To play Pagan Online is to grind. Grind the hero level. Grind the hero piece. Grind rare monster drops. Most action-RPGs are comfortable with a certain amount and wear it proudly, but Pagan’s unlockable heroes and micro missions are like a free game that is yearning to suck as much of my time and money as possible (although it’s not free to play), retain another enjoyable experience.
Pagan Online came up with a simple but effective concept:
Exotic MOBA heroes in a pure PvE mission sequence, due to looting items. The 10 heroes at launch offer a variety of exciting gameplay and ideas, such as Anya, the blood whip-wielding ruler, Lukian, a floating elemental wizard with light and fire magic, and Masha, a rotating dancer with sound tambourines.
I started with Kingewitch, a classic barbarian with attacks like hurricanes and leaps and bounds and a name I’m still not sure how to pronounce. WASD-controlled heroes and mice, creating a twin shooting feel are becoming increasingly popular in modern action-RPGs.
“Ghosts circled their chains, armored encirclement beasts rushed across the screen, and sand bugs curled up into balls and surrounded me.”
In every mission, whether continuing the campaign long or jumping in once, I appear on a small map made up of most linear corridors and fighting a series of monster waves. With mouse and keyboard movement and dedicated dodging skills, the battle is more active and more like video games than traditional Diablo-like games. There was also a small amount of skill, forcing me to pay close attention as the enemy could hit my buttocks when I missed, leaving me in a bad position with my skill and wounded pride.
Enemies tend to appear in large numbers, sometimes filling the screen with dead hovers to enjoy meteor explosions, light runes, and tornadoes of my blood. Unfortunately, playing a long-range hero who can quickly kite enemies and avoid long-range projectiles always feels better than trying to wade into the crowd with one of the assassins.
Each mission takes place in minutes, limited by a final boss battle. I appreciate the fast loading time and the instantaneousness of the action, but constantly bending to and from small tasks doesn’t create a cohesive world and is an excuse to re-use identical layouts and maps using slightly different (or the opposite) paths. Even the campaign, despite its surprisingly excellent voice-over abilities and bold tone, largely consists of the same discrete maps and tasks.
Monsters are different enough to make re-playing a few desert, forest, and snow maps bearable. Ghosts circled their chains, armored encirclement beasts rushed across the screen and sand bugs curled up into balls and surrounded me, waiting to rush in. As with most action-RPGs, the usual difficulty is walking in the park, but things become much more enjoyable turning to harder difficulties, requiring more attention to position and power, and good balance loads.
After the opening events of the single-player campaign, I was deprived of all my abilities and sent to Pantheon, the heavenly central town of Pagan Online. In the first few missions, I collected a blacksmith, a salesman, and a solid woman granting access to my skill tree.
“The experience earned from each hero adds to my Overall Heritage Ranking. It’s a dream come true for us.”
When it comes to skills, Pagan Online is more inclined towards Diablo than Dota, offering a number of different skill and talent options. Each level grants a skill point, which can be used to improve (or unlock) a skill or unlock new skill tree buttons that can increase strength, range, duration or add entirely new effects, create some interesting rounds and allow me to focus on my favorites. Morioka, a scythe-wielding death god, can specialize in his shift harvesting skills to do double damage to feared enemies (thanks to his Horrible Visage skills). Hector’s flamethrower can be improved to cause dead enemies to explode in a glorious string of gore as I recall happy memories of the corpse explosions of Diablo 2.
Experimenting with different heroes and combining skills is the best part of Pagan Online. Instead of starting over with a new campaign, the heroes still exist in my account, and I can easily switch them when at the Pantheon, quickly swapping devices with shared reps. The experience earned from each hero will add to my Overall Inheritance Ranking. It’s a dream come true for us.
Unfortunately, unlocking additional heroes is a complete pain — the remnants from free MOBA’s to play that shouldn’t have been in an action-buying RPGs to play. Heroes are unlocked by completing assassination missions, which in turn are unlocked by sharpening keys and dropping random monsters in missions, which can take an uncomfortable long period of time. Assassination missions also drop hero pieces, which are used to unlock new costumes. All the costumes are tied to pieces dedicated to this hero instead of the actual career I’m choosing — another bad design option for a game based on the loitiles.
In Early Access, heroes are unlocked in a certain order, but for fully released assassination missions will now award a heroic soul after the first completion, allowing me to at least unlock any hero I want next. These choices are important, as the missions are later and therefore the heroes take longer to unlock
“The whole campaign is just one player, with online players limited to one-time missions for two players”
It’s a pity to unlock new heroes that are more complex than necessary, as Pagan Online did a great job encouraging me to play different heroes by removing restrictions on the items level and significantly increasing XP for any hero below my highest level. I often choose my hero based on the rare weapon dedicated to the character I find. I can reach 20 levels in just a few hours by giving them too strong equipment. Pagan Online upgrades its power to a new level.
Action-RPGs games are often great co-op games, but Pagan Online is strangely different, bringing one of the weakest player experiences I’ve ever seen in this genre, despite having ‘Online’ in the title. The entire campaign is just one player, with online players limited to one-time missions for two players. It requires a constant connection with its servers no matter what, creating the worst of both worlds.
I was also hampered by some nasty bugs. Twice my inventory was completely erased, a terrible challenge for a game based on the goodies and almost breaking the game. I’ve had certain skills that don’t work at all, especially summonses, for the entire mission, and sometimes voice sounds will be completely interrupted in campaign levels.
The core battle remains compelling and exciting, and the swap between different heroes and downloads is a blast, but Pagan Online can’t be introduced without some note: funness, hero crushing, and limited gameplay.