Paladins [official site] is a wonderful, free-to-play, deck-building, first-person shooter where you attempt to defeat the enemy team with lots of skills, guns and teamwork.
Oh, and you can turn people into chickens.
MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arenas) aren’t really my thing, but I am enjoying Hi-Rez Studios’ Paladins so much that I would consider it one of my favourite games at the moment. Actually, it isn’t really a full-on MOBA, it’s more like a first-person shooter where you can build decks and buy upgrades in-match. In fact, that’s exactly what it is – and I absolutely love it.
In the game, which is currently in an open beta stage, you take control of one of a number of different champions to fight with your team against the enemy team. The champions range from raccoons with healing potions – at least I think he’s a raccoon – and knights with flamethrowers, to trees that throw axes and a goblin driving a robot killing-machine. I currently play mostly as Pip the Raccoon, due to the fact that anyone else that I have come across who plays as Pip has kept their healing potions all to themselves. Selfish and foolish, because only one person can play as each champion and lots of healers prefer Pip over the other support units (like me).
Playing a match as Pip the raccoon.
The champions in Paladins fall into four different categories, each skilled in certain things more than others. ‘Front line’ units are for people who like to be in front of their team, taking the bulk of the damage but still dishing lots out. ‘Damage’ is for players who want to stay behind the front line champions but can – if playing correctly – deal even more damage. If you are a fella who would rather stay behind the team and heal them, still dealing a bit of damage but mainly there to make sure the team isn’t dying constantly, then ‘support’ might be for you. Lastly, ‘flank’ is for those who think they would be a better help running around the battle and sneaking up from behind. Classic MOBA stuff.
You can play as one type and perform like another if you feel like you would be better like that. You could try to sneak around the main battle as Drogoz (a damage champion playing like a flank champion), or get right in there with Grover (a support champion acting as a front line or damage champion, depending on where you are). As stated above though, each type of champion is skilled in their own way, as well as each champion is different to the others. You can try, but it would be harder unless you have a pretty good idea on exactly what to do and how to do it well.
Each champion has a unique weapon and unique skills that need to cool down after use. Left click is for the main attack and your first weapon (the only attack without a cooldown but does have to reload or take time between strikes/throws/shots), right click, ‘Q’ and ‘F’ for your character’s two small skills and ‘E’ for your character’s main skill (which takes a long time to charge up but is well worth the wait).
The champion list at the time of posting this article.
Every champion also has their own card range that you can choose from to craft your own unique deck to fit your play style. This is something I love, especially as the decks are completely balanced and it doesn’t cost much to build a new one. When I started playing the game, I didn’t think much about my deck because the game automatically comes with pre-built ‘basic’ decks, so I just picked them and didn’t think it would make much difference. I was very wrong, as the basic decks are more balanced between each skill than tailored to one certain skill.
Immediately after realising I should change my deck up a bit I found that if I chose one particular card for Pip’s healing potion and upgrade it to the fourth level – the maximum – I could make the skill have an almost instant cooldown. This would only be possible if I managed to throw the potion in the middle of the team, so I started the next match, chose my custom ‘Power Pip’ deck and tried throwing my healing potion in the middle of the team when they were all bunched up in the spawn room. It worked once, so I tried it again straight after. It had an eight second cooldown – this is where the balancing comes in. I couldn’t make an overpowered deck (which is awesome), which means the developers had really thought about it before implementing it.
There are numerous cards you can choose to fit into your deck, but you must choose five different ones to use up all the slots in your deck or you can’t save it. After choosing the cards, you can upgrade them to whatever level up to four you decide, making the card better. Before saving your deck, you need to make sure you have used up all twelve deck slots (I will just call them that, I’m not sure what they are really called). Each card takes up one deck slot and each card upgrade adds another one. The cards cost 1,200 ‘gold’ each as far as I’ve seen, which you earn after playing each match.
You can also purchase upgrades throughout the rounds that give your champion small but life-saving buffs with ‘credits’ that you continuously gain as you play. These credits aren’t gold, but a separate currency that is only there when you are actually in a round.
Using Fernando’s shield skill to distract the enemy team’s fire.
So far everything seems great – the gameplay, the deck building, the champions, all perfect. One thing I have struggled a bit with is connection issues and getting randomly kicked from matches if my ping goes over a certain limit, especially when I’m playing with friends. Look, if I can put up with having to start shooting five seconds in advance, your machine should be able to as well, hosts!
When it comes to free-to-play games, something seems suspicious. ‘Microtransactions’ is the first word that comes into my head. Of course, the developers need to make money somewhere, but I’m sure almost everyone reading this would agree with me in saying that I would rather drop a tenner – maybe even twenty – for a game as long as it isn’t riddled with this ‘buy gems to buy more stuff and be better’ nonsense. Paladins has half of it, in that you can buy gems, but almost all of the things you can buy with gems can be obtained through playing the game. There are a few things here and there that you can only purchase with gems, but they are only cosmetic items that you can equip pre-match (that I’ve noticed).
There is also a ‘Paladins Founder’s Pack’ which you can pay US$15 for that gives you every champion in the game without paying any gold (and those coming out in the future), a skin for Fernando the flamethrower knight, a special fiery horse skin and twenty radiant chests which can give you cards for your champions’ decks or cosmetics (the chests can also be obtained through playing). All money paid is for a small head start or just to make your characters look different.
All in all, Paladins is awesome (of course it is, this is Hi-Rez we’re talking about) and being free-to-play, I reckon you should definitely try it out – even if, like me, you aren’t into many MOBAs. You might be surprised! The way the game currently stands in its open beta stage makes its future look very promising, I can’t wait to see what is yet to come!