Wargaming has been known as a free-to-play publisher. The company has made a name for itself with titles such as "World of Tanks" and other military-themed efforts. But recently, it has made an effort to expand its portfolio with premium games.
These titles are priced and purchased like a traditional boxed game. The first effort was "Master of Orion," which was based on the classic turn-based strategy game. For its second premium title, the company turned to Mad Head Games, a studio out of Serbia. The team built a promising project on the Unreal Engine and showed it to Epic Games, who then contacted European publisher.
Wargaming checked out Mad Head's work and together they pushed forward on "Pagan Online." Uros Banjesevic, founder and CCO of Mad Head Games, said the team was trying to bring back the action aspect of action role-playing game. To do that, they rethought the controls of the genre.
Instead of moving by pointing and clicking, players traverse the "Diablo"-esque world by moving around using the W,A,S and D keys on a keyboard. It's more of a control scheme that one would find on a first-person shooter. It gives "Pagan Online" a visceral touch and immediacy when it comes to movement.
"We're passionate gamers ourselves," Banjesevic said. "'Path of Exile,' 'Warframe,' we looked at it. We looked at what we can evolve."
Beyond that, the combat buttons are the same as one would expect from a traditional action RPG with a standard attack on the left mouse button and special attacks with cooldowns tied to the right mouse button, center button and other keys. The combat is quick and fast-paced as players choose from one of three initial heroes: Kingewitch, a bruiser; Anya, a spell caster; and Istok, a beefy damage sponge. They're based on common RPG archetypes, and each have their own strategy behind them.
I picked Istok, who taunts enemies and draws their attack. He converts that damage into more powerful attacks of his own. He has other moves such as area of effect melee attack that gives him breathing room if foes surround him. On the other hand, Anya is a ranged character that's physically weaker and relies on life-stealing moves.
What's notable is that once players pick a hero, they'll have to unlock the rest of the roster of up to eight characters so far. Mad Head calls this "expanding the family" with each hero having a distinct skill tree, gear and play-styles. Gamers can level up their favorites and reach a cap of 30.
Mad House wants to encourage players to experiment and try different heroes. To push them toward this, they tie some of the gear to a family level, which is the accumulated score of all their character levels combined. That means to use some of the best gear or weapons, players have to unlock and power up a certain number of heroes.
That's done by taking on missions and side quests. Players do this in Pantheon, which acts as a hub world that supports up to 50 players. From there, they can take on story quests from the game's eight planned acts. They can gain Hero Shards, the currency used to unlock a hero, through the campaign and missions such as survival, expeditions and patrols. Those are good distractions, but the most important task of all are assassinations. These are more difficult quests that also have the best rewards. They're unlocked by collecting enough keys.
It sounds like a grind, and it will be interesting to see how Mad House balances the progression. From the sound of it, "Pagan Online" feels like it's built around free-to-play mechanics, but the game is actually a traditional purchase. Jacob Beucler, product director, said there are no microtransactions. Once players purchase the game, they won't have to spend anything else to unlock different color schemes. At the most, they may add on cosmetic pets, Beucler said. Beyond the initial eight acts, there could be room for expansions and that will cost more money.
Like looter shooters or other shared world games, the hook of "Pagan Online" comes in players maximizing the potential of their characters. It's about finding the best gear and combining it with the perfect combination of skills.
With a more visceral control scheme and the option for co-operative play with another person, "Pagan Online" could be a title that grabs players into its world. The initial strength of the game could be in how it draws players into a mythology. The basic story is that all the gods have disappeared at the Pantheon, and it's up to the heroes to bring them back to their empty thrones.
Beyond that, the end game of "Pagan Online" seems focused on finding the best loot and unlocking the family of heroes. It could be a recipe for success when the the project launches as an Early Access game in April.
This article is written by Gieson Cacho from East Bay Times and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.