If you have ever wanted to build and manage a series of island nations, Paragon Pioneers has everything you need. It’s a casual island management game that has detailed explanations and no inherent time limit. You can spend as much time as you like developing your island. Searching for other islands to conquer and develop is also part of the experience.
For casual players that don’t have a lot of time, this is a great game to pass the time. Most resource gathering and construction will take place outside of the game while you take care of other tasks. You can set up the infrastructure for resource gathering or island searching and come back whenever you want. It’s easy to get used to the gameplay and you can always remind yourself of what your next objective is.
The casual island management is a double-edged sword when it comes to the PC. While there are many casual management games, having to constantly take breaks can work against the game’s merits. For mobile devices, you likely won’t be playing these games often. For a laptop or PC, it’s hard to imagine spending an hour waiting for something to happen.
Story – Conquer All the Islands
Paragon Pioneers is a management game at heart, and there isn’t a big story. Your goal is to colonise and develop as many islands as you can. There’s no real motivation other than island development being the entire point of the game. You can discover new lands, harvest resources, fight off enemies, and name the ships you create. Your “story progression” is controlled by your helpful advisor, who tells you what your next goal is.
The story you make depends on how much you want to play. Developing the first island and staying there could be your biggest goal. Complete island domination is possible if you sail the oceans looking for new lands to plunder. After the initial combat tutorial, disavow violence and work with enemies to build a mutually beneficial island. The story possibilities are endless, as long as they involve islands and buildings.
Since it is a management game in the same vein as The Sims 4, Paragon Pioneers isn’t heavy on the story. Fortunately, the game doesn’t make any pretenses about having a thrilling narrative. It’s developing islands, making sure everyone is happy, and sailing to new lands to repeat the process. You have tutorials that tell you how to play the game, but you will eventually be on your own. There doesn’t need to be a story, and you decide how much you want to (or don’t want to) explore. The real meat of Paragon Pioneers lies in its gameplay; you are in control when it comes to making your own story.
Gameplay – Colonising Islands for Land & Resources
You start your adventure on a medium-sized island, and you learn how to build your island up. Pioneers arrive for land development, lumberjacks harvest lumber, and potatoes turn into schnapps. You know what you need to do thanks to a helpful advisor who guides you through the process. The initial start can be overwhelming, since you don’t know what everything means.
Fortunately, the advisor ensures that you are never lost or confused about your next objective. There are handy tooltips informing you of your next action and what you need to select. If you are lost, you can always click the advisor icon in the top right corner for a reminder. The only unfortunate part is that there isn’t a way to easily bring up past information. If you haven’t played the game because life got in the way, you might come back and not know what to do.
That can hurt a casual player who wants to try out other games, or falls in love with something else. The mechanics become increasingly complex, with new villager types, trade routes between islands, and properly equipping your army. Coming back to a large island without any way to catch up is daunting. You feel that you have to play frequently in order to avoid losing your knowledge.
The good news is that Paragon Pioneers isn’t a game that’s meant to be played all the time. It’s casual enough that you can play a few minutes at a time, then let the processes run in the background.
Casual Management – Your Ally & Enemy
You are not becoming an island managing master overnight. Gathering resources, training soldiers, and building ships happens after everything comes together. After setting the foundation for development, you wait for the fruits of your labour. If you aren’t used to games continuing after you close the game, it feels like you are making a mistake.
That’s not the case for Paragon Pioneers. Tasks take time to complete, and you can’t always check the game. Fortunately, time passes even when the game is closed. You can come back to see that your crops have grown and your soldiers are trained. Some tasks can take hours to complete, and you can take care of other pressing needs in real life.
For casual players, this is a fantastic feature. Similar to Dragon Forge, you play a small amount of the game during the day. You come back later to use your new resources, which have gathered in the time that you were away. This game wasn’t mean to be played for long periods of time. You can play other games, take a break with Paragon Pioneers, then do something else. It’s a great way to ease yourself into the game, or take a break if you get bored.
The game’s casual stance does clash for those looking for more intense management games. Games such as Frostpunk or They Are Billions have more complex mechanics and are more engaging since you don’t have to wait. Paragon Pioneers can have long waiting times before anything happens. That’s fine when you don’t use your mobile device all the time, but waiting for hours on a desktop/laptop isn’t fun.
Audio & Visuals – Casual Music with Cute Visuals
The casual atmosphere is done well in Paragon Pioneers, as there is no intense music or background noise. There is calm music playing at all times, and the combat noises sound like banging pots rather than actual bloodshed. It helps you realise this isn’t a game where you are panicking or stressing out. You are in control 100% of the time, and there’s nothing that is going to disrupt you.
The visuals are also adorable to look at. You never see people actually moving about, but you do see the images of what they would look like. Even the orcs who fight for your land don’t look fierce. They’re not the prettiest sight, but you wouldn’t be scared meeting them in the wilderness. Everything comes together perfectly to create a casual atmosphere, and you never feel stressed while playing. Even if you get lost or confused, you aren’t stressed. The music calms you down and the cutesy visuals never make you panic.