Reviewed on Switch, copy supplied by publisher.
Paladins plugs a much needed gap in the Switch library by adding a competitive online shooter into the mix. Contrary to popular comparisons the game itself is distinct from heavy hitting hero shooter Overwatch, holding its own as a title. After playing a few rounds it becomes pretty clear that Paladins is more like the result of Overwatch being in a high collision crash with a MOBA – creating something more distinct than it appears on the surface in the process.
It can be an overwhelming game to jump into, especially considering the “launch” on Switch is essentially bringing almost two year’s worth of content with it. There are over 30 distinct characters to choose from, and a tonne of load-out choices to be made using the game’s cards (much like the load-out system in the controversial Battlefront II).
The deck building is an interesting mechanic, and one of the features that has me most intrigued. The variables will draw you in as you scramble to build decks that suit your play style and give you the edge in combat. The fact you can make each character your own is something that makes Paladins stand out.
There are several game modes that will be familiar to online shooter fans, such as Siege – where teams have to move a payload to a certain point (not helping the Overwatch comparisons), Onslaught – a point control mode, and Team Deathmatch, which is pretty self explanatory. Each are engaging enough, and I enjoyed my time battling it out across the modes, even if I was a bit lost from time to time because I found the team configurations hard to read and the “meta” was lost to me.
In my time with Paladins I haven’t really found a go to champion, I’ve been enjoying my time experimenting with different team configurations and player abilities – but this is something that the game makes hard. Once you’ve selected your character and locked them in you can’t change out during a match.
If your team configuration isn’t working you have to go down with the ship, which hurts all the more when you’re new to the game and not sure what role you should be filling. The ability to alter teams is something I would love to see added. For new players this is a feature that makes the learning curve all the steeper.
On paper the game is free to play, but currently it’s locked behind a $45AUD founder’s pack that provides keen Switch players early access – which sets the cynic in me on fire. The fact it’s currently free to play on other systems seems poorly thought out, but at least it will be free at some stage, with all the items unlock-able with time and effort should you choose not to part with your money. As business models for free games goes, Paladins is pretty mild – and those willing to go in without paying should have an uninhibited time.
Performance wise the game runs great on Switch. Most of my playtime was in hand held mode, and despite some issues matching with other human players online, everything went smoothly. From what I understand, matching with AI opponents is standard in the game at lower levels, and the relatively low Switch player-base might be contributing towards the frequency of this – so it’s something worth keeping an eye on after the game launches fully later in the year.