Free-to-play Overwatch-alike Paladins launches today

What's a Paladin?

It feels almost unfair to call free-to-play ‘hero shooter’ Paladins an Overwatch clone, but then I look at screenshots like the one above, and another one with a big n’ heavy character with a chain-hook attack and… yeah, it’s pretty clear that Paladins is riding on Blizzard’s coattails. But it’s also fun, good-looking, and free to jump into. It’s been a regular in Steam’s top ten most played games for some time, and has officially left early access as of today.

To be fair, the game has grown and evolved a lot since its initial early access debut. While the game’s Overwatch inspirations were a lot clearer at launch, the rapidly expanding roster of characters (35, when I last checked) include a fair few concepts that Blizzard have yet to touch on, although might offer the occasional nod to Team Fortress 2 and Dota.  Paladins also contains a skill-card system, allowing you to put specific statistical spins on each character to skew them more towards a specific role.

Paladins has been doing pretty darn well for itself, if you look at the Steamcharts (unofficial site, but scraped from Steam’s nicely accurate player-count figures). While clearly not up to megalithic esports juggernauts like Plunkbat and Dota, there’s never any shortage of people to play with, and that’s really the most important thing for gauging the health of a competitive multiplayer game. Developers Hi-Rez are obviously proud, as they just released a video celebrating each milestone the game has passed over the course of its development and period in early access.

While the barrier to entry for Paladins is lower than Overwatch (what with being free-to-play with an option to buy characters with in-game currency) Hi-Rez are nice enough to offer a more traditional one-off purchase version which gets you all current and future characters. It’s becoming increasingly common with competitive free-to-play games, but – credit where it’s due – Hi-Rez have made this a standard fixture over the past few years, with similar bundles being available for both Tribes: Ascend (now in its twilight days) and their third-person MOBA Smite. It’s something I’d love to see more free-to-play games implement.

Paladins is out now on Steam, and the base game is free-to-play. The Champions pack (£25/$30) is probably your best bet if you plan on buying the game, letting you spend your hard-earned in-game currency forever more on cosmetic gubbins and alternative card loadouts.

67 Comments

  1. April March says:

    Every time I see a game being called a clone of other famous game, I remember the shareware trial of Rise of the Triad I had as a wee boy that, at the end, had a ‘buy this!’ splash screen that had “One of the best Doom clones out there!” as one of its press quotes.

  2. AngoraFish says:

    Overwatch release date 24 May 2016

    Paladins release date 16 September 2016

    For Paladins to be a ‘clone’ of anything, it would have to have had an actual game to clone.

    Unless RPS is seriously asking us to believe that Paladins was whipped together in less than four months, I call bullshit on these constant pejorative references to Paladins as if it’s some sort of cheap knockoff.

    • Kitsunin says:

      It really doesn’t make much sense. And it’s kind of disrespectful when gaming has a history of benefiting hugely from games that are more-or-less clones of other games.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      The original version of Paladins was very much a third person action moba.

      It was pared down to a hero shooter after OW’s reception.

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      Wasn’t Blizzard already showing gameplay footage from overwatch in November 2014, though?

      link to youtu.be

      • Phasma Felis says:

        I doubt that the Paladins devs decided to completely re-engineer a game already in development based on a few promo videos from Blizzard.

        • Premium User Badge

          FhnuZoag says:

          It was a bit more than just promo videos, though. There was hands on access at Blizzcon, interviews on their design process, a fair bit of buzz. It’s not clear what Paladins looked like prior to that announcement, but the stuff I can find on that looked clearly different.

          link to youtube.com

          They had a year to rework it, so it’s not inconceivable.

          • Premium User Badge

            FhnuZoag says:

            I mean, it seems like it would be quite trivial for Hi-Rez to rebut all accusations by showing what Paladins looked like at the time of the Overwatch announcement. But from what they’ve released, there’s a large gap between 2012 videos that looked different, and the 2015 announcement/beta that looked like Overwatch, and we have to take on trust their assertion that at the time of the Overwatch announcement they had already made all the decisions to make the final game.

            In public in 2014 they were talking about making Global Agenda 2 (Global Assault), which they seem to have shelved.

  3. bongobo says:

    That video is just so unbelievably cynical and intellectually dishonest. I don’t like how much Blizzard took from TF2 but at least they added several significant new ideas and steered the design in a noticeably distinct direction. It’s a very tight and carefully-executed work. Paladins has just outright stolen the intellectual work of the Overwatch team, repackaged it in an exploitative and manipulative F2P clone, and produced a significantly worse game in the process. It lost even more wit & charm than what was lost going from TF2 to OW, has an even less cohesive art style, and has an even more male-gazey female character design. They weren’t even smart enough not to steal the most obvious surface-level elements (like in this article’s header image: the way Reaper holds his shotguns and Reinhardt’s floating chunks at the corners of the blue shield) – at least OW wasn’t that on-the-nose.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      …Reinhardt doesn’t have floaty chunks at the corners of his shield. Brigette does, but she only came out a couple months ago.

    • mitrovarr says:

      Some of OW’s copying of TF2 is pretty blatant. Engineer -> Torb is the most obvious example I can think of, especially if you go back to the beta and early versions where he had three levels of turret he could build and needed scrap to do it.

      Also, many examples of ‘copying’ are both games pulling from the same source. Like, the idea of a character that throws a hook and drags someone out of position – that was totally a thing in MOBAs before either game was made. I’m going to take a wild guess and bet that the idea of a character that walks around with a big shield is from MOBAs too.

    • Kyle700 says:

      its obvious you havent played the game then. :)

    • Evan_ says:

      At the end of the day, all games are just Pong-clones. Who cares.

    • Yisus says:

      bongobo

      Sorry but that’s a lot of ignorance from your part. About 15 abilities, including Winston’s Shield, Renhardt’s shield (actually Brigitte is closer to the original), Torbjorn’s shield, a healing beam gun with a ray that latches on your allies, jetpack + rocket launcher combo, among others were already present in Global Agenda in 2010. Blizzard just did what they do best: to take other people’s ideas and throw a lot of money into them.

      In fact, Reinhardt ressembles a lot to the heavy class from Global Agenda.

      Concepts like turrets and charge-up mechanic to balance sniper characters were already present in TF2, the witch from Paladins that has an ice block ability was released way before Mei, the Goblin with the mecha was released before D’va and so on. The only character I would say actually came from OW in terms of design would be Rein, and that’s only if we ignore the pressence of hi shield in Global Agenda.

      Also Paladins ACTUALLY DID add many things: loadouts to personalize champions according to your playstyle, ingame items to counter the enemy and boost your stats like a MOBA, a mount system that forces people who win the capture point to zone the enemy and dismount them instead of just waiting AFK on point after winning a point fight, way more mobility (something OW started to move towards as time passed), a meta where not only like 4 or 5 characters and a single type of team is viable.

      The ones who actually didn’t add anything of substance were Blizzard themselves, their most relevant contribution to the genre was graphics and a lot of marketing.

      You can criticize the quality of the project, sure, they are medium-small studio that has barely 100 people working on the entirety of the game (they said the dev team is actually about 60 people), but claiming they are being cynical when Blizzard literally sells you TF2 with makeup is what I would actually call dishonest.

      And we can even go further to Warhammer and Warcraft. Blizzard is like a boy band making covers from rock and heavy metal classics. Every single time I see someone claiming x or y company “copied” something from Blizzard it reminds me to that old meme when a 14yo listens to a Beatles song and says it sounds like one of Justin Bieber’s songs.

      • Apocalypse says:

        It’s always ironic when the new blizzard fan boys claim that someone stole ideas from games like Overwatch when most of the stuff had been present before.
        The only feature that really got massively popularized by overwatch is ingame gambling. It had been a thing before, but Blizzard made it socially acceptable and a big industry trend … which I really don’t get. The gambling in Paladins is really the one thing which made me stop playing the game.

    • Fingersoop says:

      The fact that you and the person who did the article both think that Paladins is a copy of Ow judging by the header image proves that you’ve never even played both games.

      Reindhart and Fernando play tremendously different. Reaper and Lex don’t even wield the same weapons neither have the same range. If weapons and a shield is the only fact that makes you say Paladins “outright stolen the intellectual work of the Overwatch team” then I can give you a list of dozens and dozens of things the OW team has stolen from other games (including Paladins too) based on your “logic”.

  4. Imperialist says:

    Idk, both OW and Paladins are very similar, lighthearted fun romps, with some VERY similar characters…the difference to me is that at least some of Overwatch’s characters have…character. And while Overwatch itself is a grab-bag of pilfered ideas, Paladins literally is a roulette wheel of fantasy/Sci-Fi concepts thrown through a blender, then slopped out into a bowl, mechanics and character designs from other games are sprinkl- oh, whoops, the whole measuring cup went in. It is then thrown in the oven and baked…and left in a bit too long, emerging from the top rack a little crisped, but maybe a bit tasty on the inside. Its not bad its just…not…great.

    • swigg says:

      I think both Paladins and Overwatch are weak in terms of characters. They both lose to TF2. But personally I dislike Overwatch more. Paladins’ characters are kind of sloppy and goofy and stupid and not carefully thought out, but kind of fun still. But Overwatch is just sleek and corporate and utterly bland, like a McDonalds ad. So I’d take Paladins over Overwatch any day.

      That’s part of why I bounced off Overwatch so hard, because I liked TF2’s bunch of conceited idiots over Overwatch’s solemn, straightfaced “cool kids” that we’re supposed to identify with and feel good about. I found it unbearably basic.

      • swigg says:

        If you’re confused by what I mean by “like a mcdonalds ad” I mean like for example that one ad Coca Cola put out where they tried to frame cola in the context of protests. It’s like, a corporate-developed idea of what young people are into, the result of focus testing, focused on image and good-feel, and kind of artistically bankrupt. Overwatch’s characters wouldn’t be out of place in that ad, they’re all aggrandized and audience-targeted. There’s one character that’s supposed to be comedic (junkrat) but I don’t know, it just seemed kind of forced and boring and safe. Another token. On that level I’ve always felt annoyed by the popularity of Overwatch.

        • Zorgulon says:

          I know what you mean, the character and story design is easily the weakest thing about Overwatch. Fortunately, it really doesn’t matter at all (at least to me) when playing the game.

          It probably also explains why the community has come up with their own headcanon versions of the character’s personalities (gremlin DVa et al).

          • swigg says:

            I guess so. But for me the tasteless characterization is just an accent on top of the disappointments of the game itself. I really hated the way they removed all interesting movement quirks in favor of abilities you activate by pressing a button. No rocket jumping, or maybe if you do take knockback the horizontal component is almost completely muffled, and it doesn’t really matter where you are in relation to the explosion because it just puffs you mostly upward like a wet fart. Instead of air control, you just bob around using the arrow keys like you were on ground but with less friction. The only way you’re allowed to break the speed limit is through these tailored little movement abilities that only do what they say they do and don’t have any interesting exploits. The most interesting thing you can do is multiple trap jumping as junkrat but it’s so easy and simplified and limited. Just compare how much more difficult it is to sticky pogo as demo, and how much more potentially powerful it is (while also entailing more risk because of the high self damage damage)The way the characterization is safe and boring and devoid of personality just mirrors how the same thing has happened with gameplay, for me.

            Once again I can’t really respect the taste of the people who play this game. But everyone does anyway, just because it’s got this image of new and hip and popular thanks to marketing and money.

          • Zorgulon says:

            You’re right about the lack of advanced or exploitable movement abilities, but I would argue Overwatch’s focus is more on synergies and strategy rather than being an exercise in individual prowess at movement tricks.

            To each their own, but there’s more to Overwatch than marketing. Marketing doesn’t keep people playing a game for two years…

          • Moonsand7 says:

            Can’t disagree with @ swigg
            Overwatch, just like Paladins, is mostly about memorizing all of the pre-set abilities of each champion in game. This way you know what to expect from your opponent and can tailor your strategy accordingly. You can find the same in LoL and Dota too.
            While those abilities are quite straightforward and cannot be exploited, it takes quite a bit of time to learn all of them because of the huge amount of champions/characters.
            Good aim or reaction speed won’t cut it for a newbie because OW/Paladins are based on (a) teamwork and (b) knowledge of your abilities and the proper usage of those.
            Paladins is even more complex in that regard because besides unique abilities and over 35 champions (each of which has got unique 4 abilities + a unique ultimate), you have a card system and four legendary cards/talent per champion that can turn a damage champion into a flank, or a support into a damage.
            This all makes Paladins more of a strategy game – as a team, you gotta choose the right loadouts and use the right counters to have a chance against your opponent. Oh and let’s also not forget about the unique items you can purchase during a match.

    • April March says:

      the difference to me is that at least some of Overwatch’s characters have…character

      Sorry, I think you’re confused… Orisa is not ‘some’ characters, she’s just one. That’s all right, I got confused because of all her legs as well.

  5. BaronKreight says:

    I will not dye, not yet amigo!

    • Apocalypse says:

      I had this exact line in my head when someone claimed that Paladins had no avatar’s with character. Plenty of character and attitude in that game. If only gambling would not be there business model.

      I hate people who claim everything was better in the past, but this one trend is really something I could do without.

  6. theknyte says:

    Okay, let’s set some facts straight. I’m seeing a lot of mis-information regarding Paladins vs Overwatch.

    Paladins is an evolution of an earlier Hi-Rez game called “Global Agenda”, released back in 2010. It was a class based shooter, much akin to Team Fortress 2.

    After completing Smite, Hi-Rez went to work on Global Agenda 2, (this was in 2013.) What was GA2, evolved into what is now known as Paladins. Many of the concept art for the original characters all pre-date Blizzard even announcing Overwatch.

    They are both FPS games based on MOBA style games, and both borrow heavily from Team Fortress 2.

    One was not made as a rip-off of the other. They were both being developed concurrently.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      Paladins started as a third person moba actually.

      They reworked it into a hero shooter after OW released.

      Not saying there’s anything wrong with that but they definitely started chasing the leader.

      • Phasma Felis says:

        No, they didn’t. See my other post above.

      • Apocalypse says:

        Nope. Whoever told you that made a fool out of you 39 Mokinokaro.
        And besides, Smite, the other moba-inspired game from hi-rez is already covering most of the 3rd person aspects anyway.

        Meanwhile with global agenda and Tribes in their catalog, hi-rez has a lot of expertise in FPS games, especially class based ones. I still think that tribes is the much better team based shooter from high-res, but it certainly is not as well designed to stimulate your reward center. It’s more of a punishing experience in a lot of ways with all those ballistic instead of hit-scan weapons and high-speed movement. °_^

  7. stringerdell says:

    Looks like the ugly cousin of Overwatch

  8. Zorgulon says:

    Some of these comments are really very silly.

    It’s OK to like either, both or neither of these similar videogames. You don’t need to fight about who stole whose ideas, or which pre-relase trailer or which closed beta came first.

    Two successful videogames with similar ideas – what an unprecedented occurrence in gaming history!

  9. swigg says:

    Saying Paladins ipped off Overwatch is like saying Gollop’s Phoenix Point is a blatant ripoff of Firaxis’ XCOM.

    In the case of XCOM-likes, the appropriation and development of ideas was a win for all of us. I would say it’s the same with team shooters today. I don’t really like Overwatch at all but I have to admit that Paladins is better than it would have been if Overwatch never existed.

  10. Zaxwerks says:

    Hi-Rez studio has recently become a copycat company with their released of Smite, Paladins and Smite Tactics. Nothing “original” from them in some time.

    • Evan_ says:

      It’s a fun thing to mention as opposed to Blizzard with it’s C&C clones, that Team Fortress clone, the MtG ripoff and that Moba.

      Ok, I admit, Diablo and WoW still brings the final score to about 2-0.

    • Fingersoop says:

      >Blizzard copied Everquest to make WoW
      >Blizzard copied Warhammer to make Warcraft
      >Blizzard copied Moria and Angband to make Diablo
      >Blizzard copied DoTA2 to make HoTS (and DoTA was not an idea by Blizzard, but a mod by third parties)
      >Blizzard copied TF2 to make Overwatch
      >Blizzard copied Magic the Gathering to make Heartstone

      At least Hi-Rez is always honest and reports when they take inspiration from other games, like when they added Top Play in Paladins because they tought it was a cool idea from OW.

      • mitrovarr says:

        You forgot the massive pile of inspiration Blizzard took from Warhammer 40k to make Starcraft.

        • Apocalypse says:

          Indeed. I really don’t get why people want to claim originality for blizzard.
          The companies reputation used to be quite a different one. Blizzard was known to be the company to see great ideas and polish them into perfection. The company was never known to be original in their own rights, but rather for their great eye for detail, polish and great user experience.

  11. jakub390 says:

    I know that everyone just comment’s because of the very first line.
    Paladin’s characters are based on their old game called global agenda.. 2005 btw, already you can scratch that clone away.
    Both games have similarity of tf2. Don’t even try to think of saying now that tf2 cloned overwatch.
    Paladin’s trailer was already out before there was even the word overwatch under blizzard’s name.
    I played both global agenda, paladins and overwatch, bless tf2 that beast.. and i totally prefer paladins over blizzardwatch.

  12. Menthalion says:

    Posts pointing out RPS has rehashed this faulty premise several times already despite comments pointing out its flaws go missing as well.

  13. Hoot says:

    I’m amazed at how these clowns haven’t been sued already. I mean I’m not a fan of Overwatch, haven’t played it since about 2 month after it released, but the characters/abilities in this game are just 1 to 1 copies. Like they just copy pasted the characters, changed their names and were like “We done good!”.

    The studio behind Paladins are so creatively bankrupt it’s unreal. Would I balls ever play one of their games.

    • swigg says:

      Pretty much everything people think Paladins stole from Overwatch, Overwatch actually stole from Hi-rez’s earlier game Global Agenda. It’s like people accusing Pheonix Point of ripping off XCOM.

      • Sneaj says:

        Except Overwatch aka Titan has been in development since 2007..

        • swigg says:

          Yes, and Paladins has been in development since 2012, your point being?

          I suppose you were about to claim that because they were already developing the game before Global Agenda came out, that they didn’t crib from that game. So, does that also mean they didn’t crib anything from TF2, since they started working on what would become overwatch a couple months before TF2 came out? Don’t be ridiculous.

        • Fingersoop says:

          Lol, Titan wasn’t even the same genre that OW is now, and if you wanna be that picky, Paladins started with Global Agenda, which development started in 2005, still first, lol

    • Moonsand7 says:

      link to reddit.com

      Check this before hating.

    • Fingersoop says:

      They cannot be sued because they are the ones who did the concepts of most of the champions before Overwatch, in Global Agenda, a game they did back in 2007. In every case, Blizzard would have lost the sue, lol.

  14. zombieslayer55 says:

    Usually it is a good idea to do some research before you write a news article making ridiculous claims to not make yourself look stupid.

  15. Menthalion says:

    And not even for the first time..
    link to rockpapershotgun.com
    Coverage from before the takeover was actually more evenhanded.

    Guess this is what the new RPS is: Build up street cred by hyping a few indie games every now and then, baselessly attack easy prey AA games lacking a big publisher, then spend it on excusing predatory behavior of your paymasters.

  16. Sneaj says:

    There is a lot of bad information in these comments..

    Overwatch aka Titan had been in development since 2007 whenever Burning Crusade was still a thing. Jeff Kaplan has been working on Overwatch since he was assigned to lead the development of Titan and is very open on about Overwatches massive influence from TF2 during development phases and he intentionally mentions they added 12 heroes instead of 9 because of the similarities.

    I am sorry but Paladins is a hybrid copy of both TF2 and Overwatch since Overwatch was in development for years before funding was even granted from Hi-Rez.

    If you want to watch an entire video about Jeff Kaplan on Titan aka Overwatch and its development phases as well as comparisons to TF2.

    • Menthalion says:

      Except no information other than “It’s going to be an MMO” was ever published about Titan at the time, so there was nothing to copy.

      But let’s take Jeff Kaplan’s words for what was and wasn’t there from a Retcon interview as gospel, since he obviously has no interests in this.

      On the other hand Hi Rez first class based shooter, Global Agenda, was released in 2010 and had been in production since 2005.

      Several hallmark character traits that are now used against them in these lazy comparisons can already be seen there.

    • Fingersoop says:

      Titan was planned to be what Destiny is nowadays. Only thing that was taken from Titan for OW was a pair of maps and the concept of two characters, that’s all.
      Even Jeff stated that they started OW as it is since 2013, while Paladins is a spinoff of a game they were developing since 2005. In fact, if you check up the dates, Paladins is licenced since 2005. Nice try tho.

  17. Tangtaizong says:

    but then I look at screenshots like the one above, and another one with a big n’ heavy character with a chain-hook attack and…

    Ok, based on this you are thinking that having same aspect == clone. But remember, when characters are having same role as in video game, it will tend to resulting on having a similar set of abilities. Take example our hooker; Makoa (Paladins) and Roadhog (Overwatch). Both roles are tanks whose roles are to punish enemies with poor positioning. This is the same as Pudge (DOTA 2), that robot Blitzcrank (LoL), and that monster from Diablo or/and Heroes of the Storm. Having same similar kits are not equal to be a clone.
    Coincidence? Let me take another aspect that everybody hates: invisibility. Skye, Sombra, Riki, Bounty Hunter, and many characters that has invisibility are intended to caught enemy off-guard by surprise attack. You can’t just say a character is a clone to others by just one skill. Try harder.
    There are still many more examples, but it will never end.
    After all, we already ran out of ideas because everything has been tried. Will it be bad to have something similar, in a sense that nothing is original ever?

  18. Apocalypse says:

    Man, I have seen more accurate articles on eurogamer or kotaku … ;-)

  19. Maltaroth says:

    Paladins was a remake of their old game “Global Agenda” which started development back in 2005 and went live in 2010. The game had already a lot of “Overwatch-like characters” but way before Overwatch was a thing. Hi-Rez literally had to release a thread showing off the characters of Global Agenda, so that the Overwatch fanboys would stop crying… They had a winged healer which healed with a beam, and had a pistol as a secondary, it had an armored guy with a shield and a charge, they had a sniper with poison mines.
    Dont state things that you don’t know about just because you are a fanboy and want to protect a game. I played a lot of Overwatch, and started playing some Paladins later. Yes they are both objective based hero shooter games, but they are different. I like both games and yes I can agree that Paladins changed its interface to look somewhat like Overwatch, added the “Top Play” feature, but thats a thing most games have these days.
    So to all the crying fanboys: Gather some knowledge before shittiong on other things that you don’t know about :D

  20. GaoShun says:

    Dear Mr. Dominic

    What about playing the game instead of comparing still images, you know like RPS journalists did
    link to rockpapershotgun.com

    You may not like the game at all, but it’s your job to actually try the game before giving verdicts like
    “It feels almost unfair to call free-to-play ‘hero shooter’ Paladins an Overwatch clone, but then I look at screenshots like the one above, and another one with a big n’ heavy character with a chain-hook attack and… yeah, it’s pretty clear that Paladins is riding on Blizzard’s coattails.”

    By your same standards I am calling Starcraft a blatant Alien vs Predator clone. We all can see how Zerglings & Protoss resembles Aliens and Predators

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