by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
I’m a sucker for a good ARPG – there’s not a whole lot that’s more fun than picking a character class, acquiring mountains of unnecessary loot, and doling out damage to make waves of enemies explode into a violent mess. That’s what Pagan Online is bringing in this upcoming Action RPG from Wargaming and Mad Head Games. Presently, it’s in Early Access on PC, so there are some things I can’t really complain about, like lag pockets/slowdown. This was likely due to me playing on EU servers, so moments like that are bound to happen. Pagan Online’s story is inspired by pre-Christian Slavic mythology, so it’s got a very bloody, dark feel to it, and I love it. The movement took some getting used to, as I’m used to left-clicking to move around in ARPGs on PC. It’s not bad, but it definitely took a bit of adjusting. This is a game I think would go well with a controller, but that’s personal preference.
On the note of movement, there is something that felt awry. The default button for my characters dodge/roll ability is the Left Shift Key. So you need to make sure your mouse is pointing in the place you want to roll to, otherwise, you just dodge off in some random direction. This is key to the Lifeleecher (Anya)’s moveset because it also drains health from her targets. The idea is that you kite all the enemies into a spot, hit them with the Root, the Slow, throw your big Blood Bats, and dash past them if they live to get some health. Many waves of enemies have at least one large enemy that can drop tons of aoe, knock you down, or charge into it. If you don’t use your dash ability wisely, you will definitely suffer for it. Death means you start the map over (but you can spend gold to refill your potions at least), so while this is a hack ‘n’ slash, you still have to be careful.
Pagan Online’s an interesting game though. You access a map that takes you through the stages you slaughter your way through, and the maps themselves are broken up into sections. Once you reach an encounter spot on these maps, a few waves of enemies will appear and start fighting you. You can’t progress till they’re all dead. This can become troublesome when you have monsters with the “Summon” tag because they will keep hassling you with more adds until they die. Upon reaching the end of the map, and the final wave of said map, there will be an incredibly dramatic slowdown, a gong, and you’ll be told it’s the Final Wave. One thing I do think is interesting, is that you don’t receive any loot until the entire portion of the map’s battles is over. You can’t escape battle either, so you have no choice but to go all in.
In addition to the story battles, you have side missions and assassination missions. Side Missions come in a few varieties, like Survival (survive waves until the time is up), Defense (defend a structure through all of the waves), and Patrol (patrol a map and kill anything you come across). These all more or less feel the same, but it’s a good way to farm up extra loot, exp, and assassination keys. Side Missions grant these fragments, and upon having enough (and completing the pre-requisites), you can tackle Assassination Missions. These are more challenging stages, where your goal is to kill a particular Elite. Succeeding helps you get Shards, which are one of the more serious gripes I have about Pagan Online.
There are eight characters that are playable in Pagan Online, each with their own cosmetics, colors, and poses. They all have unique ability sets and traits to unlock. In this iteration of the game, we could only pick from three out of the eight. This would not be so bad if you could try the characters out, but at least you can see what their abilities are, what they do, and what their primary stat is, so that’s a positive. To unlock the other characters, you need Shards. Each character requires 50 shards to unlock, and other than doing Assassination Missions that drop those shards, you can only hope. I’ve been playing Pagan Online for the past four or so days, and I’ve received four shards total – two of them were for the character I was already playing!
At least these extra shards put you towards unlocking cosmetics for the characters you own. As this is a retail game though, I would imagine that characters would be a significantly easier grind. This is a mechanic I expect to see in free-to-play games. My solution would probably be to unlock them through the story or simply let players unlock a new character per chapter. Since it’s all one account and these characters’ legend is tied together, this would let players unlock without feeling like they have to grind for hours, days or even weeks to get more character options. The actual combat is great though. The powers are easy to aim, the actual attacks and sound effects feel satisfying. I only had the opportunity to play one character, thanks to needing 50 shards per character.
Your Hub has plenty to do though. It was also nice to see a few other players in the Hub, and hopefully multiplayer will be added soon. That promises to create some truly spectacular encounters. Between battles, you can increase the strength of your powers through passive traits (using materials and stones you receive from leveling up), craft powerful new gear, and get rid of the extra gear you picked up from previous battles. Occasionally, you’ll receive blueprints in battle, and these are how you make new gear. When you use a recipe, you also need that type of gear (weapon, necklace, et cetera) in addition to the materials. In the early levels, this will make those generic, common pieces of gear suddenly become useful, so don’t throw them away immediately. If you have gear that you don’t like the stats for, you can reforge it! The higher level your Smith, the greater the possibilities for your gear. I do wish you could purchase more than one Health Potion at once though – you have 9 you can hold at once, but I’d rather be able to refill those charges in one go, instead of slowly purchasing them one at a time. As you complete missions, you’ll also receive Card Packs, which when opened give you more crafting/skill mats. This is handy to cut the grind down a bit.
The Story So Far:
Honestly, I’ve really enjoyed this game so far. My complaints are minor, and overall the game is incredibly satisfying to play. I was hoping to play more of the characters, but that will require a lot more grinding on my part that I was able to fit in during my preview. The NPCs were pretty great, I enjoyed watching my character grow stronger with each battle, and each encounter was genuinely difficult unless I grinded beforehand. I found myself going back to earlier missions and stages to over-level some of the harder fights, but that’s how I approach games that give me a recommended level/power rating. You’ll see that too, a Might Rating. Lots of things made me think of free-to-play/mobile games, and as long as that doesn’t culminate in a real-money shop that has pay-to-win functionality, I’ll be okay. I would, however, like to see the grinding for characters to be a little less frustrating. Pagan Online has a lot of potential though. It has a grimdark, bloody charm that I appreciate.
Note: A game key was provided for preview purposes.