Where do I start? Paragon’s .42 update eventually went live on Wednesday night after quite a few technical issues prevented a smooth launch. Once the update went live I was keen to get into the action as quickly as possible, but I wasn’t really too prepared for what was to come.
The biggest change in this update is the cards. All old cards have been removed and replaced with some gorgeous looking new cards, but they are not a like for like replacement. Some of these new cards now come with added abilities and there are lot more active cards which makes things a little more interesting. There are now also Gems which augment whichever hero you are playing. There’s a lot to figure out and that could be a problem.
Epic had stated that they thought the old card system was too complicated for new players to understand, but compared to what has appeared in .42 it was a doddle. The deck builder in .42 is pretty terrible to be honest, because building a deck is now done in three stages. Choose one of five affinities, select up to twelve cards, then select a bunch of gems that slot into the Attribute trees. Although it sounds easy enough, in practice it makes little sense because you need to calculate how many points are in each affinity to figure out if you can slot the cards you have selected. Gems should really be on the same screen or at the very least done first.
What cards you can equip depend on where you spend Attribute points. Cards costs X amount of either Agility, Vitality or Intellect. They can also cost gold. There’s a chain of currency in play to get cards active: Get gold to buy affinity points and use affinity points to get cards. It’s a process that sounds simple enough, and in theory it is, but the way it’s been explained in the UI is not great to put it mildly. I noticed while playing that when players were back at base they were taking an inordinate amount of time to return to the fight. This is probably because they are too busy trying to figure out how many points they need in what affinity to equip their cards. I am keen to see Paragon change but the convoluted card system tied with gold and affinity points is quite messy.
In the previous version of the game, it was very clear how you were enhancing your hero, whether it be with more Power, Mana, Health, Attack speed etc. In the new version it’s far from clear and it means pouring over the text on cards to try and figure out what they do with their base stats and any extras they may provide. This means that creating a viable build can take quite some time to get right. That would be acceptable if the UI and deck building system were more intuitive and you could filter the cards better. In essence, the system is now more complicated to understand and less user-friendly which I am pretty sure was not something Epic was aiming for.
After about an hour messing with the deck builder, it was time to finally try out what was probably going to be an underpowered deck. The most noticeable change is the game’s pace. Epic has been pushing hard over the last year to get games down to around 30 minutes apiece, and one way to do that is to increase attack speed, minion waves, and movement speed. All of this has been done in .42 but, based on what I have seen so far, it appears to have had a negative effect on the way matches play out. Even though it’s faster, it feels less strategic and, for some reason I can’t yet put my finger on, less exciting.
The Paragon draft screen has also been changed and now provides some useful information on the player level without having to hover over. It’s a really good way to find out if you’ve been matched with less experienced players and it could save a lot of wasted game time.
As mentioned, Paragon now feels less strategic, and that’s due to a number of reasons depending on which hero you are playing. Minion waves come flying out the blocks as soon as the match starts and players take up their lane positions, so not much has changed in the early game. Once those tier one towers start to fall, and minion waves increase, it feels like there’s more pressure to fend them off and less time to think about how you and the team are going take down an enemy players to gain an advantage.
Now that basic attack speeds have been increased, and there are cards and gems that can increase it further, ranged heroes such as Twin Blast dash around the map with what is effectively a machine gun. It can be completely insane on characters such as Yin. What I find strange about this move is that Epic always wanted to make Paragon feel more like a MOBA and less like a team deathmatch. Now it feels as if they have gone full circle and ended up back at a fast-paced TDM experience with more MOBA elements. It’s quite an odd turn of events.
Another problem is Wards. Wards allow players to see the enemy when they are not in the line of sight of another hero or their minions. It’s a great way to keep track of where the enemy is on the map so the team can better plan a push or attack. As the ability to place wards would take one of the three card slots (it was reduced from five in .42), a player would likely opt not to place Wards. After ten games last night, I was the only player attempting to place wards. Doing so feels cost prohibitive, because once used they need to be repurchased taking away currency from placing more Attribute points. Epic really needs to look at this and at cater for more Warding, even if that means adding another slot for cards like this, as it was in the previous version.
The pacing of Gold acquisition also feels off. In only one game of the ten I played last night did I manage to get anywhere near the amount of Affinity points to slot decent end-game cards to really power up. This problem also occurs because games are generally shorter, so less Gold can be acquired. Playing as my Master Gadget I struggled in the early game, more so that I had previously. Only when it was near the end of the match did she feel viable. I was up against Iggy in mid-lane, and Iggy is now insane when it comes to clearing out lanes. Iggy’s turrets were also extremely hard to take down, so I would not be surprised if Iggy was rebalanced again. However, a lot depends on what Epic do with the rest of the heroes.
Support heroes feel a lot less important. Heroes that are not designed for support are now taking up support roles due to the fact that any hero can choose any Affinity. Phase is usually my best hero, but she was struggling to make much impact and felt like a sideline hero in the battle. I can see Epic taking a look at this but it’s to be expected as an issue when any hero can choose any Affinity. I have no idea how they will resolve that.
Paragon has certainly changed with .42, but I’m on the fence as to whether it’s for the better. Epic will need to take a major look at the hero balancing and the card system itself. Over the next weeks, they’re likely to be pouring over the data from matches and figuring out how where to go with it.
As someone who is not a huge MOBA fan, Paragon offers something a little different. Epic should listen to their player base and shape the game to what the majority of players want. To be fair, Epic has done this already with numerous aspects of the game; but there’s still work to be done to make Paragon feel right.
Admittedly I need to play more, I need to learn all the hundred or so cards, I need to understand the speed changes and adjust. But there’s definitely work needing to be done to find the sweet spot.