Paladins: Champions of the Realm (Nintendo Switch) Review

Game Title: Paladins
Developer: Hi-Rez Studios
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Digital Download
Battery Life: 2-3.5 hours
Download: 5.8 GB

Multiplayer-Only games have never really been my forte. I love stories in games and there are just not many games I really get into solely for the aspect of doing MP. Games like Paladins, Fortnite, Overwatch, and the like came to consoles I own, but I just kinda shrugged and never paid them much attention.

When they came to the Switch, though, things seemed much more interesting to me. Since we just got two fairly large games in this little “slice” of the gaming world, there was no way I could just not dive into them, see what they’re all about, and cover them.

To start this duo of MP reviews, here is my review of Paladins: Champions of the Realm for the Nintendo Switch!

Story

The story of Paladins is, well…there is no story. There is no Campaign Mode or Story Mode or Side Mode, or anything that relays a plot to you. There was some plot related to the Siege of Ascension Peak event that other platforms got early this year, but that is no longer available, and thus, not in the Switch version.

There is Lore for each character, but no story in the sense of anything told to you via gameplay or cutscenes. Each Champion has a brief backstory on their Character Page, but reading that is all the ‘story’ you’re going to get from Paladins. It’s a game solely based around Multiplayer Matches, through and through.

Gameplay

Paladins is a team-based “Hero Shooter”. based around fighting off enemy teams in Online First-Person and Third-Person Shooting battles.

The first thing that needs to be covered is that Paladins is a Free-to-Play game on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 with the Founder’s Pack available for purchase that will unlock all playable characters for you. On the Switch, however, Hi-Rez Studios opted to delay the Free version to a later date and only release the Founder’s Pack version for $29.99, meaning that if you want to play it now, you gotta pay to have everyone unlocked until the still TBA release date of the F2P version of the game.

This hurts the game in 2 aspects: 1st, the obvious reasons that they’ve released a F2P game with no current means to play it for Free as it was originally intended. 2nd, the Founder’s Pack unlocks everyone from the start, which will considerably affect the content and length of the overall experience, which I’ll get to at the end of this section. But, the main point here is that they’re throwing out the paid version first, trying to get more money out of Switch owners that currently have no other way to play the game.

As far as the game goes, you basically have 2 Game Modes you can play through: Siege Mode and Team Deathmatch Mode. Deathmatch is what you’d expect it to be from other shooting games: 2 teams running around an arena, gunning each other down until a score is achieved and one team wins.

Siege Mode is the game’s more trademark and ‘unique’ way of playing. You are split into teams and the goal is to capture an area in the map to spawn a large payload that is intended to explode in the enemy team’s base. You and the enemy team start by fighting over the Capture Point and once a winner is determined, the Payload appears and begins moving towards the enemy base, at which point the Payload’s Team must stay near it for it to move forward or it will roll back and a timer will count down until it is destroyed. Then, one team will be awarded a point and the process will start anew.

The game also has Ranked Mode, which is unlocked once you’ve leveled your profile from playing matches and is a variant of Siege Mode that allows players to climb up Ranks in accordance to their performance in matches.

For those not wanting to always fight online opponents, there is also a Training Mode, where you can practice the different game modes against AI ‘bots’ or the Shooting Range where you can freely swap playable characters without enemy interference to learn their skills and playstyles. Do note that these modes do require an Internet Connection to play, outside of Shooting Range, which can be played offline if you’re already in the game mode when you swap into Airplane Mode or lose your Wi-Fi connection.

The thing that separates these “Hero Shooters” from other shooting games, like Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Halo is the uniqueness and skill systems that each playable character in the game utilizes. In most shooting games, you pretty much have the same types of skills, movement, weapons, etc no matter what player you are playing as. In these games, each character has unique skills, weapons, fighting styles, and abilities.

For starters, not everyone uses ‘guns’ in the traditional sense. A few run around with shotguns and assault rifles, but others use more unique weapons, like Skye’s Wrist-fitted Crossbow or Willow’s Flower Cannon. On top of that are skills. Grenades and other sub-weapons from other shooters are replaced with magical abilities, like temporary invisibility, healing moves to support teammates, or the ability to fly high above the battlefield and take out enemies from the skies.

This is where the more MOBA and MMO elements come into play. Outside of the main weapon which fires and reloads like a gun, all abilities have a cooldown phase, so you can only use each one once during a certain time-frame. This pushes the player towards finding good combinations of abilities and strategies to implement as they wait for their next charge for the ability they want to use again.

This is how the game is unique. Each of the couple-dozen characters plays differently, has different weapons and abilities, and can be customized with different, exclusive skills through leveling them up and setting up custom loadouts to utilize and enhance the abilities you use more often than others and in what kind of player you wish to be for your team, be it a front-lines fighter or a rear-line supporter and healer.

This is a really interesting and great part of the game, but the one thing that I cover that I’ve had so much confusion and confliction on is content and length. This is a game that has no story mode, no campaign, no “task” outside of daily challenges that give you more experience. It’s about just diving into Multiplayer Battles in the moment and has no ‘task’ in that sense.

This is even more apparent in that Paladins on the Switch only has the Founder’s Pack available, which means there is no sense of unlocking characters because all of them are unlocked by default. The only sense of unlocking content is special skills and skins for characters that are unlocked by leveling them up through constant matches (and using earned money to instant-level them).

By this standard, picking one character to main and unlocking each of their skills will likely take you several hours to do. But, at the same time, I don’t think I can properly gauge play-time for that because not everyone will want to just grind out matches to get their favorite character’s skills unlocked.

So, I’m still at a loss on content. You could get several hours out of unlocking character skills, or you could play the game for just an hour or two and decide you don’t like the game. Without a F2P version, this section of the review is difficult to make.

Controls

Controlling the game isn’t too hard to do, mostly in part that despite there not being a “tutorial” in the game, all of the skills you can do and most other functions have their buttons displayed to you on-screen during gameplay, so there’s never a big confusion on how to do all of the things you can do as you play.

Moving around in arenas is done with the Left Analog Stick and the Right Analog is used for moving the camera. B is used to jump and A is used to purchase upgrades mid-battle. THe four triggers are used for your skills with ZR always being your primary weapon/gun and the others being your separate abilities.

All in all, it works pretty well.

Presentation

In a way, the method Hi-Rez used graphics and presentation on the Switch is genius, when it comes to performance and smoothness. Basically, graphics look great at times and a little under-great other times.

To ensure constant 60 fps in both Docked and Handheld Modes, Paladins has a Dynamic Resolution, meaning that the resolution of the game changes in accordance to how much power it’s using and will lower a bit, creating some blurriness if the frame-rate is about to drop under 60 fps.

So, it looks pretty nice most of the time and, the times it doesn’t, it maintains that perfect super-smooth frame-rate throughout, so you never have to worry about adjusting between 60 and 30 fps.

The only real issue with performance is Loading. Paladins on the PS4, Xbox One, and PC both have much faster load times for getting into matches than on the Switch. While it could take as little as 20-30 seconds to load a match on other consoles, it can take 1-2 minutes for one to load on the Switch. This is the same for loading previews in the Store for Skins and other cosmetics.

Battery Life

I wasn’t expecting much out of Battery Life, but we got about what I expected. Here are my Battery Times, from 100% to 0%

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 21 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 46 minutes

Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 13 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 42 minutes

Pretty low on the standard scale, but that’s about what I expected out of an Online-based shooting game, especially one that is constantly locked at 60 fps.

Summary

In conclusion, Paladins on the Switch is a fun and unique experience as a shooting game and a 'Hero Shooter'. It certainly isn't perfect, with this version having long loading sequences and Switch owners being locked into paying for the Founder's Pack with its F2P version still having no foreseen release date. If you're willing to pay up, you'll get a smooth and pretty shooter for taking your Sieges on the go.

7.5/10

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