Paragon is a MOBA that began in early access in 2016 and amassed over 5 million players over two years. Epic Games shut down all development on Paragon in late 2018 and released $17 million worth of assets. Several new spinoffs have emerged, and fans are clawing at the chance to play one of the adaptations. When looking at titles like Smite and Heroes of the Storm, many may wonder how Paragon grew a cult following that is still active today.
Understanding Paragon’s appeal
MOBAs like League of Legends and Dota opt for the classic top-down view with basic graphics making them playable on most computers. Meanwhile, Paragon was a beautiful, third-person experience that brought graphical fidelity to a vanilla genre. A majority of players spent hundreds of hours in Paragon while simultaneously dumping just as much money for skins, because skins just look better in third person.
Combined with a roster of over 30 heroes, each designed meticulously, Paragon was a joy to look at. The skins were animated masterfully, the world was fleshed out, and players were blessed with deep game mechanics. On top of it all, Paragon was on PS4 and PC, outperforming Smite on both platforms in terms of active players despite the latter’s two-year head start.
The surface beauty drew fans in, but players were hooked on the card system that Epic Games had put into Paragon during its Early Access days. In-game, instead of items, cards were purchased as gold was earned throughout a match. Heroes were only able to equip six cards, and the cards had tiers of bonuses that they provided. Premade decks of cards were available, but the true depth of Paragon came from custom decks.
A MOBA with brains and beauty
Cards could drastically change the playstyle of heroes or make their specialty stronger. The Paragon subreddit and wiki were filled to the brim with hero decks that most players spent hours building, testing, and perfecting. The interplay of the card system and in-match economy made Paragon feel very strategic and engaging. The deck system eventually changed, streamlining decks into three non-upgradeable cards and affinities.
It isn’t often that games excel in graphic fidelity and depth, especially not back in 2016. For a long time, the development team listened to fans’ concerns and continuously adapted Paragon. It wasn’t until the free-to-play release that Paragon started receiving changes that arguably made the game worse and pushed the dedicated player-base away.
What made Paragon a cult classic was its beautiful style and complex MOBA mechanics. Over time Epic Games simplified the title until it resembled a shell of its former self. Now we are left with separate developer teams picking up the pieces, trying to rebuild Paragon into something if not better, then at least as good as its own past.