I started playing League of Legends just under a year ago more as a joke than anything else. MOBA is, as we all know, a dirty word, and playing with other people is a hassle at the best of times. I was more surprised than anyone when Skyrim started taking the back seat for this crude looking, beautiful genre. Paragon is League, but I didn’t actually know that when I booted it up on my PlayStation: I saw a dark eyed femme fatale and the words ‘play for free’ and I thought ‘why the hell not?’ Note going into this that Paragon is still in beta, meaning the game could go through many changes and improvements by its full release.
Mechanically, it’s a gem, with phenomenal visuals to boot. Every character I’ve played so far has had some pretty flashy abilities that feel good to use, the characters themselves meanwhile looking damn good using them. The Countess and The Revenant in particular drew my eye, as they simultaneously appear wrong in this sci-fi universe while slotting into the roster seamlessly. The environments are detailed, exciting to explore and no less that I would expect from a company like Epic Games, while many characters manage to pop out against this backdrop in a way that just feels so right. Maybe it’s just me that still gets excited about the use of physics on clothes and hair, but in Paragon I still get that twitch in my heart when I see my coat flap open dynamically as I run. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and exactly what I would expect if League was developed by a company with a bigger budget.
On the other side of the coin, Paragon seemingly neglects sound as being particularly relevant to player experience. All the time you’re browsing menus on the homescreen, the music feels powerful and exciting, which is exactly what you would want from this calibre of game. This does not follow through into matches though – I think I might have heard one or two notes, but aside from that all we have is silence. There is the argument that in such a competitive genre, sound effects and the information that they can convey is far more important to players, but it also means the game feels lifeless. This goes for characters as well: characters in League of Legends feel vibrant, unique and alive, in no small part to the lore and character relations that Riot has built up, but also because of characters quotes and dialogue. Aside from bright colours and pretty physics effects, characters in Paragon struggle to stand out as being unique personalities, and it’s a real shame when there are some great character ideas in there. Serath in particular has this way expressionless way about her that could definitely be mitigated by just that tiniest injection of personality.
The game also does a really poor job of explaining to new players the rules. There is a brief tutorial covering basic gameplay mechanics, don’t get me wrong; I’m talking more about what’s expected of me once I get in-game with nine other people. MOBAs are renowned for the toxicity of their playerbase, so if getting called ‘noob’ or ‘feeder’ isn’t something you can be bothered to deal with, I’d definitely give this one a miss. I’d played pretty poorly during my fifth match – I didn’t know where my character was supposed to go and no one had any intention of helping me. Every time I died, one player in particular would ping me a ‘Good Job!’, and told me to enjoy my inevitable ban. This only happened twice that I can remember, but the community has a huge impact on how a player can experience this kind of game. As difficult as it might be in an ever changing landscape of character balancing and gameplay metas, I feel many new players would appreciate a more in-depth walkthrough of what will be expected of them by more veteran players.
As a free to play game, if you’re able to run it then I’d definitely recommend giving it a go. Paragon manages to give players that MOBA experience in a format closer to that of, say, Call of Duty or Skyrim, with the variety in character capabilities meaning the game never feels restrained to either of those games’ genres. With a little bit of audio design and a tighter focus on making the game more accessible to new players, this one could really turn out to be a masterpiece.