Pagan Online - The Early Access ARPG
I’ve been following Pagan Online since back when it was under an NDA. I thought it looked pretty cool – especially considering the Diablo Immortal debacle that had recently taken place at the time.
So I reached out to the team behind the game and talked to a couple of the team members. They were friendly and more than willing to not only answer any questions I had but help with any issues I was having with the game.
For those of you wondering, this is not sponsored at all.
Pagan is a fast-paced hack-and-slash action RPG published by Wargaming.net – the people behind World of Tanks, World of Warships, World of Warplanes, y’know.. all the “World of” games.
The game features – at least presently – 8 distinct heroes or characters as opposed to classes. I mean the heroes function more or less like classes would but they’re bound by their own personalities and looks.
Which means, of course, there is no character creation. There is some customization in the way of varied costumes for your heroes but otherwise.. you’re likely to be left wanting.
Upon entering the game I quickly learned that the combat style was very similar to games like Path of Exile or Diablo, which is good news since I enjoy both of them.
Naturally there are differences and those differences become abundantly more apparent as you progress further through the game especially with regards to difficulty and quantity of monsters.
As far as the combat itself, it’s possibly the most polished I’ve seen in a game of this kind.
Other than combat, story is a very prevalent part of the game. Progression, access to new areas, access to new features overall was handled via following the main story.
The story is pretty basic but basic stories have a certain.. charm to them, still. All of the Gods that once protected the world are now gone.
The world is in chaos and it’s up to you to recruit a group of like-minded individuals to assist you in combatting the darkness that has engulfed the world.
The story alone features a 50 hour long campaign to get through – and that’s without any side missions, DLC or expansion content.
The game, like most action RPGs takes place in a hub – you take quests, you recruit NPCs to populate the hub you’re in and those NPCs unlock new features.
There are plenty of features to unlock, and as of this video there are quite a few still locked due to the game being an Early Access title, but then again that’s to be expected as the game isn’t in a finished form.
I still don’t understand why we’re able to purchase unfinished games, play them while they’re broken, then get bored before they ever get fixed but what do I know.
I’m not a game developer so I don’t know anything about Early Access games.
But, I digress.
As mentioned, the game takes place in a social hub, meaning you come across a plethora of other players. The game is supposed to be playable with another person so the hub allows for you to locate other people to play with.
Unfortunately, co-op play was unavailable when I recorded this and I believe is still available currently as of this video going live.
The game itself is very linear. Where in Path of Exile or even Diablo III you’re capable of exploring the zone you’re in, in Pagan you’re limited to a few different directions you can take.
You run down a small linear pathway that is filled with hordes of monsters, reach a fork in the road, choose a direction, run down that linear pathway filled with hordes of monsters and.. rinse and repeat.
Then.. boss battle. Or, zone final fight. Which ultimately ends the zone and allows you to essentially progress forward to the next chapter of the story.
Each zone does have quite a bit of replayability with side missions becoming available in zones you’ve already cleared and new mission objectives like “killing x amount of monsters without dropping below 50% HP” or “not using x attack” requiring you go back and try to complete them.
While there isn’t much incentive to explore the areas you’re traversing, there are things like elite monsters and treasure chests locked behind timers that promote exploration. So it isn’t all bad.
When beginning the game you choose between one of three heroes.
You’re stuck with the hero you choose at the beginning but gain access to various other heroes as you collect them via “Hero Shards.”
Hero Shards are collected by a variety of means. I collected a few over the course of my journey but you require 50 per hero to unlock. That’s.. a lotta grinding. At least for some heroes as some are easily unlockable.
Each hero has their own unique abilities, their own skill trees, equipment types and playstyles and every hero is playable on the same account.
So swapping between characters or changing mains all together because you found someone you enjoy more is as easy as selecting them.
One thing I found.. limiting though was the skill trees themselves. I’m not saying more variety won’t be added in the future but right now there seems to be more or less a single build you can go.
With very little in the way of skill customization, you’re left almost with a sense that you have a negligible amount of choice on how your character is grown.
Loot management is a little.. ludicrous. See, you don’t find items or equipment like you normally would – after killing a monster or two.
Instead, each zone you go to has several “encounters”, which spawn a set of monsters to kill and only after they’re killed does loot spawn.
And boy does loot spawn. After two or three encounters your inventory is full and you’re left wondering if you should even bother picking any of the loot up ’cause most of the items are.. useless common garbage.
After each chapter I’d make it back to the quest hub completely filled with useless items and weapons to pawn off to the trader.
I’m more a fan of quality over quantity: I’d rather improved gear or increased volumes of money drop as opposed to low-quality common items and a few gold spilled out everywhere.
Think of it this way: You’re going out to a restaurant with a friend of yours. The restaurant ends up costing $150. Would you rather have 200 $1 notes or 4 $50 notes? Exactly.
Sorting through 150 $1’s would take forever. And that’s my point. There was no need for the abundance of low quality items after each group of monsters. It just made selling or trashing the items take that much longer.
But that doesn’t mean there was never anything of worth. Several times I had pretty sweet upgrades.. at least in terms of raw damage. But every piece of gear has additional stats like +strength or +fortitude.
So while you could increase the base damage of your character, you could also lower the overall stats of your character by equipping an item with inferior sub-stats.
This means you have to carefully plan every item you equip, which is a pretty interesting route to take. Especially if you’re a fan of min-maxxing in games.
For me? I love seeing my stats raise even slightly so sitting there wondering if the sub-stats would benefit me better overall than the small upgrade in base damage is my kinda thing.
Each story-related mission I went on in-game, at least during the first chapters’ missions had me meet a selection of NPCs.
As I mentioned earlier, the NPCs you recruit in-game come back to your quest hub and unlock various features like crafting, the Hero Forge, the merchant and more.
They have, like your character, their own personality and are responsible for some of the missions you go on.
It was definitely an interesting route to take – populating the quest hub with recruitable NPCs that have their own quirky personalities and stories associated with them but it adds a lot of life to an already refreshingly animated game.
Something that surprised me was that there was voice acting in-game. The entire game was voiced over in English. Every mission I took had someone narrating it.
Every feature I unlocked had the NPC associated with the feature explaining how it was used.
Every time I unlocked a new NPC they were all “whoa, hey dude, what’s up?” and it was all completely voiced.
A lot of it was actually pretty good. There were some exceptions, like the characters with strong foreign accents that you could tell were heavily forced and a little cringey but the voice acting was pretty good.
I mean I’m no professional voice actor so I have no right to complain or judge. Even though it’d be pretty cool if I were. Maybe I should try that.
One issue I found with the game, and this is a minor issue really because at the same time.. it isn’t even really that big of an issue, but it was the mobile-esque feel of the hub itself.
The Pagan team streamlined a lot of the options making them all more or less available anywhere from the hub itself.
This in part removed the need to really.. move. You could, for all intents and purposes, stand there and do everything you likely needed on the spot.
Having most of the features available from menus anywhere made it feel a little mobile-esque to me and I’ve been playing a lot of them for my mobile channel recently so it just kinda.. stood out and irked me a little.
Overall, my opinion of Pagan Online is that at its core, it’s a very entertaining game with a lot of potential.
It is a very beautiful game. Ridiculously good looking. The areas I visited, the animations of my characters and the monsters, the skill effects – everything looked so polished.
But then when you’re a publisher as large as Wargaming it’s to be expected.
The action combat is a little.. Iunno, difficult at first glance since it makes use of WASD instead of mouse clicks but it’s easy to get acclimated to after which it becomes an incredibly fun and addictive combat style.
There’s nothing quite like mowing down hundreds of enemies at once with your significant other. Makes for a great quality date night.
Questing and progression was fun. It was linear and limiting at times but replayability was very high thanks to various ways of tackling the objectives.
I expect this to be even more fun when you have to tackle objectives with another person.
Character NPCs that you meet and recruit were all fun and interesting, with some being.. a little over the top at times. But then I’m a fan of World of Warcraft, so.. yeah.
There are a lot of features in the game.. or, there are planned to be a lot of features in the game. The lack of features was very apparent and honestly, I feel as though more should have been included before the Early Access launch.
It likely would have resulted in more positive reviews on the Steam page.
Overall, for an ARPG the game was enjoyable. It turned out a lot better than I thought it was going to. I don’t traditionally play ARPGs so this was refreshing for me.
There are some things missing but for the most part, I had a lotta fun and I look forward to playing co-op with my wife when the game finally adds the feature in.