Anyone who knows me, knows that I play a great deal of Paragon. It’s one of those games that has all the hallmarks of a product that could be big, and it does many things - even in its infancy - much better than the competition. It’s beautiful to look at, even though the map you play on has yet to receive its final art pass. Heroes play well and they’re fairly diverse, it’s fast paced and its card system has huge potential. The fact it’s free to play is also a huge bonus for many, especially because it completely removes the barrier for entry.
Unfortunately for Paragon, its free to play model is also a confusing muddle that’s overworked and, in many respects, houses one of the worst RNG systems I’ve encountered. I completely support any developer seeking to monetize a free to play system and yet, what’s on offer in Paragon really needs wider discussion.
As it currently stands, Paragon’s RNG extends heavily throughout its core systems. Its cards - or the equivalent of items in other MOBAs - are obtained by randomly opening packs. While that sounds fine on paper, in practice it results in new players being at a huge disadvantage over those who have played for a long time. Most default decks aren’t fit for purpose, and the abundance of “cheap” upgrades which players need simply isn’t possible. Although card crafting helps plug the gaps in sparse decks, you still need a large amount of unused cards to break down before being able to craft the ones you want.
In Epic’s defence, they are intending to totally rework their card system and I hope that making all cards available to all players, by default, is the step they take. Hamstringing players as they do now, simply isn’t acceptable in a game that’s designed to be competitive. I’m not suggesting new players can’t win with default decks, but it’s not a level playing field. That’s undoubtedly a problem and one that needs addressing.
Paragon has lots of Chests. Ranging from Bronze to Diamond, these Chests are designed to provide a variety of loot. From card packs, to crafting materials, reputation, and Loot Crates, they’re pure RNG. They’re obtained through a variety of ways, including daily logins, leveling up heroes, and winning matches. Chests can also be upgraded by obtaining Stars (through quests), with the idea being you start at Bronze and work your way towards a Diamond Chest.
Without knowing the drop rates for items in Chests, all I can relay is anecdotal evidence of their contents. As someone who has, so far, invested almost 700 hours into Paragon, their content is - for lack of a better word - terrible. For new players the steady stream of “stuff” is welcome, and helps to reduce the frustration behind obtaining cards and materials. However, it’s still a layer of itemisation and RNG that’s neither fun or particularly appealing. When there’s no real sense that any of the tiers of Chest offer anything remotely different from one another, I fail to see the point in having four types of them, when one could do the job just fine.
As a third layer of RNG, Loot Crates are Paragon’s premium box. Designed as a way for players to obtain rare items, such as Banners, skins, coins, and Keys, you can obtain Loot Crates from random drops after completing matches, or you can purchase them directly from the store. You’ll need a Key to open the Loot Crate, which can also be purchased or obtained through Tributes.
This double layer of crate, plus key, is fairly common in the industry, but I know of few that also divide the loot within the crate into categories. When you’ve obtained both a Loot Crate and Key and when you open your goods, your choices are predetermined from one of several rarity categories. Not only this, but within those rarity categories are an abundance of low value items designed to bloat the category. In amongst the desirable items are so many skin recolors (with the majority being entirely pointless) that the odds of getting what you want are incredibly small. What’s frustrating here isn’t just that it’s effectively RNG on RNG (you have to pray you get the right category on your opening, and you have to pray on the roll that you then get the item you want), but also the fact many unique skin variations or Banners - which do look fantastic - are behind this paywall.
Unless you want to hold out hope that you get a Loot Crate and Key from simply playing the game (which happens very rarely), you’re going to have to part with your cash if you want try your luck at getting something specific. Considering the odds of gaining what you want (you only have to look at a Loot Crates content to realize gambling for something specific is futile), it’s frustrating to see Epic paywall aesthetic content in this way.
Monthly Mega Vault
If Loot Crates and Keys weren’t quite bad enough, Epic recently introduced - on top of everything else - a Monthly Mega Vault. This, similarly to the daily login rewards, is yet another avenue of obtaining "stuff". The premise is that your Stars, which also contribute towards your Chests, accumulate to eventually unlock a Monthly Mega Vault. Inside this vault are a series of items, ranging from legendary skins, to coins and card packs. Over the course of a month, you can have 4 attempts at the Monthly Mega Vault. That sound fairly good odds, when you consider that there’s only 12 items in it. However, it’s yet more RNG in a game already filled to the brim with it. As of this month, I’ve rolled two times and obtained nothing but useless items. Why does a “Mega Vault” have anything other than legendary items?
The Carrot On A Stick
From a financial perspective, I can understand why Epic have chosen the RNG approach that they have. It’s an approach that casino’s utilise in order to encourage a “one more go” mentality. It preys on those susceptible to impulsivity and reward seeking, in the hopes that their next Loot Crate gives them exactly what they want. It’s an approach that’s clearly working in the video game industry, with the vast majority of online games adopting them. Unfortunately for Paragon, I’d say it's adopted the murkier side of the trend, adding needless layers of RNG in an effort to appear fair. Simply put, there’s no need for Chests, Loot Crates or Monthly Mega Vault because they all feel like a sticking plaster, over the larger issue of Epic struggling to get to grips with how to appropriately monetize their game.
While there might be many players happy with the path Epic have chosen, I’d argue it’s massively inferior to most of the competition. The simplicity the likes of Overwatch, Paladins or Heroes of the Storm offer for their financial models are straightforward and undeniably fair. While I appreciate Overwatch is a purchased product and have less of a need to push revenue gain through its loot crate system, Heroes of the Storm is quite the opposite. As a MOBA in a similar vein to DOTA 2 or League of Legends, its recently revamped reward structure for 2.0 not only borrows from Overwatch, but moulds it elegantly into the free to play model.
Players can limitlessly level their heroes and are award a loot crate for each level. Each loot crate can be opened, and re-rolled five times with the gold you earn when playing. Don’t like the five items you gain upon opening your chest? Re-roll it again and again (for higher gold costs) until you get 4 items you do like. Not only that, but you also gain a Shard currency for duplicates, which you can then spend directly on a cosmetic item of your choice. On top of that, players are also free to purchase skins directly through the rotating “featured” list, or try their luck by buying more loot crates.
What I love so much about this system is that it rewards play, doesn’t seek to extract money from you (you can obtain tons of loot crates just by playing) and it's generous enough to give you 4 items inside every crate. Even if some of those items are duplicates that you already own (even after you’ve re-rolled), you can use your Shards for one or more items of your choosing.
I really can’t praise the system enough, and it’s something that’s clearly reaping rewards for Blizzard (user numbers are up over 30% since 2.0’s release). Such a system would undoubtedly work for Paragon, and would see its largely useless currency (Reputation) actually have a purpose. How would they go about it?
- Remove all level caps, for all heroes.
- Remove the experience curve for leveling up heroes (making it a static amount).
- Reward one Loot Crate for each hero level.
- Allow players to spend Reputation on re-rolling their Loot Crate, with the cost incrementally increasing per re-roll.
- Provide Stars for duplicate items received, which players can then spend on an item of their choice.
- Remove the Monthly Mega Vault.
- Remove the day login reward calendar, and suppliment this with a greater quantity of quests.
- Remove Keys.
- Increase the number of items obtained from a Loot Crate from 1 to 4.
- Ensure that Loot Crates contain all existing items and skins.
- Remove the ability to purchase the existing purchsable skins and instead, implement a “Featured” skin/emote bundle every week, that players can directly purchase.
It might sound like a major change, but it would undoubtedly encourage players to spend money (they get more bang for their buck), and would provide a much more positive experience. The system would be less bloated, it would be simple to understand and it would give a much needed use to Reputation. Best of all, it’s fair.
Even as someone who loathes Loot Crates and who likes to simply be able to hand money over and get what I want, Blizzard’s system has allowed me to obtain much more content than I ever would have spent money on, while still ensuring I spend £20 a month.
Surely that, over what we have now, has got to be a better solution?
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Paragon Game Page.