Hi-Rez Studios have announced a new card rank system that has basically overturned the previous Essence system, which also met with some resistance when it was first announced. The new system has seen some individuals draw comparisons to the microtransaction system that was present in EA’s Star Wars Battlefront 2, but is it really a cause for concern? Well, this gamer’s opinion is that yes it is. But let us break down some arguments and look at both sides.
I can see where Hi-Rez where coming from with trialling this changes, and it is important to note that so far, they are only limited to the PTS system and not an official system. Opening up all the cards was a great move, truly allowing every player a decent advantage in the game by crafting a kickass loadout. I for one, have been playing Paladins on console since the very first day the closed beta began and have amassed nearly every single card for every single Champion, even Terminus and Vivian who are the new additions. Now, since I have that time under my belt and the spree of cards, I would have a definite advantage but one that would be slightly undercut by my experience and time spent playing – the best card in the world cannot make up for a lack of experience with a Champion or the game itself but it would level the playing field a little bit.
The crappiness of this system comes in with the card ranks, which can rocket up a Champions effectiveness at max level. Let us take a look at one of my favourite Champions, Jenos (I love all my Supports) who, like all other Champions on the roster, is getting a new Legendary Card. In his case, it is known as Binary Star, which boosts the damage of Star Splitter up to 600 damage over 0.4 seconds at Rank Five. This means in that in just over a second, Jenos can obliterate most Champions that are in the game without any difficulty. I encourage anyone who hasn’t to check out the new/altered Legendary Cards in the OB64 Patch Notes and see for yourself. I highly doubt that the ranks are going to remain as game-changing on the different cards in Paladins, especially the Legendaries but there is a big slippery slope here.
There is an enormous amount of chance to gain the requisite number of duplicates required to rank up a card with 18 duplicates needed to upgrade a common card and 4 needed for a Legendary. The way this happens is through an enormous amount of grinding, which I am not necessarily opposed to. What I am opposed to, is the fact that this will not only drive new players away, or from even trying to get the amount of time and experience, I and many of my friends have in Paladins but will create an incredible power vacuum in the casual playlist. In Ranked Mode, all cards no matter who are locked at Rank Three because there is an admission that high ranking cards could create an unfair advantage. A direct quote from the Patch Notes states;
“This ensures Ranked is all about player skill. There is no longer any grind for cards in Ranked”.
Why is that unfair advantage allowed to prosper in the Casual playlist, almost conveniently renamed to Quick Queue, when Ranked is card-rank-locked?
Coming hand in hand with the new Ranked Card System is the Champion Chest, once again good in theory but bad in execution. This Champion Chest allows you to specifically hunt for cards for Champions you play a lot. In my case, I would spend a lot of time digging for Ying, Mal’Damba, Jenos, Seris and Kinessa cards. You can earn a few Champion Chests free a day but they are subject to RNG and while Hi-Rez has stated that they have no intention of adding microtransactions until the player experience is fine-tuned, it is the ‘until’ that has me worried. Incredibly powerful ranked cards combined with a paid method of acquiring those incredibly powerful ranked cards creates a toxic and pay-to-win environment. I am not against microtransactions in the slightest and have spent a lot of money on cosmetic items in Paladins, Battleborn and even a little in Destiny because they are purely cosmetic. We are teetering on the edge here.
Simple changes to this system to make it a more optimised process would be to remove the Ranked System for the cards, or if anything, make cosmetic changes to the cards. Instead of a Rank 5 Binary Star Legendary for Jenos, allowing 600 damage, it has a special toggleable effect or a nice little banner/emblem somewhere to give players a sense of achievement in a way that doesn’t drastically change the game. One of the biggest tips I and many others could give if Hi-Rez does go through with this system is to keep microtransactions far away from it. Make them purchasable with Gold or VIP Points or whatever else but microtransactions are not the way to go, at least with the proposed system.
The Ranked Card system is a great idea in theory and I am sure it looked wonderful on paper, it did when I first heard about it. Having all cards free for all players would be an awesome change, but the addition of an increasing rank system throws that awesomeness out the window. The good news is that Hi-Rez is simply testing this system and seeing how players in the PTS are finding it, it is not final nor is it a death sentence for the game. If you really enjoy Paladins, try out this new system for yourself and send your concerns to Hi-Rez so they can either optimise it so it isn’t a disaster or scrap it entirely. Just do it respectfully and calmly.