Paladins is a free-to-play, 5v5 shooter by Hi-Rez Studios set in a modernized fantasy world. The game flaunts the option to ‘play your way’ through character augmentations, as well as a card system that brings more customization to further complement your playstyle. Teams go head-to-head in various maps while fulfilling a series of objectives from securing points to pushing a payload from point to point. With the rise in popularity of these types of shooters, the game has garnered some negativity due to its similarities with Overwatch, and though people mostly focus on what the two have in common, simply dubbing Paladins as a free-to-play rip-off of Blizzard’s colossal shooter does it some injustice. The game is its own beast and offers more than enough for it to have its own identity. All you need to do is look past the hate.
The Champions of The Realm
Paladins features a diverse set of champions, each sporting one of 4 roles, which emphasizes their respective duties in the battlefield. The roles include: Frontline, Damage, Support, and Flanker. While Flankers may just be another branch of the damage class, these individuals are more suitable for traversing the map and picking up some random kills than those who shoot upfront. At least the game’s kind enough to tell you which ones everyone will pick. Team composition is also very crucial in Paladins, and having a nice balance of all four roles often yields a certain advantage over those who do not. Every champion has their own set of skills that makes them shine in their own right; some offer damage resistance to their allies, while others get more offensive contributions.
You Just Activated My Cards!
Champion shooters play much like a hybrid between MOBA and FPS, and in the case of Paladins, the game leans a little more on its MOBA roots in terms of gameplay. Once you’ve locked a character in, you will no longer be able to change it, and just as you would in games like DotA and LoL, players can purchase a variety of items that either boost the effectiveness of their playstyle or counter a specific threat. This adds a whole new level of complexity to the game, which I find rewarding when exercised properly. There’s not much to choose from, and each item only has three tiers of upgrades, but the effects are felt significantly while fighting different champions, especially in the late game.
One more feature that separates Paladins from other team shooters is its card system where players pick five out of a series of cards, with twelve points to allocate depending on what card traits you wish to prioritize. This allows characters to feel marginally different depending on who’s playing them. A healing-centered Ying, for example, can have her illusions heal two teammates at the same time, while another Ying build can play more aggresively and focus on bombing the opposing team with exploding clones. It’s a good way of seeing what characters are capable of outside their advertised role, and it entices people to experiment and find what really suits them.
Modes Of The Realm
Paladins has 3 main gamemodes: Siege, Survival, and Payload. Siege is the more familiar mode for champion-based shooters, where the two opposing teams try to secure a point on the map. The team who successfully secures the point will then be tasked to push the payload towards the enemy base. Survival is the typical team deathmatch, with each round lasting until all members of the opposing team are dead. Lastly, we have Payload, which is more of a measuring war to see which team pushes the payload further on their respective turns. Having three modes is much appreciated, but Survival and Payload just feels like mini-games that give you 1/2 of the experience found in Siege. There’s one more mode that you can unlock by reaching level 15 called Test Maps, which allows players to test out upcoming maps in their barebones wireframe form. An odd feature, but at least it’s proof that we’re getting more in the future.
The Free-To-Play Feeling
Nothing against F2P games, but the “free-to-play” feeling is a term I use to describe something that feels a little subpar. In the case of Paladins, I felt this through the game’s lack of gun recoil and floatiness in terms of mobility. Even a heavy-looking character like Makoa can feel as light as the swift Maeve, making it hard to discern the weight and mass of a certain champion. There’s also a severe lack of impact when using skills or shooting most of the cast’s firearms. This often makes me wonder if I was even able to hit my target. I understand that the game is still in its beta stage, but it would be nice if they emphasized the impact a bit more, so as to not have players second guessing their hits.
Certain map areas also feel like they’re implemented to force an all out clash, throwing players into an enclosed space with little to no tactical positioning, often resulting in a messy brawl that looks like a terrible depiction of a MOBA clash.
At its core, Paladins sports what everyone loves about team-based shooters. You have a diverse cast of heroes that influences the field in their own unique way; despite both being tanks, Fernando offers a different kind of protection than Makoa. Siege is perhaps my favorite mode, since I felt that the other two just offered a more basic experience compared to the former.
One small gripe I have over the game is the inclusion of horses, which allows recently spawned players to ‘trickle’ back to the field. It really is hit or miss depending on who’s playing, but the system just encourages players to be separate instead of grouping up, which is a bit of a pet peeve for me.
Innovation – 7/10
Having a more item-centered approach on champion customization greatly influences the flow of each match, and I absolutely enjoy it. It’s nice to be able to work around character exploits instead of simply being placed at the lower ends of the usefulness tier just because said character no longer fits the meta. And while some are obviously more powerful than the rest, it pays to have another factor that helps counter these threats. The items really give another depth of strategy when building teams and securing loopholes in strategies, and I’m all for it. The cards are also a welcomed addition to the genre, allowing players to tweak champions to better suit their playstyle.
Community – 9/10
Paladins is doing its best to help its community grow, and it’s been solid so far. The game even goes as far as to help small streamers by giving them random giveaways for their viewers; a good incentive if you’re planning to stream Paladins in the future. The forums are very active, and there are many who are eager to team up with you for the sake of playing together.
The Test Maps mode is also a good feature, as it lets players play in upcoming maps and potentially give their respective opinions on how to make it better.
Due to it being a very team-oriented game, there will be toxic behavior every once in a while, but that’s pretty much a given for any game that forces you to rely on your allies. And yes, everyone picks damage dealers first here as well. So get your heals ready…
Graphics/Sounds – 6/10
As someone who really takes sound into consideration, I would say that it’s here where Paladins is severely lacking. Other than the forgettable tunes that play in between games, the game also lacks the satisfying weapon crunch needed to discern the gravity and strength of each shot and ability.
The visuals are very cartoony but greatly fit the overall theme of the game. While subpar to some of the more recent titles, it does its job well in representing Paladins’ modern fantasy world.
Value for money – 9/10
As far as value is concerned, everything outside special skins can be acquired through currency earned inside the game. You can also get chests through progression, so that’s one way to get premium content for free. Alternatively, you can also purchase the Founder’s pack for a reasonable sum if you wish to acquire all the champions asap, as well as some extra loot chests for extra padding. The Founder’s pack is a very good way of getting into the game, allowing players to forego the grind and dive straight into the nitty gritty.
Overall – 8/10
Paladins is a very fun game, and while it does share a vast amount of similarities with Overwatch (I still felt the need to address this), outside the blue rectangular shield, rocket launcher, and chained hooks, Paladins is a whole game of its own. It’s a fun champion-based shooter that’s sure to win you over with its own take at the currently popular genre.
+ Good line up of champions
+ Great team dynamics
+ The item customization and card system really makes it different from the rest
+ Amazing community support
– Feels a bit floaty with some poor represenation of hit detection
– Forgettable music
– Versus Survival and Payload feel like fillers
– Some maps aren’t up to standard