To say that Star Wars Battlefront II has taken quite a bit of heat over its handling of loot boxes would be an understatement, but that recent kerfuffle hasn't prevented Hi-Rez Studios from introducing a similar progression system for its free-to-play hero battler, Paladins.
Called Cards Unbound, the update, which is currently in testing, the system involves upgrading card abilities by increasing their strength on a level-based system for each individual card. The only catch is that, in order to upgrade a card, you need to secure more of that card from randomized loot boxes.
At least initially, Hi-Rez says that loot boxes won't be available for purchase directly. In a direct nod to "some recent questionable moves by full-price games," Hi-Rez says that isn't "comfortable" charging for card chests (its version of loot boxes) until it can tune the economy, and it expects adjustments. At initial release, the studio says, Radiant Chests and Champion Card Chests won't be purchasable with Crystals, the game's premium currency. Instead, players will only be able to unlock chests with gold earned from playing the game.
Still, card chests will eventually be purchasable with real money, prompting pushback from players over the pay-to-win potential for the system. For its part, Hi-Rez claims the move will make the game a better experience for everyone. "The vast majority of our players will never spend a dime. Regardless of how much money you have in your wallet, we want to make sure you have a great time. Our number one priority as we introduce Cards Unbound is that the free-to-play experience feels great," the studio says.
Though comparisons to Star Wars Battlefront II are obvious, there's one major difference worth pointing out: Paladins is free-to-play, whereas Battlefront 2 is a full-priced game. The system will also see all players equipped with level one versions of every card from the start. Perhaps in an attempt to address pay-to-win concerns, Hi-Rez says that Ranked Mode will see all cards locked to level three, leveling the playing field for everyone. The more casual QuickPlay mode is where all card levels will be allowed.
Despite its differences, comparisons to one of the gaming world's hottest controversies in some time, while it's still at the top of gamers' minds no less, is unlikely to draw many supporters.
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