After months of early access, Paragon has received an update in the truest sense of the word. Monolith offers a more compact map, faster paced gameplay and various tweaks to the way Paragon’s played to the point that it virtually feels like a fresh start for Epic’s third-person MOBA. After months of testing though, with the wholesale changes being made here, Epic may have gone too far.
First up, and perhaps most obvious, is Monolith’s new map. The ‘legacy’ map will apparently return, but the Monolith map refines and simplifies the core layout, with the ultimate result being that everything feels far more immediate and more easily reached. Travelling across the vast original map could often be a chore, as could jumping into fast travel mode.
Boasting a safe lane that promotes farming, an off lane for a heavy hitting character, the jungle for brawlers and assassins, and the middle lane for those looking to go it alone, it’s still has a recognisable set-up from within the genre, but Epic’s implementation is second to none. Played on PS4 Pro, or on PC, Paragon is easily one the best looking games in the genre as well, and it’s likely to continue to improve until the game reaches its full release some time next year.
On top of the map redesign, each character’s base movement speed is ramped up, and removing travel mode streamlines movement no end. The sometimes-arduous journeys to the other side of the map now feel more manageable, as does moving between each lane when your teammates are calling out for help. Epic have clearly aimed for the game to feel more action-packed, and the changes are immediately obvious once you’ve started a round.
People are now more willing, or indeed find it easier, to help out teammates, or pull together to smash through a weakened lane. Allies show up a lot more regularly, but in turn there seems to be more opportunity for such showdowns to devolve into button mashing as everyone fires off every ability they have.
Of course, by speeding everything up and shrinking the play area there’s clearly been a loss to the strategic side of the game. Previously you would have had to plan out exactly where you were going, know what you were doing, and execute your plan to the letter. Now, whilst the game is clearly more accessible, it may have negatively impacted on the game’s most ardent fans. It’ll be interesting to see how Epic deals with that in future updates.
Epic also took to the opportunity to revise the card system, rendering some cards completely null and void, while bringing in a number of new ones. Overall, the system has become simpler, but you can still find hours slipping away as you tinker with the best set-up you can find in your hand’s forty-card limit. Alongside rebalanced and reworked heroes, there’s new places to explore as you play.
The new map plays very differently to the legacy one, and while some players may not like the more action-orientated approach personally I think on the whole that it works to the game’s advantage. One thing that hasn’t changed however is the game time, and even with the speedier outlook, PvP rounds can still easily stretch out to around an hour.
This is one aspect that could benefit from an alternate mode, especially for console gamers who may look for something that’s easier to pick up and play – Overwatch, I’m looking at you – rather than having to hunker down for such a big chunk of time. While it’s obviously an aspect of the genre, and I absolutely wouldn’t want to lose the core Paragon experience, a different option would be welcome. It could be that the legacy map will return in order to promote longer, more strategic encounters, while, with further changes, Monolith could become the foundation of a pick-up-and-play orientated mode.
Thus far, the Monolith update has split the Paragon community and it’ll be interesting to see whether all of the changes Epic have made actually make it all the way through to the finished game. In making it more accessible they’ve also clearly removed a layer of difficulty and strategy and for some of the most ardent players who’ve already invested in it that will likely sting.
It’ll be the continued community support though that will guide Epic on it’s continuing journey with Paragon. No matter what, it’s worth taking the time to get involved now with what has been, and will hopefully remain, one of the year’s best multiplayer experiences.