Paladins: Hi-Rez’s New Arena Shooter

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen!

Earlier in the week sometime last week, I came across an interesting new game that I had not heard of before. I believe I first stumbled across it on YouTube while watching some Overwatch gameplay. To my surprise, I was treated to footage of a game that, to the unobservant, could easily be mistaken for Overwatch. This game is an Arena Shooter being developed by Hi-Rez Studios, the company that brough SMITE to the MOBA scene, and it is called Paladins. Today, I will discuss a little bit of what I’ve learned about the game and, of course, sprinkle in my own thoughts.

Logo - Paladins

Game Overwatch Overview

In the introduction, you may have noticed I used the term “Arena Shooter.” This term describes the type of game that Paladins is, just like the MOBA acronym categorizes games like League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, and SMITE. An Arena Shooter is an online game that pits multiple players against each other, typically divided among two teams, to complete an objective to achieve victory. As the latter half of the name would suggest, gameplay is designed around the use of a first-person perspective and assaulting opponents with an array of projectile weapons.

Paladins takes the traditional shooter gameplay and applies a variety of components to create a unique experience. First, the artstyle, character design, and map design places a heavy emphasis on fantasy aesthetics, but mixes in some science fiction elements, too. Second, the maps aren’t built with lanes like those found in MOBAs. Instead, they are much more open and larger in scale. Lastly, the characters come in a variety of shapes and sizes, as one might expect, and possess unique weapons, abilities, and cards. You read that correctly. A portion of Paladins’ gameplay involves deck building.

Paladins will provide players with three gameplay modes in Practice, Casual, and Constructed. Practice will let players run matches against AI opponents, while Casual and Constructed are player-versus-player gameplay modes. The significant difference between Casual and Constructed is how players access the cards. Casual matches give players little control over which cards they will use, pulling from whatever cards the players have unlocked. Constructed matches provide that control, allowing players to create customized decks for each character. More on what the cards actually do a little later.

Champion Overview

Presently, there are only 9 champions available in Paladins (as seen here). Each champion fits a different theme and playstyle, and possess a unique assortment of tools to fit their given role. Each champion has a primary weapon that will be used for attacking enemies. So far, all of the champions possess ranged weapons. There doesn’t appear to be any melee champions yet. Though, there are a couple champions that are more effective at shorter distances. Also, each champion has a set of abilities that each fall into one of the following categories; offense, utility, movement, and travel.

Offense refers to any ability that either deals big damage or allows the champion to deal more damage in some capacity. Here are some examples:

  • Dual Fire: Ruckus engages a second gun, increasing attack speed by 100%.
  • Explosive Flask: Pip throws a flask, dealing big damage in an area.
  • Fireball: Fernando shoots a fireball that deals damage.

Utility refers to a large variety of abilities that effectively do anything but deal damage (and incidentally anything “movement” abilities do, lawls). These abilities can be defensive, healing, crowd control, or any kind of support abilities. Here are some examples:

  • Barricade: Barik drops a barik-cade that provides cover.
  • Healing Totem: Grohk drops a healing totem, healing nearby allies.
  • Shield: Fernando expands his shield that he totally stole from Overwatch’s Reinhardt (lawls) to absorb incoming damage.

Movement refers to those abilities that allow champions to cover large distances in a short time for either escaping or chasing. Here are some examples:

  • Dodge Roll: Cassie rolls in a chosen direction.
  • Weightless: Pip increases his jumping for a short time.
  • Hidden: Skye enters stealth for a short time.

Now, Travel refers to how a Champion gets around the map when not simply running on foot, or using their combat-centric movement ability. Typically, the travel ability allows a champion to mount-up and move at an increased speed. I’ve seen two different mounts in footage of the closed beta – a normal horse, and a fiery horse. Not all champions have access mount-up, though. The Ruckus character is a tiny goblin that rides a techno-magical battle suit, and his travel ability puts his suit into Flight mode.

One minor thing to note, the champions in Paladins don’t have Ultimate abilities. I find this surprising, because of how the game is designed and the gameplay the developers are shooting for. Since players are stuck playing one champion per match, it would be a good idea to give players this extra feature. While the deck building mechanic provides a lot of customization (as I’ll explain a bit later), the Ultimate abilities could provide that extra flashiness to the gameplay, as well as help turn the tide of battle. I’m excited by the prospect of being given two Ultimate ability options per champion, but that may be asking too much.

The Heart of the Cards

Now, for the part of Paladins that I have been delaying just for shiggles – the purpose of cards. As a Casual match progresses, players will periodically select one out of three randomly generated cards (from those they’ve unlocked) to bolster the character they are playing. The cards function like passive bonuses you might encounter in MMORPGs. Each card provides a bonus to a champion’s effectiveness whether it be through increased damage, increased survivability, an improvement to a core ability, or some other beneficial effect. While randomly generated in Casual, the Constructed game mode will allow players to create focused decks that cater to specific builds or use some of the rarer cards.

Things Have Been Said

So, I have seen, on more than a couple occasions, that Paladins has been compared to another arena shooter that has been in development. It’s Overwatch, by the way. This would have surprised me more if it weren’t for a couple reasons. First, I stumbled across Paladins after watching several videos of Overwatch gameplay. Also, there are quite a few stand-out similarities between the two titles, with the most obvious similarity being that both games are team-based shooters.

The other similarities come from similar design decisions that can be found in both Overwatch and Paladins. For instance, the Paladins champion, Fernando, has the ability to raise an energy shield that absorbs incoming damage. This shield closely resembles, in both form and function, the one used by Reinhardt from Overwatch. Another example could be the Paladins champion, Barik, who looks like the younger cousin of Overwatch’s Torbjorn. This is a better comparison because the appearance and core kit of both characters are very similar – dwarven engineers that make heavy use of turrets for offense and defense.

I don’t know how other people are comparing Overwatch and Paladins to each other, but these are some of the things that I noticed while watching gameplay footage.

What Do I think of Paladins?

I don’t have anything negative to say about Paladins. I think it looks like a fun time. I might even enjoy it a bit more than Overwatch because of the card mechanic. I enjoy mechanics that allow me to create my own builds, and Paladins’ deck building feature has the potential for some incredible flexibility. I’m not as excited about having to unlock card boxes, though.

Paladins is a very different game than Overwatch. They both have a similar feel and are very action oriented, but there are some key things that separate them. Map design is an important one. Overwatch is designed to keep everyone moving on focused paths, whereas Paladins’ maps are more open and indirect. The selection and use of characters is different, too. Your one champion selection in Paladins is your final choice, but heroes can be swapped often in Overwatch. Additionally, Paladins has some character progression that Overwatch doesn’t, which makes it a bit more interesting to me.

Neither game is bad. Everyone is going to like both games for different reasons. I haven’t played either, and I want to play both. I’d likely be worse at Overwatch than Paladins, but that will change with time. Either way, I’d install Paladins right away if I could, because it looks like fun.

What do you think about Paladins? Have you got into the Closed Beta? Is there something you’d add, remove, or change? How many Pips does it take to completely fill a bar? Join the discussion below.

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Thanks for reading to the end. I hope you’ll be back for the next one.

War Fist out.

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