Having lived in a house of hardcore DOTA players for the last year, and being a semi-casual gamer ready to move up a gear, when I saw the Playstation Plus free trial of Paragon, I thought it was time to move into the scary world of MOBAs.
Paragon, like all Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas, follows a fairly predictable layout and set of rules. All maps have three lanes, with towers set up at regular intervals. Each team takes turn picking heroes, each of which has its own special powers, and fits into one of several categories including Tank and Medic. Players can buy items at a store, which give them ability buffs during the fight. It’s all very well thought out, and the gears of the game turn smoothly. Yet it can be daunting to new players. Knowing which lane to pick, when to engage other heroes and when to just kill minions, or when to flee and “jungle” – roaming around the man killing neutral enemies to level up quickly – is something that takes practice, and can be scary if a veteran player expects too much early on.
My experience watching other MOBAs had taught me to expect all of the above, but as with each different title, learning how to play as each hero requires a lot of time. The tutorial offered by Paragon is brief to say the least. Through a series of tool-tips, the game explains how characters are chosen, and how to equip item cards. It then throws you into the field of battle, where you’re given four helpful pointers: 1. Kill five minions, 2. Take down an enemy tower, 3. Take down an enemy inhibitor (a slightly larger and more powerful tower), and 4. Destroy the enemy core – and win the game.
Despite what is probably the best of intentions, these four pointers do not explain how to even begin playing as a specific character. For my first match, I picked Sparrow. As an archer, Sparrow attacks from long range, and shouldn’t really be caught in a fight. That’s fairly obvious from looking at her character, and after the half an hour match (or what I got through before my terrible internet cut out), I felt like I understood how to play as her.
Yet, for my second engagement with the enemy – this time as Steel – I managed to completely misunderstand my character’s role in the team. The post-game carnage report told the story: having died fifteen times, fifteen more times than any of my teammates, I clearly didn’t understand how to use the brutish-appearing android.
While this may be a very personal experience to a very inexperienced MOBA player, Paragon definitely needs to improve its tutorial. Five or ten minute mini-games to explain how to use the basic characters would be enough to catapult gamers into the mix of any match. While the matchmaking system is designed to only allow players below level three to play against AI, one match was sufficient to overcome the level barrier and potentially ruin another gamer’s day with my terrible jungle plays.
With so much competition on the console market for MOBAs recently – what with the release of Overwatch and Battleborn so close to Paragon, this title needs to appeal more to a wider audience of new MOBA players, not just those who fancy a more casual experience than the aggressive – and sometime hostile – atmosphere in the competitive PC world. While the free basic pass for the early access may be a nice touch for those who were interested, but didn’t want to shell out £60 for a “maybe”, the lack of basic game strategy makes it difficult to join in the game.