Paragon: Epic Games’ Competitive MOBA, Killed Before Its Time
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Paragon was destined for greatness. This is a post-mortem tale of the rise and fall of Epic‘s innovative take on the MOBA genre and the dedicated players that still keep its legacy alive.
For those that don’t know, MOBA stands for “multiplayer online battle arena.” Heavyweight titles in this genre include Dota 2, Heroes of the Storm, and the champion of all e-sports games, League of Legends. In 2018, the LoL Summoner’s Cup (equivalent to the world championship) gathered nearly 100 million viewers, The Sports Rush reports. The same tournament in 2020 had a grand total prize pool of nearly $6.5 million USD. There’s a very good reason that these games draw stadium-worthy crowds:
They are fiercely competitive.
Games such as Paragon do not encourage every player to chase that huge killstreak or grind the next unlockable weapon. That “unlockable weapon” in a MOBA is akin to mastering another game mechanic and being able to use it in the heat of a match. Killstreaks are great too, but won’t win you the entire game if the enemy knows how to counter. The ultimate satisfaction in a MOBA is defeating the enemy team with superior teamwork and game knowledge.
Paragon was Epic’s Answer to MOBA Madness
Paragon entered pay-to-play early access in 2016 on PlayStation 4 and Windows PC. The free-to-play open beta phase began shortly after in August. This is when the game began to find its footing. Players began picking their mains from the ever-growing character roster and learning every twist and turn of the map.
One mechanic that set Paragon apart from other MOBAs was the card-based upgrade system. Players would enter the deck builder to build a deck of cards to bring into the match with their character. This deck would be centered around a certain build or role within the game. While playing a match, card upgrades could be bought using gold obtained from getting kills or snagging objectives. New cards were earned by leveling up characters, opening chests, or purchasing them with reputation earned in-game.
Paragon stood apart from the crowd because of its true third-person nature. Traditional MOBAs like Dota 2 and League of Legends are in isometric or top-down perspective. The third-person MOBA space is largely unoccupied, with SMITE being the only notable title still sticking around. Even then, Paragon was designed with verticality in mind – something that SMITE does not really have. The gameplay and camera movement felt like a fluid third-person shooter, but it was all MOBA under the hood.
MOBA games are infamous for their steep learning curve and super in-depth mechanics. This can sometimes prove to be a major obstacle to the game’s growth. However, Paragon was able to draw in new and veteran players alike. The first reason was that the game was absolute eye-candy. The art style was instantly recognizable and simply looked awesome. On first glance, the game almost looked more like a third-person action/adventure title. New MOBA players were eager to participate in this fierce arena with their favorite heroes, while veteran MOBA players were excited for this new take on the arena formula.
I had the opportunity to play Paragon for a few months before the shutdown, and this is what I remember the most about it. The movement and animations of each hero seemed to make them jump off the screen. The character models were instantly recognizable and looked polished. These factors contributed to a deep feeling of satisfaction any time I managed to take a chunk of health from my opponent or claim an objective.
Epic’s Support of the Community
Paragon was a “boxless” release, meaning the game’s distribution was strictly digital. In the early days of the game, Epic claimed that they were especially excited about this because it meant they could adjust to the community’s feedback immediately. That sounds very encouraging, but players of Paragon at the time would have told you that it was much different than that.
I reached out to the still-active Paragon subreddit for their thoughts on the game and how they remembered it over two years since its shutdown. This is what user SnakeGawd had to say about Epic’s support of the game:
I think it would’ve changed and revamped the MOBA genre if the devs would’ve capitalized on the initial interest and popularity. Instead they made updates that, instead of moving the game forward, they kinda made horizontal movements that didn’t help the game get “better” per se. Their design ideas drifted too far from what initially attracted players. One of the few instances in gaming where I felt the player base really understood what was best for the game even more so than the development team.
Reddit User SnakeGawd
The community was eager to come to a consensus and offer feedback about what should change. The problem was that the dev team seemed to shuffle their feet. While this didn’t necessarily drive players away, it did hold back the game from its full potential.
Epic’s Success at the Expense of Paragon
In early 2018, Epic Games was enjoying unheard-of success from Fortnite. The game was in Season 2 and 3 at the time and was virtually printing money with each added skin. It was on the rise and there was no end in sight. The Paragon community had been hearing from Epic less than ever before. Some members of the community suspected that something bigger was at play. Unfortunately, they were right.
This official statement from Epic was made on January 26th, 2018. Sadly, the game had not even made it out of beta phase.
Where Did the Paragon Players Go?
The Shutdown of Paragon servers rendered the game unplayable. This devastated the community. I was a frequenter of the Paragon subreddit at the time, and the initial reaction was disbelief. Most gamers strongly believed that Fortnite was to blame for Paragon‘s death. Players felt betrayed that the development team had not given its own project a chance. And even worse, tossed it to the wayside for a more popular one.
Over the next couple of years, I would visit the community sub to reminisce. Every few months I would expect to enter the page and see posts growing fewer and more far between. But to my surprise, it was still active. Even now, over two years after the game’s shutdown, there are still dedicated Paragon players posting about their favorite game. On the page now, you find cosplays, character analysis, gameplay clips, and general discussions of how much the game is missed.
The lasting dedication to this game was fascinating to me. As a result, I decided to reach out to the community and find out what made this game special. I took to the subreddit to ask a few questions:
How did you first get into the game?
What set it apart from different games for you?
What were your favorite moments or matches?
This is what some of them had to say.
Memories from the Community
User Invoker_Paragon talks about the game through the lens of a MOBA veteran:
I first became interested from the start. Picked up the Master Starter Pack over the spring of their first year. I saw the first trailer and became hooked by Gideon’s aesthetic and abilities. I had played League of Legends in the past so a MOBA wasn’t foreign to me, but a third person MOBA blew my mind.
Reddit User Invoker_Paragon
User SnakeGawd also reminisces about what it was like coming as a relatively new MOBA player:
I got into the game as soon as I saw the first trailer in 2015. My only MOBA experience before Paragon was a game on mobile called Vainglory so I was looking forward to newer experiences. Paragon was so different from what I had seen from other games in the genre but it’s massive map and beautiful visuals captivated me. The character designs were great, the gameplay philosophy was amazing in the beginning.
Reddit User SnakeGawd
User Lord_Frydae_XIII remembers seeing a glimpse of a Paragon trailer featuring the hero Twinblast. While he tried to ignore it at first, he felt a pull from the game:
Before Paragon, the gaming world was dying for me. New releases didn’t interest me as much, and if it did, a lot of the content would be behind DLC/microtransaction paywall. Seeing Paragon was a miracle among the new releases.
Month after month went by, and I couldn’t shake the image from my head. Twinblast running around shooting in some field with beautiful graphics. I wanted to play, but I forgot the name. Finally in September 2016 I found the game again. Little did I know about the adventure that came next.
My only regret is not starting earlier.
Reddit User Lord_Frydae_XIII
There were many wonderful responses to my post that I could not fit in this article. Please visit the original post here.
The End… Or Is It?
In September 2018, Epic released all Paragon art assets to the public. Those assets can be download on the remnant Paragon site. While Epic had shut the game down of their own volition, this seemed like the final love letter to the community. It also opened up a world of opportunities for refugee Paragon players.
In the years following the death of the game, several Paragon predecessors have begun development. These include Predecessor, Fault, and Project CORE. A full coverage on the status of these games, as well as interviews with the devs, can be found on Lane Pushing Games here.
While the original may have met its untimely end, Paragon made waves in the gaming industry that will last for years to come. It was a game that had huge potential, but happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Fan projects like the ones above will give hope and satisfaction to those thirsting for a true third-person MOBA. Players of this unique title will continue to remember it fondly for years to come. Just remember…
You are never alone.
A special thanks to the Paragon subreddit for their responses and passion for this game!