Paladins Champions of the Realm is a free-to-play, 5 on 5 hero shooter that had an extended Beta from 2016 to the beginning of 2018 before its fully fledged release on other platforms. The genre is burgeoning at the moment with games like Overwatch and the different take on the genre Fortnite being played worldwide. The Nintendo Switch has had a noticeable lack of games to scratch the competitive multiplayer itch with the likes of Splatoon and Doom being the only real offerings to date.
Paladins has been released this week for those willing to purchase the Founders Pack that will set you back $29.99 or £24.99 in the UK with the free-to-play download coming later on this year.
Paladins Champions of the Realm will be familiar to those who have played other hero shooter genre games, there are a number of modes available, all of them online multiplayer 5 on 5 team battles.
Jump Straight In
The game jumps you straight into these modes without any story or campaign. In a battle you take control of one of 36 characters – all if which are available to those purchasing the founders pack. Each character fills one of the four classes – Front Liners are the games Tanks, these characters have barrier style spells and high defence to soak up damage. Damage Dealers are classic head on pain bringers that focus on smashing enemies and have skills that stop opponents from moving or knocking them out of the air. Supporters are the healers of the game offering up healing and supporting buffs and Flankers are mobile attackers aimed at taking out your opponents Damage Dealers with mobile skills and high damage output. You can choose to fight in first or third person view modes.
It can be daunting at first but I found that picking one character from each class and getting used to their mechanics is a good place to start. Each of Paladins champions has five different skills – a base weapon to fight with, three abilities, and an Ultimate.
There are three game modes on offer, Team Deathmatch, Onslaught and Siege. Deathmatch pits your team of 5 against another team of 5 in a furious battle where the first team to reach 40 kills wins, whilst matchmaking you will be able to see which characters your teammates and enemies have selected and will have time to choose a character accordingly – for example if you don’t have a Supporter its a good idea to pick a character in that role in order to balance out your team.
This was the first mode I jumped into and I love it, battles are quick, lasting usually around about 10 minutes. Once you have picked your character you cannot change them mid match which I personally found to be a good idea as you get to fulfil a role in your squad.
Siege is the other mode on offer and matches tend to be more strategic and last a lot longer, essentially both teams scramble to a central zone where they must fill a meter in order to unlock a payload which they need to defend and push towards the enemies area. Battles are won when the first team reaches four payloads and working together is essential. Once a team scores a payload all players reset to the spawn point and there is a brief timer before you can both go back to get another payload, this short break gives each character time to spend their currency on ability and discuss and tactical decisions.
Onslaught is the King of the Hill style offering, teams are awarded tickets for controlling the centre of the arena as well as for kills and the first team to reach 400 wins or the team with the most tickets after 10 minutes wins allowing for quick matches.
Switch vs other consoles
In terms of comparison to other consoles all of the games modes and characters with the exception of the Rise of Furia content are here and the game runs at a healthy 60 FPS. Cross play is available with Xbox players so matchmaking is not going to be a challenge. PS4 does not offer cross play with Switch players. Much like on Fortnite this is of course a shame if you have friends playing on that platform.
Voice chat is not currently supported natively which is a shame and can cause you to miss out on learning and tactical opportunities if playing with a random squad. Fortnite has shown that having native chat support can now work extremely well on Switch without the need of a mobile phone. using the jack to plug in a head set with a mic is all that’s needed. Discord seems to be the best solution right now for those with a solid team though I do hope native chat is introduced in the near future in a similar fashion to what has been implemented in Fortnite.
Controls are solid and I thoroughly enjoyed playing on my pro controller motion is fluid and very responsive, the movement and speed of shooting reminds me of Halo which is certainly a compliment. With 5 skills to juggle it can take a bit of time to get your bearings but once you have one character sussed you will find further characters take a lot less time to understand.
On the move I was impressed, the controls feel natural and though the screen is smaller is not too small for the carnage and I didn’t find that I lost a significant edge – certainly not enough to dull the awesomeness of being able to play portable matches!
On its surface Paladins can seem quite straightforward, there are not a ton of modes and whilst there are a lot of characters they are all one of the main four classes but its in the customisation and huge number of options that the game shines.
As well as cosmetic changes you are able to select a specific load out for each character by tweaking cards, items and abilities both before the match and then further during it. Each character levels up as you use them and increasing their level will unlock new abilities without making them stronger each level to keep things pretty balanced.
Cards are a unique approach to the game, each character has a raft of cards available to them with a limited number of slots to equip cards to. Building a load out that suits your play style really changes the way your characters plays and can affect everything from what your skills do to how you support the team. For example you can choose to heal per kill with a Damage Dealer leading you down a very aggressive path or you could choose to have that character buff those near you. Being able to save a bunch of card load outs per character allows you quickly adjust builds in between battles.
At the beginning of each battle you are able to choose one of four available Talents which some of the more powerful or quirky ones being unlocked once you level up that character. These talents drastically alter the way they play and can adjust their role within a team.
On top of this you earn credits during each battle and these are used in that battle to purchase and level up items, if the enemy is beating you down perhaps you need to increase your defence or maybe you see an opportunity to snipe the opponent and want to increase the damage output of your long range attack.
In Siege mode you naturally have time to do these tweaks in between rounds but in Onslaught and Team Deathmatch you will at first struggle to find time to figure all of this out. To compensate for this there is an auto feature for beginners but it comes with a warning as some report to have illogical combinations when leaving it to the AI.
Once you reach level 15 you will unlock Ranked where you are pitted against sterner competition, there are rewards in the form of chests that provide you with additional customisations and gold that you can choose to spend as appropriate.
When you combine all of this combination and mix of permanent benefits to both you with levelling and each individual character along with on the fly changes per battle leads to a real sense of progression and depth that elevates the fun factor and strategy.
Audio is not Paladins strongest point. The background music is kept at very low levels in match and in between there is a fairly generic orchestral backing track, a few different songs would be welcome here. Mid fight I have no complaints though I was not blown away at the same time, weapons sound Ok and characters have a small number of lines they deliver throughout a match.
Visuals and Performance
Paladins features vibrant colours and a comic art style, the characters are very recognisable and each looks great. The game runs at 60 FPS consistently even in handheld mode and when docked I found the graphics to be gorgeous without any major lag or other issues which is impressive. When on the move the framerate stays solid but the graphical fidelity drops slightly to accommodate this.
With a large number of maps and characters on offer things stay fresh visually. Performance wise there is not a long wrong when it comes to in-game performance but load times are quite long, finishing a match for example takes a long time and sends you back in to watch a replay and then loads again to take you out of it. Because of this delay you do feel as though there is a significant pause between matches.
If you want to pick up Paladins immediately you will need to purchase the Founders Pack for $29.99 in the US or £24.99 in the UK. Later on this year, we don’t know when – the game without this content will be free to play for everyone.
So what is in the Founders Pack? Well you get access to all 36 Champions, their voice packs and additional cosmetics such as a cool Inferno Warhouse Mount and skills for characters.
As a Free-to-Play game its good to see that this game is not pay to win and you can certainly play without investing once the game is released for all later on this year. If you want all characters though I personally think the value is there and each different character offers enough variety to warrant the investment not to mention the fact that you can easily sink hundreds of hours with this game.
No inbuilt chat
Slow loading times