Playing with Powers in the “Paragon” Beta

This weekend I was able to play several matches in the Paragon stress test beta. Coming out next month for PC and PlayStation 4, Paragon is a MOBA that features a huge range of characters you can play as. That’s what interested me, even though I’ve never played a MOBA before.

During my time with the beta, I was able to try out four different characters. Matchmaking was a little dodgy, so I played co-op (five of us together, via the game’s matchmaking) against AI opponents. I played on PS4.

The first thing that struck me was the variety to the gameplay. Being able to choose from so many characters means you can play the game however you want. There are characters who go in with guns blazing, others with swords, some with magic or tech powers. It’s awesome. And in each match (which lasts at least a half hour, by the way), you level up as you go and can unlock all of the character’s abilities. I would say it takes half the match to unlock all of them.

These skills are unique to each character, so it’s worth checking out multiple heroes to see which you enjoy playing the most. For example, Twinblast, who uses guns, is able to double his firing speed with one ability. Meanwhile, Gadget, who specializes in tech, deploys a drone to seek and destroy enemies with one of hers.

All of these abilities are assigned to your PS4 controller buttons. You hold the L2 button to see an overlay window appear on the right side of the screen, which shows you which skills you can unlock or upgrade. The HUD makes this really clear and easy to do. However, since it’s a MOBA, everything happens live — there’s no pausing the action to read what each ability does and make a wise choice. I found it a little challenging to figure things out on the go, but part of that is just getting used to the pace of a MOBA. At least I was able to read up on what each ability did while my character was still in action. (The best time was when running to a new objective.)

paragon settingThere was only one map available in the beta, which was gorgeous but a little repetitive after awhile. You have three paths leading to the enemy’s core, and as you go down one of the paths toward it, you have to destroy the enemy’s towers. You also have your own towers, which your opponents will try to destroy as they move toward your core. It’s kind of a race.

There is a little bit of defensive strategy involved, but if you’re trying to keep your core from being taken, it might be too late. There was one match where all of my teammates were defending the core from the attackers, watching the core’s strength deplete as our opponents tore it down. Taking action with everybody else was fun, but at that point, I don’t think we could have won the match considering the enemy core was very far away.

medium-480-para2-snapIt took me about three matches to figure out what I was doing, really. Watching a tutorial video helped. The thing about destroying towers is that they defend themselves, with a laser that pretty much zaps you on sight. I died about 10 times my first two matches, which is crazy considering that once I knew what I was doing, one death per match was plenty.

The interesting thing is that in addition to your teammates, the game spawns minions that follow you around and fight alongside you. If you approach a tower, letting the minions go first means that the tower’s laser will target them — not you. That means you can stand back and fire at the tower to destroy it. As soon as your character is targeted, you have to run back, outside the tower zone where the laser can’t reach you.

On the flip side, you can use your own towers to your advantage. If you’re facing a tough opponent, retreating to one of your towers deters them from following you, because your tower will shoot its laser at them. This saved me countless times!

It’s exciting to push a lane and have your allies join you in taking down the later towers… or joining your team in another lane to focus on that end goal. Teamwork definitely makes the work go faster!

There’s a lot more to the game that I didn’t explore. For instance, you can equip cards that give you health or mana boosts, but you have to do this back at base (not in the middle of a match). I did this once and noticed a difference in how durable my hero was. However, I don’t know much about how cards work yet, so I’ll need to experiment more if I purchase the full game!

Overall, I’d say Paragon is a lot of fun, but very repetitive. I’m hoping more maps will change things up a bit. However, taking down tower after tower — even in pretty scenery, with different characters — may wear thin for someone like me, who enjoys the storytelling and worldbuilding of RPGs. In the beta, every match felt exactly like the last to me.

The exciting part was trying out different characters and abilities. Here are my quick impressions of the heroes I tried out!

Howitzer

howitzerThis was the first character I played as. Howitzer is some kind of little creature in a big old battle suit. He reminded me of Rocket Raccoon in Titanfall armor. What’s cool about him is that he excels at crowd control, with the ability to cast at range. He can fire a cannon, a missile, a land mine, and a grenade that slows enemies. The trouble for me was that his heavy armor makes him extremely slow. He plods along like he weighs a ton, because he might, and that felt really tedious to me. I won’t play as him again.

Dekker

dekkerDekker is a support character who wields a staff, which she uses to shoot energy blasts at her enemies. That was a lot of fun. I also love her character design. However, I was not as impressed with her abilities. One allows her to share mana with allies. Another is a Containment Fence, which traps enemies inside so they can’t shoot; allies trapped inside can shoot and gain a shield against outside damage. However, I accidentally used it once and trapped an ally who was fighting a hard battle against an enemy with a melee style, so he wasn’t able to fight from inside the fence. He had to jump over it. I felt bad about that one! I also feel that Dekker, being support, will be more fun to play if I’m alongside a partner.

Twinblast

twinblastI kind of hate Twinblast’s character design. He looks cool, but in a way that kinda makes me want to punch him in the face. However, I wanted to try playing with guns, and he is a dual wielder who actually does an amazing amount of damage. After playing as Howitzer and Dekker, he felt really powerful to me. His ability arsenal includes faster shooting, dual shooting, and a grenade. With other heroes, I was picky about which skills I actually liked to use — but with Twinblast, I found them all useful. If I pick up Paragon in the future, I’ll definitely play as him again!

Gadget

gadgetGadget is a chick in a belly shirt and crazy tech armor. One of her arms is even attached to a big old yellow claw. I thought it would be fun to try out some gadget-y abilities, and I was right. She can shoot a plasma blast, send out a bot that seeks and damages enemies underneath it, and deploy a sticky mine. An ability I used a lot was a gate that damages enemies who walk through it, but speeds up allies who walk through it. That was fun for a little crowd control. I also loved the Tesla Dome that basically enshrouds enemies inside it and rains down damage for a few seconds. Like Twinblast, I found all of Gadget’s skills really useful. However, I don’t think she dealt as much damage as Twinblast.


I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll buy Paragon or not. A part of me wants to, but I need to see if my partner will want to play it with me and what the other maps are like. The beta being so repetitive makes me feel like I need those things to boost my interest. Otherwise, I found the game very fun. =)

Ashley

5 Comments Add yours

  1. I don’t know much about Paragon, but from what you describe, it sounds like a very standard MOBA. From some of your descriptions, it sounds like the control scheme is a bit different? More like a shooter? That, I guess, would be the main thing separating it from all the others.

    The variety of playable characters is, I think, one of the main things that makes MOBAs so addictive. It’s certainly done a lot to maintain my interest in Heroes of the Storm. One day I might crush the enemy team with punishing AoE damage as Jaina, the next I may prefer to support my team with Tassadar’s Swiss army knife of utility, and then the next I may choose to eschew direct combat entirely and control the battlefield from the safety of my base as Abathur. And they add a new hero every three weeks (ish), so it never gets stale.

    Lack of map variety can be a real problem in a lot of MOBAs. It’s one of the main reasons I play Heroes. They have a big map pool, and every map has a totally different layout and unique mechanics. There’s even one where you cannot directly attack the enemy core at all. It can only be damaged by capturing shrines that spawn periodically throughout the match.

    1. Interesting. It sounds like it has a lot of the same pros and cons of other MOBAs then. It was a lot of fun to try out, but I just wonder how long it will hold my interest if the lack of maps, etc., is an issue, like you mention with other MOBAs here… Playing as different characters is awesome, though. And I love strategizing with different powers, so the way you mention playing Heroes of the Storm in a variety of ways with the characters sounds very addicting! I mean, that’s part of what made the Paragon beta so fun for me, I guess — switching heroes, learning new skills, figuring out how to master the battlefield as someone else, etc. :)

      1. A. K. Bogert says:

        Yeah, your entire description of gameplay was essentially a walkthrough of what a MOBA is (towers, minions, limited abilities you have to learn to use on the fly and develop over the course of a match, etc.). Map variety is exceedingly rare because MOBAs tend to be more like a sport than a competitive, say, shooter: same field, same ball, same goals, and the interesting part comes with learning how to strategize against other players and how to balance your character selection against enemy character selection. HotS may indeed be more up your alley if map variety is something you’re looking for, because changing the map is directly antithetical to the very core of MOBA design (see DOTA and League, the two biggest and most influential examples in the genre). I have played League off and on for four years, and got really heavily back into it over the past two months or so, and there are essentially only three maps in the game (and you don’t cycle through them — you pick which kind of map you are playing, and there are different rules accordingly).

        I don’t know how many characters Paragon has or will eventually have, but League currently has over 120, and so even if you were playing against the exact same people (which you of course won’t be), the variety comes from which of those characters you have learned to use and who you’re up against. For example, your teammate who struggled because he was up against a melee attacker — that entire encounter (including your misuse of your ability) was partly dictated by which characters were involved, and partly by how familiar all three of you were with your abilities at the time. Paragon’s first-person-shooter/action perspective sets it apart from its competition, and also hides the fact that it has more in common with Chess, soccer, and strategy games than with Halo or Team Fortress. It is an esport-minded genre — a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena; the digital equivalent of a colosseum — and as such it seeks to attract competitors and cyberathletes. The lore and storytelling, frustratingly, are rarely more than window dressings, despite the frequently very high production values and art quality in menus and trailers.

        All of which to say, it sounds like the things you disliked about Paragon are likely to apply to other MOBAs for the most part (except maybe HotS). If character style and variety intrigues you, you’re probably wanting to look into Battleborn (which is just coming out) since they have a single-player (or co-op) campaign mode and a similarly zany variety of characters to try out.

        1. Interesting! That makes a lot of sense. I must say I’m not very competitive but I do enjoy the slower pace here (compared to online shooters) and the emphasis on strategizing with character abilities. I’ll have to get used to the teamwork aspect, but as for the lack of maps, story, etc… I guess if that’s a MOBA thing, I’ll have to see if I end up getting into this one for the long haul or not!

          I have tried Battleborn and enjoyed it, but the cartoon art style isn’t my favorite. As silly as it is, that’s also why I’m not dying to play Overwatch, though I think I’ll give the beta a try anyway!

          1. A. K. Bogert says:

            The “slow” pacing is deceptive, unfortunately. While it may feel like the game takes a while to get going, everything that happens in the first minutes of the game sets a stage for what will follow. By the time you start getting into teamfights, you’ve probably already won or lost the game due to how you handled minions and towers in lower levels.

            Overwatch looks a lot less cartoony than Battleborn, imo, but it also looks a lot more like a typical arena shooter than a MOBA (I think really the only similarity is the huge number of characters). From what I can tell, each game looked similar a few months ago but they’re all unique experiences (which is unfortunate for anyone who was considering getting one and just wanted to know which was “best”). That said, art style or not, Battleborn looks like the only chance you have of liking anything MOBAesque, as it’s the only one that injects a narrative focus and isn’t attempting to become an esports platform. Regardless, hope you have fun!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s