The team-multiplayer space is going to get pretty crowded this summer. By the time kids are out of school and we all start calling in sick to enjoy the beautiful weather (or spend all day gaming), there will be three highly anticipated games competing for your time and attention. Battleborn is already here, Overwatch is right around the corner, and early access for Paragon is rolling out to a wider range of participants every week. The target audiences for each game blend into each other as each game has been marketed as the next big thing for those who enjoy team-based action or MOBAs. You’ll only dedicate yourself to one, though, and which one you choose will depend on what appeals to you.
Battleborn will absolutely appeal to anyone who likes Borderlands or Gearbox generally. Yes, Incursion is pretty much a first-person MOBA mode, but you can also go through an entertaining story mode that has nothing to do with escorting minions from point A to point B. It really is a brilliant mashup of a few different genres. Overwatch , on the other hand, is all about the heroes and their abilities. It’s an arena shooter that’s been confused for a MOBA because of its focus on class-based (hero-based) action, where unleashing a single powerful skill can turn the tide of battle. Blizzard already has its MOBA in Heroes of the Storm , though, and Overwatch is a completely new experience.
But how is Paragon new? How is it to set itself apart from the competition? I was granted early access to Paragon and spent some good, quality time playing with a handful of heroes. I’m convinced that Paragon’s main competition isn’t Battleborn or Overwatch anymore. Now that those games are more accessible to the general public people are understanding what sets them apart, but Paragon is a straight up, no-questions-asked MOBA.
It’s never tried to be anything else. It’s not trying to do anything other than shove tons of different heroes down three lanes, shepherding minions to destroy objectives. Paragon ‘s main competition is other, more established MOBAs. For people who have been playing DOTA for years, diving into Heroes of the Storm or SMITE… they hear “free-to-play MOBA” and think, “so what?” Paragon absolutely has to do this better than anyone else if it’s going to succeed, and I can say from experience that so far it’s missing the mark.
The few things that Paragon attempts to do differently end up bogging down the whole experience. Verticality isn’t something you see in the maps in most MOBAs, but Paragon ‘s level (the one and only level they’ve shown or let anyone play) encourages the player to climb up banks and small hills, or otherwise drop down into forested areas to do… something. The game does a terrible job of explaining what to do when you’re not in one of the main three lanes. There are these things called harvesters somewhere on the map, and apparently there are strong enemy NPCs you can choose to kill in the forest areas to utilize the harvesters, but after several hours I still had no idea what to do, and neither did my teammates. Over the entire weekend I never saw this special enemy NPC or a harvester in action.
Paragon also has a confusing card system that takes the place of the equipment upgrades in most MOBAs. Through consistent gameplay (or by spending real-world money) you can unlock various cards that offer buffs to your character, but like the standard leveling up you do during a match, you can only equip the best of these cards late in the match after you acquire the necessary points you need to activate them. Exactly how certain cards stack with others to achieve synergy isn’t explained clearly at all.
Pacing is another huge issue. When you do want to go equip those cards, you’re forced to leave your teammates behind and return to your spawn point to activate them. Making your way back to the action is a pain, especially late in the game when your teammates are across the map. The movement speed is horribly slow, and that’s something the community at large has been complaining about. Making 3-6 trips back to your spawn in a single match makes the whole thing feel like a dull slog.
This isn’t a game I can recommend to anyone – yet. It’s still in its early access stages, and Epic has emphasized multiple times that the game is still shaping up and has a long way to go. If you’re a huge MOBA fan, I’m sorry to say this might not be the game you’ve been waiting for, but when it’s ready it will be free to play so you have nothing to lose in trying it. The heroes did all feel very distinct, and they’re what will save this game if it can be saved at all. Has anyone else been able to play Paragon? If so what did you think of it? Are there any LoL or DOTA 2 players who are waiting on this as a viable alternative? Let me know in the comments so I can temper your expectations.