It has been a few months since Paladins has officially been released and yet this review still hasn’t been written. Why? Well, because I have been too busy playing Paladins. Ever since I began playing at the start of the console closed beta, I have been hooked, and each patch, each Champion and each new skin has only cemented it as one of my favourite games.
Paladins is a game that pits charming and badass fantastical Champions against each other in pitched 5v5 combat across numerous game modes and special Events. The Champions are in all honesty, my favourite part of the game, with their boundless personality and awesome designs. Take Jenos for example, one of my treasured Supports, who utilises the power of the cosmos and astronomy to exert his will on the battlefield, or Zhin, the rather over-serious crime boss who wields a flame-flinging sword to burn away the competition.
Paladins brings fantasy to life in a mad world where everything is possible and each Champion has subtle nuances to bring to bear on the battlefield. Even Vivian, one of the more generic-looking characters with quite the uninspired kit has her upside. But she is a small blip in a vast and ever-growing ocean of playable Characters. We are currently sitting at a grand total of 37 Champs with no sign of slowing down, especially with the claw and SMG-wielding Koga entering the Realm soon. Taking a look at some of the most recent additions to the Realm, we have Furia, the furious angelic embodiment of cleansing fire, Khan, a heavily-armoured tank with a spree of close-quarters abilities and Terminus, a self-reviving axe-swinging stone man.
Each new Champ brings forth new gameplay choices and morphs future battles in the Realm and how the different Champs synergise with each other. There are four main classes in Paladins; Front Lines like the cannon-hefting Ash, Supports like the other-worldly Seris, Damages like the mischievous Willo and Flanks like the adorable demon Talus. Each Champion holds to the overarching tenets of their given role but there is enormous flexibility given to each Champion per their kit, loadouts and in-game items.
Paladins has a 15 point card loadout system to truly customise how your Champion plays in a given match and you can create a whole lot of them to maximise your potential in nearly any situation. Cards are unlocked automatically once a Champion is acquired either through gold or by purchasing the Champion Pack, which will grant you all past and future Champs. A loadout consists of 5 cards, each costing one point, but you can increase the benefit of a given card which in turn increases its cost. It allows precision fine-tuning of how you want to play your Champion. If I want my Seris to heal herself while using Shadow Travel, reduce the cooldown of her Restore Soul or to increase self-healing during Rend Soul the loadout system provides those options.
But say that wasn’t specific enough for you, enter Talents. Talents are Champion-specific cards that are selected at the beginning of a match that bestows additional effects to an ability or changes that ability entirely. Mal’Damba’s Ripened Gourd adds a 40% slow to his Gourd on top of its combined damage/healing ability while Cassie’s Just Breathe boosts her crossbow damage by 30% if she is greater than 70ft away from the target. Talents harmonise with your loadout in a way that grants a large number of gameplay choices to the player.
Once a match begins your chosen Talent and Cards are set for the duration but gameplay customisation does not end there, with the ability to purchase in-game items during the match using Credits. Credits are earned passively over the course of the game but you gain bonuses for performing your role, Front Lines earn more by being on the objective and Supports earn more from healing. Now, items are special boosts that add a level of dynamism to the match. A popular one is utilising Cauterize to limit the effectiveness of an enemy healer or even using Morale Boost to increase the charge rate of your Ultimate.
You are also able to view the enemy team’s items at any time during the match, adding a strategic to and fro while you attempt to wrest the objective away from them and eliminate them at every turn. Talents, Cards and Items all promote flexibility and adaptability to combat even the steepest of odds. It is not simply a matter of who is the more skilled player, but that is still prominent, it is who can think on the fly in the midst of the action.
There are three staple game modes in Paladins to keep players occupied. The standard Siege mode sees teams battle against each other to hold and capture a central point and then guide the resulting payload to the enemy base. Siege maps, in particular, offer a plethora of multiple laneways, sightlines and verticality to mix up gameplay and add to the intensity. Onslaught tests how well your team can hold a specific capture point. Holding the objective uncontested generates points as well as scoring kills.
The latest mode to be added is Team Deathmatch which features smaller maps and quick respawns. It is an incredibly fast-paced mode where some of the nuances that make Siege and Onslaught great are lost but it presents a fun experience to blow off steam and just to enjoy yourself.
While the above three modes are the staples of Paladins, since the game has been officially released, players have been receiving time-limited Events in the Realm that delve deeper into the lore and throw awesome new modes into the mix. The first Event, titled Siege Of Ascension Peak featured a modified Onslaught with firebombs falling from the sky and 50% cooldown reductions. Rise Of Furia was next as we raced to the top of an abyssal spire, collected Ultimate boosts and battled it out in a deathmatch at the summit. Hi-Rez has been very clear that the Events are only going to come more often and be better every time.
Being a free-to-play game Paladins does have microtransactions in the form of cosmetic content and while not nearly enough of the amazing skins that enter the game are available for direct purchase, you can earn them fairly easily through loot boxes. These are accompanied by an assortment of Sprays, Emotes, MVP poses and Mounts. Rest assured nothing you can purchase within Paladins will give anyone a competitive edge, they or you may just look better. It is not enough to simply dominate the battlefield, you have to look great doing it.
Each skin not only changes the look of the Champion but also their entire personality in the most humorous of ways. Whether it is Mal’Damba quoting Nightmare Before Christmas and the Grinch whilst in his Wickerman skin or Neon Demon Grohk screaming “We will, we will Grohk you” before the start of a match, the cosmetics are truly next level.
This all culminates in a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, while at the same time holds fast-paced, intense gameplay at its very core. There are more nuances to Paladins than can be explained in one review but even after a year and a half of playing it, I am still discovering new things, new ways to play and encountering fierce new strategies on the battlefield. Paladins has been growing steadily for a while now and it doesn’t look like it is slowing down any time soon and that is a great thing.