I’ve always had a soft spot for Paladins: Champions of the Realm. While I initially loved Overwatch, I soon found space in my heart for this slightly less polished (but equally enjoyable) free-to-play hero team shooter. And while I haven’t played the game so much in recent months, I’ve continued to keep an eye on the subreddit in order to ensure I was across any changes. And boy, were there changes. December introduced the infamous Open Beta 64, bringing with it sweeping changes to the overall levelling system in the form of “Cards Unbound”. This system caused a huge uproar within the community, who made it very clear that they did not think this system was ideal. Well, with one update from the new Executive Producer, it looks like all of that is about to change, in a big way.
A little background. Paladins, much like Overwatch, is a hero shooter in which players choose from a pool of Champions of varying ability. Some are weighted towards damage dealing, others towards support, and others towards tanking or flanking. Where Paladins differentiates itself is in its card system – each Champion has its own set of dedicated cards that essentially augment a specific attribute or ability. Players can then build decks of cards towards a specific playstyle – if a player prefers to use one ability more than others, they can boost this ability in order to suit their preferred playstyle. The Cards Unbound system essentially opened a can of worms – cards could now be levelled, increasing the effectiveness of that particular card’s augmentation. However, the only way to level the cards was by collecting copies of the card, which could only be obtained through chests (essentially loot boxes). I’m sure you can see where this is going.
While it wasn’t possible to directly purchase these chests using real-world money, players could purchase in-game currency in order to do so. Alternatively, players with years of experience were more likely to have levelled cards than new players, so there were two primary issues – one issue of pay-to-win, and another in regards to balance between new and experienced players (beyond skill, of course). Neither was very popular within the community. In fact, they were both major issues, with new and old players alike making their voices heard, particularly on the subreddit. In fact, in recent weeks, subredditors took the rather original approach of filling the subreddit with bad fan art by way of protest.
At the same time as all of this, Hi Rez Studios, the developers of Paladins, have also been hard at work developing the new Paladins Battlegrounds mode – a twist on the recently popular Battle Royale game mode, but played in teams of four using Paladins Champions. This highly anticipated mode was added to Open Beta 66, which was released to PC on February 21st. My reasoning behind mentioning this seemingly unrelated topic will become clear very shortly.
January saw one new change for Paladins – the appointment of a new Executive Producer, Chris Larson (on Twitter as @HiRezChris), who has moved over from the SMITE team. In a post on the SMITE subreddit, Chris advised that he was asked to move to the Paladins team as there was a “lack of active executive attention”, which, to be fair, is a highly accurate appraisal. Clearly, Chris has free reign to make swift decisions, as – after only a month in the role, remember – he has made an announcement that will result in a huge overhaul to Paladins, in many different ways.
You can read the whole post by clicking here, but the most important takeaways are listed below:
- Cards Unbound is being removed and a new system will be implemented
- Card chests will be removed from the game
- Champion Mastery will now be uncapped (previously it was capped at 25)
- Changes to cards (along with compensation for players that earned cards during the Unbound period) is targeted as soon as next week (to hit testing servers, not the OB client)
- There will be a refocus for the Paladins team on the core Paladins experience, along with adding regular recurring events, which proved very successful/popular for SMITE
- Paladins Battlegrounds will be removed from the current client, effective Feb 23 (which, if you are paying attention, means it will have been released to the active Open Beta for all of two days)
- Battlegrounds will be completely reworked separately, and released as a completely new game
None of this may mean anything to those of you that don’t play Paladins, but let me try to help you understand how huge this is for the community. Paladins was, in a way, languishing towards the latter end of last year – the systems were ok, but they were a little dull, and overly reliant on in-game currency. Cards Unbound did away with some of this currency, but added an even more dull system that seemed to be more reliant on either grinding or real-world purchases. After only two months in the active game client, this is being ripped and replaced with a system that sounds similar to the original system, minus the components that made it tedious or boring, and minus the components that rely on grinding or real-world purchases. Essentially, Chris has come in and completely saved the day by doing exactly what the community wanted (and more), but not only saying it was coming BUT THAT IT WAS ONLY A COUPLE OF WEEKS AWAY. Not only that, but he has also noticed that Paladins was missing fan service in terms of regular events – and let’s face it, this is what keeps fans coming back to games like Overwatch and other similar service platforms. I, for one, notice and acknowledge this (although, to be honest, the rest of the Paladins fanbase is simply celebrating the end of Cards Unbound).
Further, Chris has made the unexpected and extremely sudden decision to pull Paladins Battlegrounds from the game client, and even more surprising – to release it as a separate game entirely! I’m not sure how I feel about this, to be honest. They seem to be making some large changes to that game, as well, so it was probably the right decision. The update itself mentioned that certain aspects of Battlegrounds needed to be separate from Paladins itself, and by keeping it within the client, any changes made to one would reflect upon the other. This makes perfect sense, and it also allows the new Battlegrounds team to have full control over any changes they wish to make – and let’s be honest, the Battlegrounds model didn’t fit perfectly in with Paladins anyway, so now the team can steer the game in a different direction that suits the Battlegrounds model better. I don’t really know what that means myself, but as a fan of Paladins, I hope they find a formula that not only works for them, but is also different enough from PUBG and Fortnite: Battle Royale that it finds its own place within that genre, otherwise it may fail. Or perhaps that’s another reason they split it out – if it is going to fail, at least it will fail on its own, and Paladins can continue on its own strengths and not be dragged down by a failed game mode. Again, I hope they succeed, but this is a tough market.
The changes announced today are extremely exciting, and have me reinvested in the future of Paladins (not that I had strayed, but I was silently concerned about Cards Unbound, to be honest). In fact, based on the speed and completeness of these changes, I have full faith that Chris knows EXACTLY what he is doing, and there are some really great things in Paladins’ future. Time will tell, but I’m on board – if only more people were willing to bite the bullet and give the game a shot.