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Mace & Crown | March 26, 2017

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"Paladins" Game Review: Slick Fun with Rough Edges

Ross Reelachart
Technology Editor

A colorful cast of cartoonish characters face-off against one another in a hero-based first person shooter with MOBA-like elements. No, I’m not talking about Blizzard’s “Overwatch.” I’m talking about “Paladins” by Hi-Rez Studios, a game that is in the unfortunate position of constantly being compared to “Overwatch” despite being in production for just as long. Currently in open beta, “Paladins” show some rough potential to be a fun hero shooter despite the somewhat unfair comparisons to “Overwatch.”

As a game in the beta phase of development, everything said in this review is subject to change before the final release of the game.

The world of “Paladins” is colorful and cartoony, which is an aesthetic choice that has seen great prominence in recent games as a reaction to the “brown and realistic” style that used to pervade games a few years ago. This is also a world with seemingly no overarching narrative or backstory to explain why a mad scientist fox and a flamethrower knight are fighting against a magical treant and a goblin driving a mech suit. As a game that is online multiplayer-only, such a lack of story is forgivable or even a welcome change. Since there’s no explanation for why these random assortment of heroes are fighting over control point, the game is free to have any characters it chooses without tying them down with unnecessary backstory, or hindering future character additions with a need to tie them into the ‘story’.

The gameplay of “Paladins” will be more familiar to MOBA players than FPS players. While the core gameplay loop is a five-versus-five shooter that relies on teamwork, the major differences between characters and their respective abilities make combat more about numbers than twitch reflex. To add even more complication, characters can customized with ‘cards’ in a loadout that augments their abilities further, usually by reducing their cooldowns or increasing their effectiveness by flat percentages. Combine such fiddly character management with damage numbers that fly off characters when hit and ‘ultimate’ abilities, and “Paladins” seems more like a first person MOBA than it does a competitive shooter.

As a whole, “Paladins” is mostly fun with a lot of enjoyable elements finding themselves marred by a few shortcomings. The combat is quick, but lacks punch. The art style is cute and inoffensive, but in motion that game is even harder to read than “Overwatch.” Customizing heroes to suit different playstyles is interesting as a set of ‘cards,’ but little is done to distinguish those cards as anything other than passive buffs. Customization itself keeps the game rewards over time, but it also involves far too many numbers and the abilities are not consistently easy to understand without thorough play.

Hopefully, “Paladins” can be made more enjoyable before its full release, and hopefully it won’t be dragged down by its free-to-play pay structure. “Paladins” is available on Steam and Windows.