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Pagan Online - The Action-RPG Meets FPS Controls in an Engaging Blend of Player Skill and Shiny Loot
Post by KostaAndreadis @ 03:18pm 18/06/19 | Comments
We go hands-on with Pagan Online, the new action-RPG from Mad Head Games and Wargaming that provides its own whirlwind spin on the genre.

Early Access gameplay capture of Pagan Online

When we think about the action-RPG genre, as presented via an isometric or top-down perspective, we all naturally cast our minds towards Blizzard’s Diablo series. Which admittedly defined the genre way back in the late 1990s. From there we’ve seen action-RPG elements find their way into the design of a wide range of titles across both strategy and even MOBAs. But, the key takeaway with all the above is that how you go about controlling the on-screen action, and looking at it, rarely changes.

Pagan Online immediately stands out and feels like its own thing based purely on the control method implemented – which is more Overwatch than Diablo III.

With the WASD keys used for hero movement and then a combination of mouse buttons and other keys to trigger abilities, it's a setup that owes a lot to the MOBA and hero shooter genres. Pagan Online’s combat is as much skill focused and fast-paced reactionary engagement as it is dependant on the colour of the current weapon you have equipped. It sets a tone and pacing that is unlike anything else in the genre, complimented by some already exceptional animation with hit detection that sells every axe swipe, ground slam, and whirlwind spin.

Published by Wargaming and developed by the Serbian-based Mad Head Games, Pagan Online was designed and built from the ground-up to offer fast-paced and quick rounds of engaging action-RPG gameplay in a fantastical world that draws inspiration from Slavic mythology. Well, still being designed as it’s currently available to play in Early Access via Steam, where players get to pick from a selection of the heroes and then level up and progress through a surprisingly cinematic story filled with rich characterisation and vibrant art. We say surprising because the world and lore is rich and complete with small little details and great voice acting.

"With the WASD keys used for hero movement and then a combination of mouse buttons and other keys to trigger abilities, it's a setup that owes a lot to the MOBA and hero shooter genres."

From the outset Pagan Online sets the tone and general flow of its progression – which is arena-based bouts of combat in quests and missions that might only take a handful of minutes to complete. With both a detailed story mode and side-missions and other activities a round of Pagan Online is meant to be a small slice of gaming, repeatable. Maps sizes are kept small as a result, and when you face off against waves of enemies or even an elite boss-like character, barriers appear to keep the fighting arena compact. It’s an interesting approach, and a core part of Pagan Online’s design - as seen by just how well it suits the control scheme.

But, at the same time the short-burst nature of missions constricts the overall size of the story being told or make it feel a little disjointed. For example, one early mission might have you walk a path to reach some castle gates, where you fight some enemies, meet a new character, and then exit back to the hub. And then you go back moments later to tackle the next few minutes.

It’s an original approach for the genre and it’s a solid foundation to evolve into a robust solo and multiplayer experience ala Warframe with some fine tuning and a little more variety.

In our playthrough, as seen in the gameplay footage above, we chose the impressive two-handed axe and even more impressive moustache of Kingewitch as our go-to saviour. Namely because at first glance there were definite parallels to the Diablo III Barbarian class – big ground slam attacks, spinning in a whirlwind of blade. Of course, when coupled with WASD controls the combat immediately begins to showcase its depth and difference to the action-RPG two-handed barb that we’re used to. Abilities like being able to dash, stun, knockback, or pull off large area of effect damage adds up to a hero and heroes that all have their own feel.

As an action-RPG naturally loot plays a role and will drop from enemies and explode out into the air when you open chests. From new weapons and jewellery and other stat boosting items loot in Pagan Online as it currently stands feels secondary to the core progression of a hero. Which feels more like an elongated version of what you’d find in a typical MOBA like DOTA 2. Where once you reach Level ‘x’ you gain a new ability and then again at Level ‘x’ until you’re fully equipped skill-wise. A simplified approach that according to the development team at was the only way in which Pagan Online was able to offer up such a wide range of playable heroes.

"From the outset Pagan Online sets the tone and general flow of its progression – which is arena-based bouts of combat in quests and missions that might only take a handful of minutes to complete."

According to Uros Banjesevic, founder of Mad Head Games and Pagan Online’s creative director, “we intentionally decided to go wide and not go deep.” A sentiment that immediately led to some of the lingering questions and hopes we had after playing Pagan Online. Will there be depth to individual heroes along the lines of fully customisable builds and different playstyles. Will the current arena-based combat expand into new modes and different styles of presentation. All born from the genuine enjoyment we had from playing the game after a few hours and seeing the potential for it to become a true action-RPG that could stand tall next to some of the bigger names in the genre.

“Right now, it’s time to go deeper with all of these heroes,” Uros tells me. “We’re [currently] in the process of building comprehensive skill trees to add more layers to active abilities from upgrades to augments to passives and all of that. We know that chasing loot just for stats can grow old very quickly, and you want to find legendaries and stuff that augments your hero. This isn’t the case right now, but we’re working on it.”

A sentiment that all but put a lot of our worries about Pagan Online to rest. The team at Mad Head Games clearly set out to create a fast-paced action-RPG that relies on player skill and engaging combat. In its Early Access state this can be felt, and the results are impressive, with an expansive world, story, and line-up of heroes to choose from. With word that the future will bring more depth and variety - no doubt we’ll be watching the development and playing more Pagan Online in the weeks and months to come.
Read more about Pagan Online on the game page - we've got the latest news, screenshots, videos, and more!