A great number of players have attempted to enter the MOBA space and have fallen flat on their faces. From the failure that was Infinite Crisis to Gigantic all the way to the upcoming title from NCSoft Master X Master, it seems increasingly difficult to break into a genre that’s dominated by two major players. Sure, titles like Smite and Heroes of the Storm have seen some success, but it’d be crazy to say that they’re even in the same ballpark as genre giants League of Legends and Dota 2. Paragon, which has been in Early Access since March of this year, is hoping that it can buck this trend thanks to an innovative take on traditional MOBA tropes and a dedication to console play. Of course, it also helps that Paragon’s developer, Epic Games, is one of the most heralded shooter developers in the history of the industry. It still remains to be seen whether or not Paragon will wind up taking the “third MOBA” crown away from Smite or Heroes of the Storm, but there’s certainly enough here to warrant some tempered optimism.
Paragon is set to hit Open Beta on August 16, which means that some significant changes will take place over the next couple of months. Epic Games has been taking a great deal of time evaluating all of the ins and outs of its newest title, and while there’s a great deal of promise to the concept of a third-person shooter that happens to be a hardcore MOBA, there are a number of major issues that need to be addressed. First and foremost, Epic is looking to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a given match, as even though the studio is right around its goal of thirty-five minute brawls, players can often experience unwinnable slogs that take upwards of an hour. Considering that Paragon is a relatively slow game, at least from a movement perspective, these long matches can cause the proceedings to get pretty boring, which is certainly not great for attracting new players to the mix. Another issue that has to be addressed is something that the development team dubs the Deathball. Essentially a strategy that involves splitting up to farm jungle camps and weaker players before joining back up to wipe an opposing team, the Deathball is a great way to win a match every single time, as it takes advantage of both the group experience mechanic and the relatively low level of character movement speed. Still, this is why you put a game in Alpha before opening things up to the public.
Even with some of the issues surrounding Paragon’s pace and strategic issues, there’s still a lot to love here. Being able to freely aim shots in 360-degrees definitely feels like a meaningful change to the genre, especially when you consider that Smite’s third-person gameplay involves a great deal of auto-aiming (making its gimmick feel like more of a perspective shift). Epic Games has years of experience polishing shooters and providing gamers with experiences that feel a class above many of their respective genre counterparts. Whether or not Paragon catches on is going to depend on how dynamically Epic roll out new characters, add in new features and build a game that feels as robust as Dota 2 or League of Legends. It’s a tall task, but if you were to list out a group of studios that has the potential to accomplish this, Epic would certainly be near the top.