Now that Paladins is in open beta on the Xbox One it's a good time to take a close look at it. It comes from the same developer as Smite, but this time around you playing in the first-person and not the third. It's not your average first-person shooter (FPS) though, and you could say the same about the popular Overwatch game.
In fact, comparisons are easy to draw between the two. While their themes are very different, many the underlying principles and gameplay mechanics are very similar, as is the graphical style.
It's perfectly acceptable to draw comparisons, between these games, but it's unfair to call one a "rip-off" of the other. Even so, having played both, I'm here to say that of the two, Overwatch comes out on top. A year on from its launch, it's still by far the best option.
Why Overwatch is king
Blizzard has one of the best in-app purchase models for Overwatch ever. Spending your own real money doesn't have any bearing on your performance in the game. It doesn't level you up, it doesn't give you new abilities, and it doesn't make any of your characters better than someone else's.
It lets you buy loot boxes, which contain cosmetic items. That's it. And you can earn all of those in the game anyway without ever spending a dime. So for around $40 if you buy the physical version (the cheapest option for sure) you get everything.
By contrast, Paladins has a much more complex model. It's free to play to start, and without some form of payment, you're limited in regards to the Champions you can use. You can at least buy the Founder's Pack, just as you could with Smite, which unlocks them all and any future champions. It isn't expensive at $19.99, and if you're enjoying Paladins it's a no-brainer.
But there's also much more involved in putting together your in-game experience, such as cards with different benefits, and different powerups. In Overwatch, you can literally just buy the game, install it, choose a character and play, but Paladins takes much more thought and effort.
Paladins also has in-game currency, called "crystals", that can be bought using real money. From the developer:
Crystals are the premium currency in Paladins. Crystals can be used to unlock Champions, purchase Cosmetic Items and Treasure Chest rolls, and change your in-game username ... Crystals are obtained by buying them with real money through either the in-game store or through the Online Store
When Paladins leaves beta, this will most likely be how you unlock things. So the Founders Pack is already looking like a great value. But also a little ... "Kickstarter-ish."
If you're OK with such a model of in-app purchases to unlock things like Champions and treasure chests, that's fine. But I think it's sub-par compared to a model of just buying a game and having everything there the first time you play it.
But is Paladins any good?
Actually, yes, it is. While the whole cards aspect and the free-to-play nature make it less appealing to some, it's pretty enjoyable. As with Overwatch, there is a wide range of characters to choose from with different abilities and weapons. Not all of them carry traditional guns, and there are ones that heal as well as those you need for defense.
There are different game modes but no team deathmatch. You're mostly looking at objective-placed gameplay, though there's also a no-respawn mode in which the last one standing takes the spoils for their team.
The action is fast-paced, and even though it's technically a beta it's still pretty reliable. Matchmaking queues aren't very long and, so far at least, there haven't been any really showstopping bugs. So that's good.
Paladins is also very easy to get used to once you're comfortable with all the cards stuff (which I am not, but I also probably should have paid more attention). The controls are simple for controller players, with a regular FPS-style layout. The only thing that ever changes is exactly which type of weapon those buttons activate. Whatever is attached to the bumpers will also have some form of cooldown period.
Overwatch vs. Paladins: Bottom line
When Paladins exits beta we'll no doubt take a closer look at it, but the bottom line is this: Overwatch is still a better game, and even though it costs more, it's a one-off cost and you get everything you need to play.
It's great that Paladins has a differentiator, but it's not really a pick up and play title. For whatever reason, I find the cards less appealing than just creating a loadout in something like Call of Duty.
The great thing about Paladins is that you can play it for free. You can't play all of it, but it's like an extended demo, and you have ample chance to get a real feel for it before you decide if it's worth spending money on. And the best time to try it is now because the Founders Pack will give you the best return on your investment.
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