(click on pictures to see big ones in new windows, I know my frames are small.)
The initial title of “Team shooter perfected” was a bit of a click-bait title and I am far too early in on my Paladins journey to give it that much credit this early. They are well on their way, however, and have definitely solidified themselves as my favorite entry into this genre and deservedly so. Of course, before talking about the present, let’s talk about the past.
I played team shooters back when it was real tough. Rainbow six had message board ladders (nothing in game for rankings, matchmaking, etc.) and a punishing play style. I did do a lot of Counter Strike back in the day as well. Then, for years, there was nothing. I skipped Team Fortress 2 for the most part (which I suspect most would argue is the true inspiration for the new group of bright and cartoony team shooter offerings) and when I did try to get into it the matchmaking was so poor and everyone else was so far ahead of me that I couldn’t find fun or get a foothold. I spent years not playing small map team based shooters, and instead stuck the to the Battlefield 2142’s and Project Reality’s of the world.
My son started playing Overwatch with his friends and in true Blizzard fashion it looked slick, interesting, and fun. I tried to get into it myself only to find things a bit bland for my tastes as well as matchmaking being completely broken (when you are level 14 playing against a guy who is level 314 you know there are issues.) So much clutter onthe screen, claustrophobic maps, lack of customization options and enemies that were just so good it also felt like there was no chance to catch up (already) and that things just weren’t “fair”. Add to the whole buy + microtransactions model that I fundamentally disagree with I just didn’t stick with Overwatch. It wasn’t terrible but just wasn’t a place I wanted to dedicated any more time learning in or trying to have fun in after 20 hours of ‘meh’ gameplay. I gave it a fair chance.
Enter Izlain, and his recommendation for Paladins – the F2P team shooter option from Hi-Rez Studios, and it does everything that Overwatch doesn’t and then some. I have over 7 hours played and this is my new go to game. So much to discover, to unlock. So much fun. While it isn’t a huge departure from what we know (and what is popular) it does have some neat options which make it a bit more complex and fun. Let’s talk about those after a general explanation about how the game works.
Like most team based shooters there are a lot of different champions. In Paladins they are split into four groups – Damage, Front Line, Support, and Flank. Those are self explanatory for the most part (Damage, Tank, Heal, Light Armor Damage). There are four modes currently (three standard, and a new one being tested) and they are also very similar:
- Payload (moving an object from a starting point to an ending point). Swap from offence to Defence. 1 point for objective, need 2 of 3 to win the round.
- Siege (battling for a position on a map, which, once won spawns a Payload phase). Need 4 points to win. 1 point for securing the objective, 1 for the payload.
- Team Elimination (die once, no respawn) first team to 5 full team eliminations wins.
- Onslaught (control point time + kills). Game is over when the total points hits a threshold.
They are all fun. The maps are varied. Where Paladins truly wins is in the customization. First, characters – you don’t only have different weapons and outfits to equip, you can fundamentally change the way a character plays using the card based system. Here is the best example of this, with Skye.
Skye is flanker. The flanking play style revolves around sneaking around the back (or side, literally, flanking) and while big heavies and damage dealers are focusing on an objective swoop in and cause havoc from a different angle. Skye has a stealth on a high cooldown (15 seconds). This ability has huge gameplay ramifications as it gives you the freedom to move around the map. The first three cards are the legendary cards and you must choose one before the match. The picture above shows the new card I built (you can loot them or spend in game resources) which changed her default gameplay style from “Do 30% more damage to enemies hit by poison bolts” (secondary attack) to “Reduce all cooldowns by 100% when getting a kill or elimination”.
Totally different playstyle. Striking from the shadows, and immediately entering back into the shadows, versus applying a shred that can take down even the tankiest of enemies fast, but far more exposed. The third legendary option for Skye is an Alpha strike option, doing 300 more damage on the first hit out of stealth. So, now you have a themed character that you can change to better suit a map or playstyle you prefer. The other cards allow you to further personalize your abilities. I am going to use Ying, my first support character, as the example here.
Ying heals by creating illusions of herself that cast heals every second to the most injured team member in their range. They are stationary. Her other abilities are to swap positions with her furthest away illusion (escape), do damage, and “shatter’ her illusions – they charge the nearest enemy and then blow up. It is a really fun kit and I am having the most fun healing with her. With all characters you get to select up to 5 cards, and use 12 points (you can improve each card – so if one says increase health by 100 as a base, you can spend three additional points and make that 400. As an example) to make your character yours.
Here is the base Ying.
This impacts her gameplay.
- Spring Bloom (4) Illusions are on a 5 second timer, and have health. If one dies the counter goes down 2 seconds faster.
- Squadron (4) Her illusions are a lot beefier with 4 points (+400 health)
- Disappear (1) Ying can move faster out of combat with a 7% movement speed increase (and if you added a point there, would most likely be 14% faster).
- Efficiency (1) Reduces the cooldown of Dimensional Link (the teleport swap skill) by 1s.
- Tangible (2), increases personal health by 100 (Tangible 1 would have been 50. It moves it very round numbers).
This kit its focusing on personal and illusion survivability with good movement. It’s the base Ying everyone plays. I found that I was ‘shattering’ (exploding) my illusions a lot and that if someone got in my face and I teleport swapped then they would kill the illusion. I also wanted more than one illusion up at a time effectively I loved the theme and mood of Ying but wanted to create a playstyle that was a bit different. This is what I came up with:
- Mesmerism (3) increases the range where you can deploy illusions by 30% (Now I can stay safer and further away)
- Squadron (2) increases health by 200 (I didn’t need 400 because I was blowing them up a lot anyway to do damage)
- Rewind (1) swapping to the spot of a dead illusion spawns an illusion with 25% health (great emergency heal escape if low)
- Carry On (4) – your illusions last 4 sec longer (now I can layer them better)
- Spring Bloom (2) – when illusions die to an enemy reduce the cooldown of illusions by 1 sec (get them back up faster)
I absolutely loved the new deck, and my first game, kicks some nice butt with it too. There are a few tweaks I might use (taking a point off of Carry On and adding it to Spring Bloom) but that is what is great about this game – you can make the champions your own in a controlled environment.
Here was the results of my first game with Ying v2.0
Remember, Ying is a support/healer. I had the highest kill streak, most objective time (escorting the payload), comparable damage, and only healing in the game. My 11/4/13 KDA outshone most of my team (who were all playing pure damage dealers). It was a great round for me.
The customization doesn’t start there. In game you can also customize your champion further based on who you are facing in game and how the match is going, through an in game item store – of which, you score points during the match and then spend. Remember that Skye I told you about, that could stealth after every kill and is a great harasser? A skilled player could see that happening and adjust in game to better deal with her by buying the Illuminate skill (increase range you detect stealthed characters). If Ying’s illusions are taking you down during shatters get the Blast Shields – they lower AOE damage. If your support isn’t healing, buy Life Rip – which gives your damage a leech effect. Against some big tanky front lines with shields? Wrecker takes those down fast. The item shop gives you more options to strategically support your success. It is pure awesome. You can lower cooldowns, increase ultimate charge, lower healing on players you did damage to – all sorts of steady states. It is limited to one item per line (Defence, Utility, Healing, Offense) but you can also upgrade the item in the same category for more money. When I was trying to increase my illusion uptime on Ying I would go with level 3 Chronos builds (30% cooldown reduction).
There are a lot of other topics of discussion to discuss about Paladins and I will more deeply explore them – it is my definite new go to game for the forseeable future. If you feel like picking it up (it’s free) add me as a friend and I’d love to learn the game with you. My in game name is “Founts”. Looking forward to exploring and understanding this title better – and already absolutely in love with it.