What is Paladins?
Paladins is a 5v5 first-person hero shooter from Hi-Rez Studios, the creators of Smite and Tribes: Ascend. Paladins owes a lot of its inspiration to Team Fortress 2, but occupies a unique place in the hero shooter genre for its in-game items, customizable loadouts and talent mechanics that allow players to decide how to play each champion in four distinctive play styles.
I fell in love with Paladins in February 2017, after seeing a friend play on Steam every day, and I haven’t stopped playing since. I’ve been gripped by the esports scene and having the opportunity to write for the Paladins Community Magazine has only furthered my love for the game.
Paladins’ main game mode is called siege. Two teams contest a central objective zone that, once captured, spawns a payload that the attacking team must escort and successfully push into the enemy’s spawn. Each objective capture or successful payload push grants one point, and the first team to four points wins. The 11 siege maps in Paladins all vary in size and environment, from the jungle temple of Jaguar Falls to the icy wastes of Frozen Guard. The amount of vertical mobility in maps allows for different champions to be more or less effective on specific maps.
The champions in Paladins fall into four classes: Front Line, Support, Damage and Flank. Front line champions are tanks with large HP pools and defensive shields, walls and barriers at their disposal. Their primary job is to control objectives and create space for their teammates to secure kills. Support champions are much more than just healing bots. All support champions are kitted out with defensive and offensive utility and often have powerful crowd control abilities or ultimates. Damage champions are capable of dealing high amounts of damage but are susceptible to being flanked and don’t have very good self-sustain, relying on a good support to keep them healthy. The flank class, perhaps the most iconic class in Paladins, excels at using high mobility to get into a fight, pick off a target and get out of the fight. One of the joys of Paladins is that many champions can fit into different classes. Pip, a vulpine support character, has great mobility, damage and self-sustain, so he could easily be called a flanker.
The talent, item and card loadout systems are crucial to Paladins’ unique gameplay and skill floor, and I’ll use the support champion Seris as my example when discussing these mechanics. Seris provides a very high healing output; her ability Restore Soul locks onto an ally from distance and heals a single target for 1000 hp every second for two seconds. Because she cannot heal AOE at base, Seris is more of a healer than a support. Her only team utility comes in her ultimate, Convergence, where she throws her soul orb into the battlefield which pulls enemies into it, allowing for great team set up. Seris’ damage is fairly low, she fires orb projectiles that pierce enemies and stack. Seris can then use her Rend Soul ability to detonate her stacked charges, dealing damage and healing herself. Seris’ movement ability is Shadow Travel. After a short cast time, Seris enters the void and becomes invisible and untargetable.
What are talents and how do they affect a champion’s playstyle?
When you load into a match you are given the option of choosing from four talents. These provide buffs beyond your character’s base kit and provide you with four different playstyles. Seris’ four talents are some of the most varied of all the champions because they allow her to buff her healing in different ways or boost her DPS and utility. Her talents are called Soul Collector, The Void Abides, Agony and Mortal Reach.
Mortal Reach allows Seris to safely heal an ally from a great distance for 3000 health over 3 seconds which, on larger maps, provides you with great healing from safety.
Soul Collector allows Seris to gain up to 16% extra health and base damage based on how many charges she has detonated. Her DPS increases from roughly 700 to 812. With this talent, Seris can forget about being a healing machine and become a unique damage champion that can pierce multiple enemies on smaller maps.
The Void Abides makes up for Seris’ inability to heal more than one ally at any given moment by allowing her to heal allies near to Seris’ primary healing target. On smaller maps, this allows Seris to pump out healing to multiple allies.
Agony is perhaps the most unique play style Seris can use. This talent allows Seris to stun the targets of her Rend Soul, providing extra crowd control for her team at the expense of more healing.
What is the loadout system?
One of the elements about Paladins that I love so much is the 15-point loadout system. Each character has 16 cards that enhance certain abilities, grant extra health, crowd control reduction, cooldown reductions and more. Each card has five levels. For example, Seris has a card that reduces the cooldown of her heal ability by 0.5 seconds at each level, a pretty important card for any heal build. Not all cards are as simple as cooldown reductions. Some are more risk/reward based. One of my favorite cards is Umbral Gait. When you hit an enemy with your soul orb you move 8% faster per level. When you’re fragging with Seris, it feels amazing to hit an enemy and then start zooming around at 40% extra movement speed, avoiding incoming fire and becoming a great nuisance.
It is definitely a good idea to have seperate loadouts for each talent. It makes no sense to use a deck full of cards that compliment your heal ability if you run Soul Collector and decide to be super aggressive. One of the joys of playing Paladins is playing a game with a set talent and loadout that you’ve chosen and tweaking it game after game to try and find the perfect combination of card levels.
Paladins is a team objective-based game, so playing with and around your team, both in casuals and in the ranked queues, will lead to you learning much more about the game and becoming a better player. In casual games the pressure is off, so don’t be alarmed if you’re in a team of five flanks or a team with no tanks or healers! While this can be surprisingly effective, it will often lead to a swift 4-0 defeat.
Paladins has enough champions with high skill floors and ceilings that you will find it hard to become bored of mastering the champion pool. Mastering Makoa, a turtle with a hook and cannon, or Mal’damba, a witch doctor who fires projectiles from a snake and reloads by throwing the snake at his opponents, offers great challenges. In high-level competitive and esports play, these two champions can easily decide matches. There are, of course, mechanically easier champions to play like Viktor, your bog-standard Call of Duty character, or Lex, a duel-wielding judge, but the real reward of Paladins comes from the small moments in games that have a large impact: throwing a clutch heal to a teammate that allows them to decimate the enemy backline, touching the objective right before the enemy capture it and staying alive long enough for your team to get back into the fight, or winning a 1v1, not by having a better ultimate, but by outplaying your enemy.
Paladins has been my main game for the last year, and I don’t intend on stopping any time soon. With a vibrant esports scene and the champion pool ever-increasing, the game will continue to enthrall me.
Paladins is available on console, Steam or at https://www.paladins.com.