Paragon is a game that's had an eventful pre-life. Its first stabs at marketing were remarkably unclear, and it has the dubious honour of blocking a guy named Muhammad Khan because of a government block list mix-up. The game itself? Less remarkable, so far. Paragon is, to put it simply, a big ol' MOBA stew. Perspective-wise, it's most like SMITE with its pulled-in camera and action-game-inspired mechanics, but it also draws on DOTA 2 (general complexity, last-hitting), League of Legends (a big jungle) and Heroes of the Storm (team-oriented mechanics) to name a few. It's also got a broth of genre comfort food: slow-moving creeps, a mult-tiered laning phase, matches that usually run for 30-45 mins and a host of familiar heroes.
Here's what it looks like:
And here are some quick thoughts based on my time with Paragon during a recent preview event in San Francisco. Bear in mind that I'm not super experienced with MOBAs (I've played The Big Three a little in various phases, but never enough to get good), so these are neither outsider nor insider impressions. I'm a betweener, I guess. That word sounds weird.
- Paragon's approach to lanes is super cool. There's pronounced elevation differences between the lanes, so you can, for instance, physically glance down into the jungle. Or at least, the parts you can see. Hidden paths and all sorts of natural/supernatural flora and fauna allow you to disguise manoeuvres and take opponents by surprise. They make hero fights exciting on a moment-to-moment level, challenging players to draw on an immediate awareness that might not be as necessary in top-down MOBAs.
- There's a card system. Essentially, you end up deciding which items will end up in your mid-match item store by building a persistent deck. While playing as the hulking, squid-bearded Rampage, I assembled a deck to make to accentuate his tanking qualities, ultimately making his health bar so huge that it could nearly be seen from space. Then I leaped between lanes (Rampage is at his best when he's jumping sky-high and physically crashing people's parties) and turned the tide of multiple skirmishes. Epic's hope is that people begin to build decks to counter each other's decks, forming an ever-evolving meta. Also, while they haven't said what elements of Paragon they're gonna charge real money for yet, Epic have reached out to say that they will "never" sell card packs. That is, come to think of it, probably for the best.
- It doesn't feel amazing. I mean, the game's overall feel is fine, but movement is kinda floaty and hits lack weight and tangibility. While I was playing this struck me as odd, given that Epic is the company behind games like Unreal Tournament and Gears of War. Remember the first time you gibbed somebody in Unreal? Remember how heavy you felt while roady running in Gears? Oh, and then there was that whole thing with the chainsaw gun. Taken on its own merits, Paragon feels functional, but there was an opportunity to introduce some of that Epic tangibility to MOBA combat and movement, and it's not really here.
- The characters are... fine. I spent most of my time with Paragon as two vastly different heroes, Rampage and Twinblast. Rampage was a meaty hands-on tank type, and Twinblast was all about evasion, firing away with his two pistols and looking like Nathan Drake from Uncharted. Both were fun enough to play as, but they didn't have much going for them in the novelty or personality departments. Most characters I played against seemed that way. They fit traditional MOBA roles and, to Epic's credit, didn't feel overpowered or shoehorned-in. But none of them really excited me either. They just kinda... were.
The short version? I had fun with Paragon. It was a decent time. Team fights got people hollering, and big pushes were thrilling. Tides turned, creeps got mowed down like unruly weeds and heroes either evolved over time or fell into hungry pits of obsolescence. Paragon checked all the MOBA boxes. I'm just not sure if it has any tricks up its sleeve it can truly call its own.