Cola, but not quite Coke.
Doing an internet search of Paladins will elicit two prominent results, comparisons to Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch and complaints about changes to its monetization system. But what’s also on the cards for the game is an upcoming PlayStation 4 launch. The closed beta for which I got a chance to join over the past week. I’ve put a fair few hours into the game now and played a decent amount of the games heroes and game modes The end result of which draws a lot of comparison and build issues but overall provides a fun but unbalanced experience. Getting the obvious out of the way first the Overwatch comparison.
This is something I was aware of before playing Paladins, in fact that’s the exact reason I knew about Paladins to begin with. From identical class types and abilities to small details like map design and the way characters play, the resemblance is uncanny at times. Though it’s debatable if a lot of what’s in Blizzards own shooter is completely original, there’s no denying that Paladins walks a fine line towards being an outright copy paste job at times. While the game does have a few interesting abilities and characters, champions such as Ruckus and Victor play near shot for shot identically to D.va and Soldier 76. However, being similar (even this much so) isn’t necessarily a negative and that’s because Paladins does the one thing it needed to right, gameplay.
While such obviously similar works in the past such as the huge list of cheap moba clones and free to play rip offs of popular shooters, feel poorly executed and rough at best, Paladins is a joy to play. While I have serious reservations about the PS4 port and some serious balancing issues (that I will address later) Paladins is a game clearly made by a team who know what they’re doing, the shooting mechanics feel right and abilities work as intended.
The game has a high level of auto aim that feels much different to its counterpart and a lot of other shooters. This changes the games dynamic somewhat as tanks are the only ones who stand a chance in the open and constant shield abilities are pretty much required for team pushes. It puts a high emphasis on team composition, which makes its lack of character switching midgame an odd choice, as getting into a match only to realize your team lacks a particular counter can be frustrating. Though matches are fairly fast, I can’t see any reason not to include a character select option to casual matches.
Characters are nicely varied with tanks, flankers, damage dealers and support all feeling like they have a distinctly different role on the field. The game has a lack of medic and support classes, with much in the way of healing and buffs coming from characters abilities meaning the games focus is much more on attacking and aggression compared to Overwatch, pushes and player deaths are far more prevalent here. Though overall the game feels very smooth, snipers hit with a satisfying pump and player stealth characters like Syke feels effective and zippy.
Where Paladins currently makes itself hard to love is performance and balance. While I can give it some slack for being in beta, the game is downright unplayable at times, constant lag and connection issues plagued at least half the games I played and after testing my connection with other game, the problem was definitely with Paladins. Of course being in beta this issue is the most obvious to change, however Hi-rez’s previous console port of Smite was also plagued with connection issues after its full launch, so I have a few reservations about the developers track record.
More pressing for the game as a whole is balance. Currently the game has several champions that can really break the balance and make the game unfair. The most obvious being Torvald, a front line tank who’s extremely high shield and syphon abilities make him near impossible to counter, even with a well balance and coordinated team, anyone with a Torvald and secondary front line character will dominate the capture point. On the flip side characters like Buck and Mal’damba feel near enough useless, with too limited a role to be effective. (I’d have thrown Maive into that set but I think I just suck at the Genji type) I’m aware the game also has balance issues pertaining to the monetization system and its card system, however I didn’t quite far enough into the games meta to give a fair analysis of them.
While it might sound like I’m back and forth with this preview Paladins is a game that on a base level was far better than I imagined, with all the unfavorable comparisons to Overwatch, I expected something that would feel cheap and messy but got a game that is actually a lot of fun to play. Unfortunately, in a genre like the hero shooter balance and precision is key (something Blizzard are the masters at) and with characters who feel completely broken and a card system that breaks any sort of fair playing field for anyone other than premium players, it’s hard to see any long-term or competitive life for Paladins.
However, as the base game is so fun and casual mode being near enough completely unlocked for free players, Paladins still warrants a download as a fun and well-made free to play shooter. While I don’t see it toppling Blizzards product anytime soon, Paladins is a great intro into the genre and a good game for anyone looking for something casual.
For a quick preview of the Paladins PC beta check out this post.