A linear Action RPG that doesn’t deliver enough
Type: Single-player, Multi-player
Genre: Action RPG
Developer: Mad Head Games
Release Date: 27 Aug, 2019
Pagan Online is a loot-based, Action RPG where the gods that once fought against the demons, at least until the disappeared. The player, once a fighter in the war against the darkness, dies and finds himself in the Pantheon, the place that once was home to the gods. From there, it will engage in different missions to fight against the demons and rescue the fallen gods.
One of the first noticeable things about the game is the atypical control-scheme that uses the WASD keys instead of mouse clicks for movement. Not a completely innovative choice since other games like Victor Vran or Killsquad already thought about this before, but it works and not only makes aiming while moving easier, but also possible to play with a controller without much trouble. Also, don’t worry: if you prefer a click-to-move style of control, you can eventually enable it from the options.
The game currently has 10 different heroes to choose from, each one with its unique playstyle and abilities, instead of a class system like other aRPGs. Here it looks like the game fell in a kind of free to play model, letting the player pick one class in the opening mission and locking the rest behind some hours of grind. Thus, unlocking the first heroes is easy and doesn’t require much work, but unlocking all ten of them becomes tedious since each soul (the item required for the hero summoning) in incrementally harder to get. This is something that shouldn’t exist in a paid game.
Actual gameplay in Pagan Online happens in missions that can be picked from the Pantheon, the in-game lobby. Note that, unlike similar games, here there is no open-world, nor linked maps to travel in: instead missions are picked up from one of the multiple lists in the lobby.
Missions in this game are incredibly short and often reuse the same map multiple times. This wouldn’t be a huge problem if it wasn’t for their linearity: sometimes the difference between two mission taking place in the same map is that they take different turns (and still end up in the same place) or that they go the same way, with one going the opposite direction in respect to the other. The linearity is caused by the presence of translucent walls inside the map that force the player in a linear path. In this way, every resemblance of exploration was stripped out of the game and each mission is only a walk to point A to B, killing every enemy that appears in the middle.
This creates incredibly linear missions that can last even less than three-four minutes, creating a feeling of repetitiveness after going back and forth the lobby and the missions multiple times in a short period of time. It would have worked in a mobile context, where everything needs to be quick and simple, but in a PC game this manages only to break the continuity of the game.
Pagan Online gives me mixed vibes during combat: it manages to shine with some heroes, while with others the situation is completely different. The main problem with combat, though, is the incredibly small rooms where it actually happens. Translucent walls make another appearance here, closing the player in tiny portions of the map when he enters them, proceeding then to spam waves of monsters. This makes for incredibly repetitive combat sessions that feel too similar, strengthening the repetitiveness inherent in the aRPG genre.
Luckily, changing hero also changes the way combats play out, thus giving the game a resemblance of replayability that would otherwise be absent. The game has ten heroes that can be unlocked through the game and each of them has a different set of abilities with a connected ability-tree, used to get additional effects for these special attacks. While heroes are properly diversified, the same cannot be said about their abilities: some of them have, in fact, redundant abilities that do not seem to be of much utility. Luckily those can be swapped out in favor of more useful ones.
Looting in Pagan Online is a bit more complicated than in other similar aRPGs and that’s because of three different levels of the character(s). The first one is called might and measures the strength of the equipment, the second one is the actual level of the hero and measures its experience and which abilities and power-ups it has access to. The third one is shared between all characters and defines the quality of the items that are dropped while playing.
Except for that, looting is as straightforward as it is in other games: there are different rarity levels and different slots to fill: every hero has its own weapon and the rest of the equipment can be shared between all of them. It is important to note that equipment doesn’t, luckily, have a minimum level requirement and this helps a lot with grind when it comes to leveling up new heroes.
A disconnected world
The continuous teleportation of the player back and forth the lobby and the missions makes for a cheap solution, with the development team having to design fewer maps. This also disrupts the sense of continuity of the game and makes it so the game’s world never comes alive: in fact, it seems like it is composed of small separated maps, with nothing in between.
Also, talking about disconnection, I’ve never been able to play with other players, since the search for parties never actually found anything. This is probably due to the low player base the game has, normally counting 60-70 at any time. Quite unfortunate for a game that has online in its name.
Pagan Online takes the aRPG genre but doesn’t do anything new with it. Instead, it introduces extremely linear missions and small, repetitive maps and unlocking mechanics that make this game seems more a f2p-ish mobile port than anything else.