Paladins is, overall, an enjoyable and well-produced title… as long as you stay away from anything competitive. As someone who traditionally avoids ranked and other competitive game modes that suck out the fun from the game, Paladins surprised me for the better in how entertaining it can be for a casual player.
Nothing Groundbreaking is Okay
The gameplay of Paladins isn’t anything groundbreaking, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While it can be a little rough around the edges, the core game loop of Paladins is fun and engaging. Among the three game modes available, you will most likely play Siege the most, which is for the better as the game was clearly designed with this game mode in mind. However, the occasional TDM and Onslaught matches are also a fun way to break the routine. I appreciate the fact that matches are shorter in nature, which is perfect if you’re looking to kill some time without having to commit for too long. It’s uncommon for a match to go over the 15 minutes mark, unless there is a serious stalemate between the two sides.
I’m a person who appreciates good character design and artistic value, and Paladins does an excellent job in this area. HiRez have a proven track record of producing highly engaging characters and designs, and Paladins is no different. Their art division knows what they’re doing and it shows. From the characters themselves to their various skins and customizations, there’s something for everyone. I will say, however, that a lot of the designs are overly sexualized, and can be quite over the top sometimes. This doesn’t disturb me personally but I’m aware that some may find it distasteful. If you’re looking for a more ‘tame’ style, Paladins may not be your cup of tea.
I’m writing this review as a strictly casual-only player. I avoid competitive games and modes like the plague; they take out a lot of the fun and turn what is supposed to be a fun and somewhat careless skrimish between strangers into a ‘do-or-die’ situation. I know that some people are looking solely for this side in games, but this has never been my thing and usually ended up degrading my experience rather than improve it. When your mindset is focused solely on winning, it becomes difficult to appreciate the areas where Paladins shines. If you are coming freshly new into this game, I implore you to avoid ranked so that you can enjoy it to its fullest.
It’s Not All Great, Though
Mind you, the game is not free of issues. Balancing a complex game with so many moving parts is never an easy job, but unfortunately HiRez are notorious for being weak in this area. Much like their other title SMITE, Paladins suffers from questionable balance choices and a strong sense of powercreeping. While not usually game-breaking, it can be quite frustrating to deal with some of this. I don’t see myself as anything close to an expert in game balancing, but even as a mainly casual player I sometimes feel there’s more to be desired.
Another issue is how limited are your customization options are if you choose not to spend real money on cosmetics and such. While there are some options that can be unlocked without paying, they are few and require an insane amount of grinding, and usually fall very short of their premium counterpart in terms of quality. The vast majority of cosmetics and customizations are locked behind paywalls and MTX, and especially frustrating is HiRez’s infamous chests system, where you can only get certain items by opening chests (bought with real money) and hoping you roll the right thing out of what’s in it. You can’t just pick a skin you like and buy it, you are forced to play this dumb chest roulette and hope luck is on your side. Also, a lot of content is released as limited-time, so if you missed the time window to get it, it’s gone forever. Joined the game late and found a skin that you really like? Too bad! You can’t get it anymore, despite being teased with it over and over again.
Other key points:
- Sound design is a bit of a hit-or-miss in Paladins. While fine in most places, there are some cases where critical audio cues (like character ultimates) cannot be heard properly or at all. Perhaps this is more of a technical issue, but the result is still the same.
- Voice acting quality can greatly differ between different characters: most character voices are very well made and conviencing, but some sound ridiculously lazy or lackluster. I can safely say, however, that the majority of newer characters don’t suffer from this.
- In terms of technical performance, the game runs fine and dandy for me. I did not encounter any sort of crashes or serious bugs. Even lag isn’t very common, which is a pleasant surprise considering the abysmal server status of HiRez’s bigger title SMITE.
- I have not met many toxic or unpleasant players in the game, but keep in mind I stick solely to casual. Maybe the case is different in ranked.
To summarize: Paladins is a fun game which I enjoy passing the time with as a casual-only player. The core gameplay is enjoyable and engaging, the characters are lively and well made, and the overall state of the game is good. There are, however, some noticable issues when it comes to balance, and the game is filled to the brim with cosmetic MTX and paywalls with some questionable practices. For the average player who doesn’t mind either of these too much, however, Paladins is an overall solid choice that hits most of its marks.
And hey, it’s free! Give it a try and see for yourself.