For those who feel nothing beats a good team-based shooter, there’s really no shortage of them coming out these days. Especially shooters focusing on smaller, team battles between uniquely skilled ‘Champion’ characters.
With the success of SMITE under their belts, Hi-Rez Studios are back with a new game called Paladins: Champions of the Realm. And guess what? It’s a 5v5 shooter. This is not the first time Hi-Rez has dabbled with the team shooter, they were behind the (in my view) disappointing Tribes Ascend; and let’s not forget Global Agenda, which I rather enjoyed.
Paladins was shown for the first time earlier this year, and has recently gone into closed beta. An ideal opportunity to find out if the game seems to have what it takes in what could become a rather crowded genre. With Paragon, Overwatch, Gigantic and few others due for release in the months ahead, all these titles will be vying for attention in a similar space.
Paladins is, as mentioned, a 5v5 shooter featuring different outlandish, cartoon-like Champion characters. Each of whom comes with their own special weapons and abilities. The idea is to select a Champion, lock into a game and work with the other team members to complete a particular objective. There’s slightly more to it than that though; the game also features an unlockable character card buff system to further enhance a player’s abilities in combat.
Hi-Rez is very much taking a leaf out of the MOBA book. At the start of a game players have to select a Champion from the roster, and only one of each character can be selected per match. This can cause some frustration if the Champion you want to play has already been selected by another player in the lobby before you connect in, but will probably be less of a problem in the future as organised teams of players form (or people develop multiple favourites). For now, it’s a slight inconvenience. But at least it makes you experiment with the current roster, which will no doubt expand in the future as development progresses on Paladins.
During these very early stages of the closed beta there’s a roster of nine Champions to pick from, each specialising in various roles such as ranged, stealth, healing and tank. It’s about what you’d expect to find in a MOBA: all Champions designed to (in theory) complement one other, account for individual weaknesses, and make a solid team.
Currently, the closed beta comes with a couple of maps and a single game mode which involves capturing points and unleashing an automated mobile canon which hurtles toward the enemy base at lightning pace. Once the cannon arrives, the team that spawned it has to keep it protected while it attacks and destroys two enemy gates and, finally, the enemy’s vault door. This whole process usually involves at least three capture rounds, but a lot depends on the competency of the other team.
Both teams are frantically trying to capture the points (done, in the traditional manner, by standing in a designated circle to increase a capture timer), and it’s here where much of the combat takes place. With capture points able to spawn at multiple locations on the reasonably large maps, each team makes a mad rush to get there first. Thankfully, Hi-Rez has given each player the ability to use a mount which can be activated in order to ride around the map with greater speed. Staying mounted isn’t easy though as one shot from an opponent will dismount a player.
With the basics objectives nailed down, the trickier part of the game is the Champion enhancements which come in the form of the buff cards. At the start of each Paladins match, a player can choose one card from their collection. These cards can affect anything from damage, range, or even skill cooldowns, depending on the Champion you’re playing and his/her abilities. The cards you have access to also depend on what cards have already been collected in previous successful matches.
At the end of a successful match players are rewarded with chests, which are unlocked to reveal either new cards or cards that have already been discovered. Cards that are already in a player’s collection can still be used by combining and crafting them to create something more powerful.
Becoming proficient with a particular Champion doesn’t take too long because each one only has access to three base skills. I’m no shooter whizz with lightning reactions, but after about five rounds and sticking with a couple of Champions even I found I was able to make a difference on the battlefield. This is a great sign because it means anyone with shooter skills as mediocre as my own should find at least one Champion to suit their play style.
Pip, the small fox-like creature, is a particular favourite. She comes with a grenade launcher, which is incredible fun to use from range by lobbing grenades into a capture point. Skye is another Champion who seems to be a popular with players (some might feel she’s slightly over-powered at the moment), as her stealth and agility is useful around the capture points. Personal preferences aside, all nine of the current Champions are well thought out and feel fun to play.
Hi-Rez plan on releasing more Champions as the beta testing progresses, and even though the graphics currently look a bit on the simplistic side it suites the style well. It’s the gameplay that matters, so not having highly detailed landscapes to romp around in has not affected my enjoyment in the slightest.
There’s no doubt that Paladins will have some stiff competition when it finally releases but Hi-Rez are definitely on to something here. It’s fast, the Champions are fun, and the card system could really develop into something interesting. There’s a great foundation for them to build on.
If you’re interested in the Paladins beta it’s possible to start playing via the purchase of a $20.00 Founder’s Pack, or register your interest for an open beta key.