It’s no mystery that I am a huge fan of Smite by HiRez Studios. Many tireless hours have been spent dropping the hammer as Thor or opening the pits of the underworld as Anubis. Even though I shy away from the usual MOBA fair, Smite does a great job of blending action, quirky characters and MOBA elements for a solid multiplayer addiction with plenty of depth.
Thus when Paladins, a first person shooter created by the same team was announced, I was giddy. I’ll admit it.
Paladins is a team-based shooter in which players will control a hero with unique skills and weaponry. One minute you can be a knight with a laser shield and a flamethrower, the next minute you can be a goblin piloting a steampunk mech suit. Characters are zany, interesting in their design and have unique play styles. They do lack the familiarity of the mythical beings found in Smite, but these new designs should continue to evolve as the game sees more development.
The core focus of the game is player vs player action. The current mode is comparable to Siege in Smite, but in Paladins there is more speed built into the game type. On average, a match takes about 10-13 minutes, but can be as short as five. On the map are areas which must be held by standing in them. If another player of the opposite team is in the same circle, no points are made (similar to Battlefield or Warframe). Once the bar is filled, a Siege weapon spawns then travels down a set path to one of the enemy’s three gates. The final goal of the match is to use the siege weapon to do massive damage, crushing each gate before blasting the final one, ending the match.
Mechanically, the game is similar to Smite in its ability use, but feels more like Team Fortress 2. Heroes will have to be rather precise with their shots, like an Unreal Tournament contender or the origin of Deathmatch, Doom. Certain heroes are easier to use than others, with weapons that makes contact easier or an ability that hits a larger area. Experimenting with each character is recommended. Ultimate abilities are currently missing, but may not be needed in the grand scheme of things.
What sets Paladins apart from other arena based shooters is its unique card system. Instead of building items like in Smite or picking a loadout like in Call of Duty, once a level is gained, three random cards are drawn from a random or pre-constructed deck depending on the mode being played. The player then picks which cards they want for the effect to activate, creating a controlled random element, forcing strategies and experimentation. Each character has their own special sets of cards, as well. So playing a new character will have a different experience with card builds as well as their innate abilities.
Adding to the card strategy is the ability to construct decks with earned cards. Cards can be unlocked from chests, a mechanic similar to that found in Hearthstone. Earning Epic cards is still just as rewarding, while familiarity with the cards and their effects will build with time as you play the game.
Artistically, the game looks simple, but with enough fantasy detail to make it seem bigger than it actually is. Dwarves toting around heavy weapons meet elves with bows. Anything can happen in Paladins‘ design, an open way of leaving room for the game to evolve in any direction Hi-Rez decides.
Paladins‘ Beta tests are shaping up to be another interesting multiplayer affair. With Hi-Rez’s track record, one can also assume they will be giving Paladins the eSports treatment, meaning competition will be fierce. The game’s framework is fairly solid, but what will be built upon it is what’s exciting. Even after just a few months, several patches have been added.
I’ll be keeping a close eye on Paladins as it develops.