesting travel mode which lets you speed around the map as long as you are out of combat. Fights with other champions also feel needlessly long with a surprising amount of heroes being so bulky that it can make a fight take a good five minutes to end and even then it probably won't end in a kill with the huge amount of mobility available. The biggest offender to me was the hero Rampage, a hulking great beast who falls into the Tank category. Units in this category traditionally trade mobility and damage for a huge health bar and damage absorption but this hero seemed to ignore this fundamental rule. He has a ridiculous pounce ability that lets him leap a huge distance across the map which when coupled with his ability to increase his size and health bar in a pinch makes him extremely hard to kill.
This happened to me many times throughout the game, I would spend ages wailing on one of these walls for them to just leap away from me with reckless abandon or in another case I would be fighting an assassin role hero (who traditionally trade defense for speed and damage) who would suddenly go invisible when I was about to finish them off and casually fade away. It was often frustrating and I felt like I was just wasting my time fighting these heroes. This is another issue I have the game, I often felt like my time was being wasted. The respawn timers after death felt overly long at times and it always felt like an age to take down a wave of the enemy minions, even at higher levels with fully upgraded items. The great thing about 3rd person shooters is that they are fast and responsive whereas MOBAs have always been slower paced but if Epic Games could find a good middle ground they could be onto something great because when Paragon works, it works well.
There is only one map available at the moment but it looks fantastic and makes good use of elevation. The jungle between the lanes is actually on a lower level than the lanes which leads to some great moments, you can see people running about underneath you and jump from above for a surprise attack. There are also some places that let you shoot down on enemies so making use of this is key, it's a unique concept that takes some getting used to for veteran MOBA players but it’s a lot of fun. Another unique aspect of the map is the various harvesters spread throughout, you can capture these structures for your team and over time they will fill up with experience points which anyone can cash in for your whole team. Objectives like this give the map some great focal points and help put a good emphasis on objective control.
Paragon has a great cast of heroes that are fun to play as but, as mentioned before, not always against. Each has a unique set of skills which are a blast to use, are easy to get the hang of but learning when and how to use them will take time rewarding those who put in the practice. An interesting feature that a lot of MOBAs don't traditionally have is unique basic attacks, usually the only thing unique about them is the range and speed but in Paragon each hero has one that matches their style which is a cool little thing to have. Due to the 3rd person view point you have to manually aim these attacks which can be difficult to do quickly on console which leads us to the next issue. Paragon is available on both PS4 and PC and supports crossplay, while this sounds great at first it soon becomes apparent that those on PC have an advantage, a controller just can't match the speed and precision of a mouse and keyboard setup which means console players will always be at a disadvantage. It's a sacrifice that Epic Games were willing to make but in a competitive game like this anything that gives some players an advantage should be handled carefully.
This leads me onto one final point about the gameplay. Paragon offers a strange mechanic for powering up your heroes, normally in a MOBA you'd buy items ingame that bolster your abilities and everyone would have access to the same set of items but in Paragon you build a deck of items using cards you get from packs you earn by playing. This is interesting but it does again bring up the issue of a potentially unfair system, surely someone who has been playing longer will have access to better cards and more varied decks when compared to a new player who is stuck using the defaults? This is something Epic will have to be very careful with since it could create an issue of balance, there's a reason every other MOBA has a set list of items that can be used and tweaked for everyone.
As I touched on before Paragon is an amazing looking game. Built using Unreal Engine 4 the game is without a doubt one of the best looking MOBAs available, everything looks great from the detailed map to the expressive character designs. Obviously this had to be toned down for the console version but it still looks great and there are no technical issues caused by the high graphical quality which is critical in a competitive game like this. The only issue I have is that it can be a little hard to tell what's going on when playing on console due to the strange blur the PS4 version seems to have. It's a minor inconvenience and one that doesn't really affect the game once you get used to it but it's still worth mentioning.
Overall Paragon has all the tools to be great but it just needs to make sure it's using them properly. The gameplay's fun when it works but at times it's slow and it can feel unfair. The map is varied and interesting making good use of elevation and the heroes are fun to play as and varied, though they can be frustrating to play against. I'm not a fan of the card system they have or of the crossplay feature but these are things that could work if handled correctly. A MOBA is only as good as its community so it'll be interesting to see if Paragon can stand the test of time and hang with the big dogs like League of Legends and DOTA. There's still plenty of time to tweak the game and Epic Games have already been taking the necessary steps, hopefully they can keep it up. It's not quite a true Paragon but it's not full Renegade either, we'll see if that changes in time.