When Epic Games—developer of Unreal Tournament, Gears of War, and Unreal Engine 4—revealed Paragon, its gorgeous third-person action game, I was immediately taken with how it looked simultaneously chaotic and so damn polished. Until recently, the actual moment-to-moment gameplay hadn’t been really explained, but when that dreaded four-letter word, MOBA—Multiplayer Online Battle Arena— was uttered, my heart sank. The character designs were gorgeous, the combat looked explosive and fun, but for me (and many others), MOBA can be a dirty word.
All too often, the term recalls feelings of toxic competitiveness, a lack of openness to newcomers and a kind of RTS-style gameplay that tends to lack the immersive quality first and third-person games provide. After a long day, sitting down with a game like Dota 2 or League of Legends seems like the antithesis of winding down. The aforementioned games can feel like the holographic space chess set aboard the Millennium Falcon—hollow, distant, silly—except at some point, you’re also likely to be called a faggot.
The conceit behind a MOBA has always, on paper, seemed appealing. They’re competitive, sports-like games that seem ideal for a sort of cathartic, pick-up-and-play experience. The reason Paragon excites me is that it seems to be serving that kind of deep, strategic MOBA gameplay, while also providing the opportunity to shoot lasers at aliens or punch a robot in his big stupid face.
From IGN, David Jagneaux writes that Paragon “isn’t a MOBA with third-person shooter gameplay, or a third-person shooter with MOBA objectives – neither genre is diluted here. Paragon is a hybrid approach that not only retains the identity of each style of game, but liberates them in their singular glory.”
Therefore, while Paragon may not be for someone looking for a sort of “Diet MOBA” experience, the release of any new game provides an opportunity for newcomers to get in day one, and learn the game’s tricks alongside genre veterans. If Paragon can deliver on the promise of being a MOBA with a bit more of an explosive bite, I’m in. A bit less vitriolic name calling would be nice, too, but let’s take things one step at a time.