RPS Plays Paladins: character design, Overwatch comparisons, and would we play more

Paladins [official site] is a sci-fi-fantasy first-person shooter in which two teams of five do battle, with each player controlling a ‘champion’ who has a customisable hot bar of skills and who can be upgraded across the course of a round. It’s colourful and popular, but it’s also been accused of being overly similar to Blizzard’s Overwatch. Adam, Brendan, Graham and Pip gathered to play it for an afternoon, and now gather again to discuss those similarities, whether the free-to-play model helps or hurts it, and whether they’d want to play it more.

Adam: I still feel pretty bad about some of the things I said while we were playing Paladins last week. I’ve never been so angry at a turtle in my life. I hated that turtle so much. I hated the robot thing too.

Paladins has this whole gang of characters and I think I hate all of them, even the archer lady that I was playing as most of the time. I hate her because her special super power is to release her bird, which I’d hoped was a bird of prey that would retrieve my enemy’s eyes. It just squawks like an idiot and scouts out enemy positions. It didn’t bring me a single eye.

Graham: I like Basic Pip. AND IN THE–

Sorry.

Pip: Yes, yes… It was nice playing with you lot though, because I usually end up playing Grover – he’s the big, tanky, healer tree thingummy – and having a whole team of us let me branch out. THAT WAS A PUN. You’re not the only one who can make jokes, Graham!

But seriously, I’ve played Paladins at various points in early access and I ended up in that situation of having something I was comfy playing and not feeling free to choose anything I was less comfy with because I was playing with strangers. It’s that fear of flaming you get in multiplayer.

This time I was free to be a butthead turtle or a flamethrowing lothario or the super-vulnerable snake healer guy. Me playing Pip is too confusing, though.

Graham: I kind of agree with Adam in that I mostly hated all the characters, but for me it was because they don’t look likeable. They all seem like try-hards to me. They look like that person you see coming towards you from across the room at a party and think, “Oh no, here he comes.” Probably this person would be wearing a hat or outlandish shirt, and within a few minutes you know they’re going to get out a deck of cards and start trying to do close-up magic tricks for you.

Or at least, that’s how I felt in terms of their visual design. I actually had fun playing as almost every character I picked, mostly because I always felt pretty useful when we were fighting or trying to capture points. I think that’s in part because being new to the game meant I was limited in what kinds of characters I could pick, I’m guessing to those which are most straightforward to play, and because it does a good job at giving you satisfying feedback when you’re doing damage to enemies even if you’re not personally getting the kills.

Adam: See, I hated the characters because they were killing me quite a lot, but I agree that the designs are a bit annoying as well. I’m going to say they look like mascots from a theme park that is probably going to get closed down because the Bort Stimpson character being a slightly different shade of yellow, and with one giant eye, really isn’t going to cut the mustard.

Because we were limited in our picks – new ones unlock as you play, I gather – and I’m a coward, I only went with two. Pip, who is like the off-brand offspring of Ratchet and Rocket Raccoon, and Cassie, the archer lady I mentioned earlier. I really enjoyed playing as both of them and I have to defend Pip’s design now because when he rides a horse, he stands on it and balances as if he’s on a surfboard. And his ultra-attack turns enemies into chickens. What’s not to like? Pip is great. Isn’t that right, Pip?

Pip: Pip is definitely great. Pip is so great that Pip deserves a pay rise.

I think where I’m at with the characters in general is that their aesthetic design is pretty derivative for the most part and doesn’t reflect the fact that they can be interesting to play, so it’s not doing a great job of making the mechanical design seem interesting. I think Brendy, you phrased it well when you were talking about Pixar and Dreamworks movies.

Brendan: Some of the heroes are eerily similar between this and Overwatch though. A dwarf with a deployable turret, a man from Call of Duty with a sprint, a mech-piloting gremlin. It reminds me of when Pixar and Dreamworks both release a kid’s movie with a strangely similar theme. If Overwatch is A Bug’s Life, then Paladins is Antz. Or maybe Overwatch is Finding Nemo and Paladins is Shark Tale. I don’t know anymore.

Pip: I remember when I first played the game ages ago and I think the first character I saw was Cassie. I mean, how many redhaired archers with green wardrobes do I have room for in my life?

Adam: If my sister plays an RPG and it doesn’t let her make a red-haired archer/rogue as her main character, I think she just uninstalls it. Maybe she’s secretly behind all of these things. I think I’ve mentioned before that she has terrible taste in games [LINK IF I CAN FIND IT]

I loved playing as Cassie though. I found it quite hurtful that Pip kept swearing about the snipers on other teams because I thought I was playing as a sniper because apparently I think bows have a longer range than guns. Cassie is very good at picking people off though because she can launch them into the air using an alt-attack, and then they’re all disorientated and you can stick ‘em full of arrows.

More than anything else, I liked how quickly rounds went by. It takes about four seconds to meet the enemy and there’s not a lot of waiting around or sprinting across the map. Instant gratification.

Graham: I enjoyed that about it a lot, too. That ties back to what I was saying before about it giving you good feedback. I normally play games with a relatively low time-to-kill. For example, I’ve been playing Rainbow Six Siege this week and often I’m dead the second a few pixels of an enemy appear on screen. That leads to a lot of waiting around to live again. But the reason I normally prefer those kinds of games is that fighting bullet-sponges is also normally a lot less satisfying than a single-shot takedown.

In Smite, despite only playing it very briefly in beta, I felt like I was being gratified instantly and constantly. I don’t fully understand all the numbers that were racking up on the scoreboard but I enjoyed increasing them, and watching enemy health bars tick down, and all the splooshy explosion effects, and pushing the cart, and so on. Even if the things that you can spend some of those accrued points on, the character upgrade stuff, seem rubbish to me.

Brendan: The free-to-play element was one big downside to me. That you have to grind to unlock all the characters won’t irritate everyone, but I’d far rather just pay 35 quid to get the lot and have the whole community on an even footing. Blizzard’s business model of cosmetics-only loot drops is far better than Hi-Rez’ myriad of wacky currencies and cards.

And yeah, I agree – the cards, skills and on-the-fly upgrades are full of percentage jargon. 5% more damage, 10% more resistance. I did like the process of upgrading your character as you fight, investing down a single line to specialise and bump your strengths – like making your tanky flamethrower man even tankier. But part of me wishes the upgrades were both simpler and more inventive. Not just another 10% better health sucking. But something larger, more game-changing.

Pip: To be fair, you can do the thing you just said – there’s a Founder’s Pack where you essentially pay the price of a game ($19.99) and get all the characters unlocked, current and future, as well as a few other bits and pieces. It’s not everything, but it’s the full roster which is the big thing.

It’s weird, though. Because of MOBAs I’m surrounded by percentage increases to stats; they’re just part and parcel of so many games I like. It feels like a guilty secret to say here “I SORT OF AGREE IN A LIMITED WAY!” I mean, I can pick out things I think will make a meaningful difference to the game from within the options. They just aren’t glamorous-sounding a lot of the time.

Adam: I didn’t mind the upgrades, but I was as boring in my choices there as I was when picking characters. There’s an upgrade that gives you a bit of health back when you kill someone so I got that every single time because I figured I’d be killing lots of people and that they’d be shooting me, so I’d need to heal at some point. I was glad I didn’t have to think about it too much and could just get something that had an immediate obvious effect when it worked.

And I quite like unlocking characters as well. Not that I have unlocked any in Paladins yet, but I think the way I tend to approach these kind of games is to find a character I like and stick with it for a long time. I want to be as good as I can be before moving on, so having something new to play with every once in a while rather than a big group to pick from that might give me choice-paralysis is actually the way I’d want things to be.

Here’s the thing though; I’ve never played Overwatch and now I really want to because it turns out I actually quite like team shooty things with colourful graphics, but there’s no way I’m going to make room for two of them in my life because I’ve barely got room for one.

Graham: I don’t mind unlocking characters in theory, but it can quickly become frustrating as I get to know a game if it feels like I’m coming up against counters to my current character that I don’t personally have unlocked.

As Brendan says, Overwatch doesn’t risk that issue because it just gives you all the characters upfront. How do the two compare more generally, Brendy?

Brendan: I enjoyed Paladins more than I expected, but I adore Overwatch and have been playing it at least once every week since it came out, sometimes much more often. They’re enormously similar games. The first thing I did was to swap the controls for my abilities to match Overwatch’s controls. It all came to me fairly quickly after that, apart from having to learn each hero’s (sorry, “Champion’s”) skills.

It’s the little differences that I found interesting. I really liked some of the abilities that don’t exist in Overwatch – the AK-47 lady’s area-of-effect petrol bomb was fun, and, I like the ultimate ability of Ratchet from Ratchet & Clank that Adam mentioned earlier – it turns all stricken enemies into chickens with a set amount of lowish health. Differences in character weapons also felt pretty good. I enjoyed that the shield man, Fernando, has a flamethrower in place of the Reinhardt’s trusty hammer. Tasting all of these was fun as a Reinhardt/Junkrat/Symmetra man. It was kind of like eating at Pizza Hut when you normally go to Dominoes, and enjoying what they do with their sauce. That’s a bad analogy, because both those pizza places are rubbish, but you get the idea.

Graham: I’m not sure I can get motivated in the whole Paladins-borrowing-from-Overwatch debate when both are already taking a lot from Team Fortress 2. And I don’t care about that at all because Valve take from other games all the time.

Adam: Yeah, it doesn’t bother me. But there’s no way I’m going to spend any more hours getting good at Paladins if more of the people I know are playing Overwatch. Or even still playing Team Fortress 2 for that matter. While we were playing, I think I enjoyed shouting and swearing and occasionally trying to heal someone more than I enjoyed actually trying to win the game. An obvious thing to say, I know, but I enjoy multiplayer games for the players more than for the actual game. I couldn’t do the whole playing with random people thing; I don’t have the patience, and what if they didn’t laugh at my jokes? I’d be mortified.

What I really want to know – and this question is for Pip because she has the most experience with Paladins – is whether we were any good or not? We didn’t do too badly, though we were playing against low-ranked teams (once we’d levelled up enough by killing bots to actually play against people at all), but I secretly think we’re probably garbage. But that’s partly because I think Pip is much better at this sort of thing than me and is quietly shaking her head whenever I die or get turned into a chicken.

Pip: Actually, no. I think we did pretty well as a team. I mean, there was a lot of the smaller stuff that I didn’t realise I’d internalised about positioning on the levels as well as how to make meaningful choices in the game, so when to go with upgrades which counter shielded characters and when to go with things that disrupted healing – that kind of stuff. But you can only do that when you’re more familiar with the way the characters work or with the map layouts and so on.

Same with card builds going into the games. I have a few custom decks that I use which let me play to my own strengths as well as those of the champions. If you’ve only just started the game you’ll likely be using the basic decks which are solid but not specialised.

But there were human matches where we got stomped and human matches where we absolutely crushed other people as well as the more even face-offs.

Adam: I think this marks another day in which I have successfully fished – nay, trawled – for a compliment. I’ll take it. One thing that didn’t really work for me was the maps. I’ve already mentioned that I liked how compact everything is, but I only really remember one map that came in slightly different colours. They’re probably more varied than I remember them being, but only one sticks in my head, and I can’t even remember which one it is!

Graham: The maps didn’t leave a strong impression on me either, aesthetically or in how they shaped the way I played. That’s maybe one difference from Overwatch for me, where quite quickly I felt like I was learning how to control spaces and make use of chokepoints and so on with different character abilities. Paladins felt much more like the maps were corridors. That might change if I played more and discovered champions with movement abilities that let them utilize those spaces in new ways though, as for example Hanzo does in Overwatch.

I enjoy my time with Paladins a lot, but I agree with Adam in that I’m unlikely to devote time to two of these kinds of games. And between this and Overwatch, I choose… Rainbow Six Siege.

Brendan: I did like my time in Paladins and I *miiiiight* go back to play some more. But if I was in a cinema and I had to chose between the two, I’m sticking with Pixar. Does that make sense to anybody?

Pip: I think Paladins offers something I like which I miss in Overwatch and that’s character progression over the course of a match, because it feels like you’re able to upgrade and tweak them to fit the match or to fit you. Overwatch relies on character switching to solve problems and I’ve never really been able to enjoy that. It’s just not a playstyle that appeals to me, plus it seems to just lead to a bunch of arguments where the most stubborn people just play a sniper forever and shouts at other people for not swapping.

Paladins isn’t immune from that stuff – people still instapick shooty characters, but there’s something I find far more fundamentally aggravating about an entire match spent with someone trying to force you into swapping because they won’t. I’m more likely to play Paladins for my own enjoyment, but I go through long stretches of not being in the mood for either.

Adam: I didn’t know about this character-swapping element in Overwatch and it sounds like I might become the stubborn sniper who shouts at everyone else for not swapping, and I would hate to become that person. I’ll stick with my strategy games. Though I would definitely like to play Paladins again. In fact, I kind of want to play it right now.

Pip: INVITE TO GROUP.

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29 Comments

  1. thekelvingreen says:

    But Antz is the better film.

  2. Neurotic says:

    I’ve never Overwatched, but I’ve been Paladining since an early Beta and have been having enormous fun. If you’re put off by crushing hype and constant noise from the Overwatchers, come and join us in Paladinland! You do still get lots of competitive lunatics, but otherwise we’re quite chilled out. :)

  3. Winstons says:

    Junkrat main?! TRIGGERED

  4. stringerdell says:

    Id definitely try it if Overwatch didnt exist already.

    • blur says:

      Well it is F2P as opposed to Overwatch’s full-price-game cost of admission. So realistically there’s no reason to not try it out if you’re interested (not that I play either this or Overwatch).

      • Snowskeeper says:

        Realistically, there are several reasons not to spend hours installing it. It’s also quite large.

  5. Morph says:

    This is great, more of this sort of article! I remember olden days of RPS when the gang would play Champions or Borderlands or something together and chat about it, glad to see that sort of thing returning.

  6. Grabpopcorn says:

    Paladins is actually fun as sometimes you have to develop strategies in mid game to balance the technical ups and downs from your team to maintain advantage; cards do too much pressure if the player knows what he/she/apache is doing and loadouts can help you to make your own playstyle. Also I like more paladins charisma (nando, bking, blue shrek, being the ones with my favourite lines). But mostly I like that you have to be good ’cause it’s a team play so your awareness and predict plus how this engines with your teammates makes you better and decides matches.

    • EternalPioneer says:

      haha ‘blue shrek’ 😂

      My favorite is when bomb king die, his ‘aaah, i die’ is so funny and melodramatic!!

  7. Rituro says:

    I played Paladins before Overwatch (and before both, gobs and gobs of TF2). Having played the two (three), there’s enough different between them to mark out what I do and don’t like.

    Paladins, as the less popular one, is way easier to be a good player in since the tryhards are still playing Overwatch. I have carried teams as Fernando without even half-trying. Also, Grover is just too darn fun (tree with axe! Irony!).

    Overwatch is better committed to its setting and story, though, so it’s easier to buy into the revelry and bullet-y fun there.

    Meanwhile, TF2 is still wonderful and amazing and has hats.

    • Grabpopcorn says:

      actually you dont play or you played 4 months ago ’cause it’s actually pretty hard to carry if you aren’t androxus (and you have to be extremly good); casuals play overwatch in paladins you need to be really strong after two weeks of 80% win rate; also “casual” mode is way harder than competitive ’cause everyone is a main of their pick. And don’t go telling me I’ve just played 5 matches ’cause first 5 matches are low level bots.

      • Rituro says:

        Well, that was a bit harsher than I was expecting. Glad to know there’s only one way to play the game and I haven’t been doing it.

        Love the accusation that I haven’t been playing enough, either. Cheers.

    • EternalPioneer says:

      I pick Grover, tell team ‘pick two tank’, in start of game i say ‘let win people!’ and then i stand on point behind two tank and easy win!!

      ok today i loose but only one tank was reason, i swear!

  8. kirito says:

    Over and over this review calls Paladins a ripoff of Overwatch.
    Except… Paladins was in beta when Overwatch characters were announced.

    • Moraven says:

      Overwatch announced November 2014 and was playable at BlizzCon.
      Overwatch closed beta started on October 27th, 2015.

      Paladins was revealed on August 2nd/3rd 2015.
      Closed Beta started on November 17th, 2015.

    • Ghostwise says:

      Except… Paladins was in beta when Overwatch characters were announced.

      Ah, an “alternative fact”.

  9. Michael Fogg says:

    I agree that Paladins is quite poor in terms of aesthetics… the whole mix of fantasy and scifi tropes doesn’t make much of a cohesive whole (but at least it’s colourful) and the character lineup has to many generic anime-lite ladies. But as a competitive game it’s really freaking fun (this coming from a person who never got into Mobas and has not played competitive FPS in ages).

    • EternalPioneer says:

      I am new player and i also find it fun! I had some very close games today, including that was 3:3 and very close loss!!

      I think the character design is ok, color theme is ok too. It is very mixed (the characters) but it all blend together well

      I play Fernando a lot so far, but i find Makoa and Grover to be more fun. I try to play Buck but flank is hard!! Very easy to die as him but i want to master him and get Commando skin

      Also i do not think it has many anime ladies. Kinessa looks like western comic book, Tyra is like from tv show Vikings (cool and badass)

      Ying and Evie ok i can see, they are pretty in anime girl sense :) Skye is like Overwatch girls, big butt in spandex 💕

      But interesting is Cassie, if you look image in this article, you see old design, very sexy. Current design, much more covered, like Tyra. The change made me sad but is ok, this design more realistic adn she still pretty ❤

  10. DingDongDaddio says:

    The character design is why I wont even bother to try this F2P game. Looking through the list, not a single one of them appeals to me and many of them outright annoy me. I mean, just look at that stupid creature on the cover image of this article… blech.

    Conversely, character design is a huge reason I took the plunge on Overwatch. There’s a few misses (Winston and Reaper look really dumb) but designs like Tracer are simply brilliant.

    • Grabpopcorn says:

      well the character you are refering to is the bright smiling joyfull character from paladins and tracer has the same aura dude. Also overwatch fails as a bunch of people jumping and shooting while pushing a cart are the ones to define how bright the future of the world can be, that’s the biggest “WUT?” I dropped in my life.
      Also there is a good composition as nando can drop “This is a hot team, it’s like a normal team, but with me in it” and his ult is a serious “I will not die, not yet, amigo” so characters have some dimesion, as there is a anoying dude that fights seriously (nando), a pun thrower that is a psycho that killed everyone in his hometown and formed a cult arround a new god (grohk), and a mechanical King with fame complex (bking), and so on. As you see it isn’t the good guy bad guy nor the plain character you can predict from just looking at how they dress. I should say the lore is as slim as a title on some characters, but I hope to see more since it’s a beta.

    • stringerdell says:

      They really are an ugly bunch compared to the Overwatch cast.

    • Moraven says:

      Just looking at the similiarities to Overwatch characters…

      Symmetra with side book showing.
      Soldier 76 guy who sprints.
      Wannabe Reaper.
      Reinhardt with Winston’s weapon.
      Torb who can make a barricade.

      They do have a Turtle tho…

      • Kushaja says:

        The Turtle is Roadhog, all the way down to the hook
        And, please, look at the Evie character. She is copy paste Mei. Its kinda embarrasing.

        • Biskii269 says:

          She has totally different skills tho.. can mei blink around and fly on a broom? i dont think so

  11. noiseferatu says:

    I guess you didn’t find the link.

  12. Jinxter says:

    Copy core concepts for champion roles, literally copy font style from Overwatch and then post articles to defend yourself xD
    At least have the humility to admit what you did which is using overwatch as a blueprint. It’s obvious. You can’t deny it.

  13. DeadlyAccurate says:

    I’ve played both, and I even bought a Founder’s Pack for Paladins, so obviously I enjoy both. I like Paladins, but I love Overwatch. Paladins feels, I dunno, slower I guess? Less intense. The maps feel smaller, and they are definitely less interesting to look at. But there’s something almost relaxing about playing it.

    Since I learned how to turn off Group and Match chat in Overwatch as soon as I start the game, I no longer have to deal with people yelling about character choices, so that aspect doesn’t bother me in that game, and in Paladins, I hardly ever see chat from other players.

  14. stringerdell says:

    obligatory: link to youtube.com