Platforms: PC, PS4 (reviewed)
Editor’s Note: While Paragon is technically still in its open beta stage, the fact that it is now publicly available and that Epic Games is offering several different paid opt-in packages (including a physical retail version) means that, for all intents and purposes, it is a fair subject of review.
Ever since it initially became available last year through a pay-to-play closed beta, Epic Games’ new MOBA title Paragon has struggled to present a clear picture of the exact sort of game it is. Hearing Epic describe the game and perusing through screenshots, one would assume it was some sort of fast-paced multiplayer shooter game not unlike the various IP’s which helped to turn Epic into a household name (IP’s like Unreal Tournament and Gears of War).
However, what Paragon appears to be and what it actually is have long been two drastically different things. A mere few minutes with the game was often enough to make the average player realize that, when Epic calls Paragon a MOBA, it really means it. Playable characters which looked like they felt at home skillfully dashing around the environment or charging headlong into battle would instead plod slowly up to enemy towers, helping their minions destroy said towers before the enemy team could destroy theirs. Sure, Paragon’s unique sci-fi/fantasy aesthetic and third-person gameplay perspective helped to make it stand out, but it just felt weird playing through the same slowly paced MOBA routine with characters that looked like they belonged in a proper FPS title.
With the recently launched Monolith update, Epic Games has directly addressed one of the biggest problems many players had with Paragon: its speed. Before, the game’s large map combined with the slow-moving nature of playable champions meant that a typical match could last anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour or more, something which only exacerbated the gnawing feeling which many players had that the game should just be more fast-paced overall. The Monolith update has corrected both those issues, shrinking the game map, making more clearly defined lanes of travel, and giving all playable champions a noticeable speed boost, so much so that the previously available “Travel Mode” feature (which was meant as an out-of-combat speed boost) has been removed entirely.
I personally got into the Paragon scene pretty early, having bought into the closed beta on a whim. I would play a match or two on occasion when I felt the mood strike me, but like many other players, I always wound up feeling a subtle yet tangible frustration at the game’s overall lack of speed. After having played through several post-Monolith matches, I will say that the game certainly feels more akin to my initial impressions, but it still doesn’t gel entirely with my particular gaming tastes.
As I said before, Paragon is, at its heart, a MOBA, for better and for worse. I’m not afraid to admit that, when it comes to MOBA’s in general, I prefer more casual-friendly titles like Heroes of the Storm over more complex beasts like League of Legends or DOTA 2. Using those games as a sort of rudimentary barometer, I’d put Paragon at a level which is slightly more complex than League of Legends yet not as complex as DOTA 2. To put it plainly, Paragon is the sort of game which you really have to devote yourself to if you want to know all the various ins and outs of what’s going on during a typical match.
Like most other MOBA’s, Paragon has three lanes of travel, towers which must be destroyed, a jungle area filled with neutral creatures, and a central core for each team which serves as the key to victory. With the Monolith update, it certainly feels noticeably more fast-paced than most other MOBA’s, and its third-person perspective combined with its focus on skill-shot-based abilities gives it a more arcade-y feel on par with Hi Rez Studios’ Smite, but its already large roster of playable champions combined with its poorly-explained deck-building system (yes, there is a deck-building element in Paragon) can make for a rough initiation if you’re not already experienced with the MOBA genre.
Still, aesthetically Paragon can be a very pleasing game to look at, and the game’s roster is already varied enough that you’re bound to find a champion or two that you enjoy maining. Also, unlike more mainstream MOBA games, all of Paragon’s current and future champions are free to all players (though Epic does use a somewhat aggressive tact when it comes to “enticing” you into paying real money for new character skins, boosts, card packs, and other bonuses). A future game update will allow players to open randomized loot boxes which can contain cosmetic rewards and Epic will undoubtedly continue adding champions and maybe even new maps and/or game modes as time goes on.
So, should you play Paragon in its current form? I’d say that if you’re a die-hard MOBA fan who has yet to give the game a try, now’s as good a time as ever with the new Monolith update. Other players seem to be reacting favorably to Monolith’s major changes for the most part, and it can actually be kind of exciting to get in on the ground floor and see how Paragon continue to take shape throughout its open beta period. Something tells me that Epic isn’t going to be dropping the “open beta” tag anytime soon (gotta have plausible deniability after all), but if you’re ok with a game that takes a little while to grow accustomed to, Paragon could be just the thing. As for me, I’ll probably continue to revisit it off and on, but as a more casually-included sort of gamer, there are other MOBA games out there which appeal more to my tastes.