Multiplayer online battle arena or MOBA games began their journey with Aeon Of Strife in Starcraft and later with Defense of the Ancients in Warcraft. In fact, first MOBA tournaments were played in DotA. Today most MOBA players swear their loyalty to DOTA 2, Heroes Of The Storm, League of Legends and SMITE and it's safe to say that these games have become the go-to games for high-quality MOBA. The popularity of these games meant that other developers will look to try their hand at the genre. So far, most attempts were met with mixed response from the players.
But, a while ago, Epic Games entered the fray with Paragon. An original IP, third person MOBA that is sure to shuffle the deck, even while still in beta. Read below to see how it does so far in the development process.
What initially drew me to Paragon was simply the aesthetic. The mix between fantasy, sci-fi futuristic and bestial characters and the mysterious setting. I also liked the fact that the characters are completely new, not based on mythology like in SMITE or existing characters like Heroes of The Storm. It is a joy in itself getting to know these characters, checking out their alternate skins and reading up about them. Currently, you can glean only the bare bones of their character and story thanks to a few videos and skin descriptions. I would like for these guys to get the Overwatch treatment down the line, where, due to popularity, the dev expanded greatly on the background stories with other content like comics for example.
Jumping into the game you have your standard MOBA mechanics. Three lanes, middle, off lane, and safe lane – each with three towers. Starting points of each team also contain the core, the destruction of which is the ultimate goal of the game. Minions spawn at regular intervals and are sent in on their merry way in their lane and it is your job as a hero to assist them in taking down enemy towers and pushing for the core.
The last tower before the core is called the inhibitor. Its destruction will result in super minions spawning along that lane who make short work of regular minions and forces the enemy to divert more attention to that particular lane. The jungle or the area between lanes is as you would expect, populated with neutral creeps that can speed up your experience gain. There is also one boss creep whose destruction results in a temporary buff to the entire team that can really help push a lane.
Heroes fall in the standard MOBA categories and for the most part, they, even though the game is in beta, feel balanced and highly dependent on the way you play them. As with any MOBA, you need to feel which role suits you best. Do you like being at the front and center, your sole focus being high damage output? Or perhaps you like to support your teammates? Ambushing enemy heroes? Being able to take a lot of hits before dying? I, for example, enjoy heroes with high mobility and base damage, even though some heroes fit the bill, their abilities don't suit my playstyle so I switch to alternatives.
Currently, there are 35 heroes to choose from, and while this is significantly less than the competition, it is enough (for now) to experiment with and find which one suits your playstyle. This number is sure to increase as new heroes are released roughly every three weeks. Keep in mind that focusing too much on a certain hero can spell bad times if it gets nerfed down the line. Since this is still in beta, expect more changes than usual in MOBA's that are full 1.0 releases. So mix up your game every now and then.
Paragon uses a card system for character upgrades. This greatly reminded me of Warframe and is a system I'm well used to and enjoy. Each character has a certain affinity which is best exploited with similar affinity cards (active or passive), each of which can hold up to three upgrade cards. Throughout a game, you earn character, as well as card experience by killing enemy heroes, minions and jungle creeps. You can then spend the points you earn on cards and their upgrades. Each card additionally grants certain stat boost or passive effect once it is fully slotted with three upgrade cards. The system is addicting and the feeling of a carefully built deck paying off in the game is second to none.
Currently, the game features 3 modes and only one map, the Monolith. Player+AI teammates vs. AI, Players vs AI and PVP. The Monolith update really brought the Paragon to another level as the game got faster, more action oriented and generally more approachable. Even though the game plays faster, expect most PVP matches to last from 30 min to well over an hour.
Penalties for leaving a match are severe and there were a few instances where AFK players resulted in matches being surrendered in the first 10 minutes. Nevertheless, the community is approachable and friendly, often advising character changes for better team compositions while in the game lobby, and generally being helpful during a match.
It is also one of those games that are not in your face with a cash shop as most items can be obtained by playing the game. And you will obtain a lot of stuff. The reward system is insanely addicting as it feels like every time you log in, win, lose and do just about anything – you are rewarded with skins, cards, chests, loot boxes, keys, levels and other stuff. Even when opting to purchase something, you will find that the prices are really reasonable, which is all the more commendable considering the fact that the game is completely free to play.
Visuals and audio
Paragon is powered by Unreal Engine 4 and it shows. It is by far the pretties MOBA game out there and where other MOBAs mostly take a more stylized approach, Paragon goes for the full blown Unreal treatment with sharp, realistic textures, effects (screenshots don't do them justice), and all the works. The fact that the game is played in the third person in a genre that more often than not opts for top down perspective, helps round out the visuals and contributes to it sometimes feeling like a pure action game.
There is little in the way of voices besides the announcer and music features only a couple of tracks, none of which are memorable. Sound effects for weapons and abilities, on the other hand, sound great, impactful and synergize well with the superb visuals. It all plays smooth for the most part but if you are coming off another MOBA, expect for this one to be a bit more power hungry due to reasons stated above.
Paragon is still in beta and it already sometimes feels like a full blown release. I was hooked from the beginning on the characters which are only going to increase in number and mechanics which will improve in quality. Epic is definitely going in the right direction with this one and I highly recommend that you give Paragon a go. It's the kind of free-to-play game that will have you buying coins even though you unlocked everything just to support the exciting potential for the future of the game.