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.