Paladins – The Best ‘Free To Play’ On Switch? – Review

The Switch has no shortage of fantastic Free-to-Play offerings. From the all consuming shadow of Fortnite, to the beautifully complex loot-fest that is Warframe, you could quite easily pick up a Switch with zero games and nab yourself a decent selection of top notch titles. So where does Paladins fall in this library of titans? Pretty high up, that’s damn for certain.

But what is a ‘Paladins‘ and why should I download them? Well on the surface Paladins is a multiplayer FPS rocking about 40 funky characters. Dig a bit deeper and you’ll see that Paladins has an incredible amount of surprisingly accessible depth. It serves a big ol’ dish of reward to players who relish in merry cooperation and an even bigger dish if you take the time to learn the intricacies of its many, many systems.

Let’s start our proceedings with the flashiest element of Paladins – the Champions. Paladins packs a very impressive character roster, coming in at around 40 as of the writing of this review. Each Champion comes ready packed with a unique weapon, three skills governed by cooldowns and one game changing ultimate. To keep things from getting overwhelming, each Champion is sorted into a class – Frontline, Flanker, Damage and Support.

Frontlines are your big, beefy tanks. They are designed to soak up damage, distract the enemy and allow your team to operate unimpeded. Supports typically keep your team alive, providing healing and/or powerful buffs. Flankers are your super squishy, fast moving characters who get behind the enemy lines and assassinate key targets. Damage are just there to bring the pain train into the metaphoric station – otherwise known as the enemies face.

Now we add a bit of sass to our Champions by introducing load-outs. Load-outs take the form of cards. Each card buffs an element of your Champions kit. These cards can completely change how a character is played. Let’s just say that turning a healer into a damage dealer is not beyond the realms of possibility. Hi-Rez took the world, rammed a giant pearl up its jacksie and made it your oyster.

You’d be forgiven if you thought having an in-depth deck building mechanic welded to your FPS was where the complexity ended, but Paladins isn’t done yet. As you gain mastery with your Champion of choice, you unlock new passive abilities that you can select at the start of each match. Let’s take our boy Viktor as an example – You could have could make it so sprinting heals you over time, giving you some extra survivability. Alternatively you could completely change how your weapon functions, increasing your accuracy and damage. Each character has three to choose from, providing oodles of customisation. I guess we can add the moon to number of things Hi-Rez are giving us.

Paladins then continues to add delicious toppings onto its already super buttery, toasty form. As you a match goes on, you gain currency. There is a store that you can spend said currency in, allowing you to purchase items to buff your Champions stats. Whether you want to have a bit of extra bulk or a smidge of damage, the shop has you covered. It operates very much like a traditional MOBA, albeit one that has been stripped down to allow for a much quicker gaming experience.

So yeah, if you haven’t learned how to swim, now might be a good time to do so because Paladins is certainly deep. Luckily Hi-Rez have thrown newcomers some armbands. Don’t know what deck to bring? You have a pre-built deck designed to get you into the fray. Don’t know what passive to bring? Just pick your starter passive. Is the shop overwhelming? Don’t worry, you can have the game automatically purchase items for you. Simple.

So where do you apply all these wonderfully crafted systems? Well Paladins comes packaged with 3 game modes – Team Death Match, Onslaught and Siege. TDM is a simple ‘kill the enemy team faster than they kill yours’. Onslaught takes that base premise and adds in a central objective. Hold this area, wrack up kills, score points and win. Siege adds a further layer to that. In short, you want to capture the central point. Once you have secured the target, you have to escort a payload into the enemies base before the timer runs out.

TDM is perfect for learning the ropes. You jump in, learn your character and get into all kinds of scraps with limited team work required. When you are ready to dip into team-play, then Onslaught is the obvious next step. Running in solo will get you gimped quickly, so you definitely want to stick together and utilise each characters unique traits. Siege is the culmination of your training. It requires constant teamwork to succeed, as just capturing the point is not enough. The payload moves, which means the battlefield is always changing. If your team can’t adapt on the fly, you are going to have a rough match.

For any game, this is a lot of content to sink your teeth into, let alone a Free-to-Play title. Surely there are some concessions somewhere? Graphics maybe? Nope. Lets get this out of the way now, the Switch version is obviously not as graphically impressive as its competitors. Despite this, Paladins has a very attractive art-style that helps cover up those rough edges. Every character is brimming with personality, and each map is large and detailed.

Unlike many First Person Shooters on the wee hybrid, Paladins manages to boast a mighty fine 60 frames per second. Amazingly, it even manages to keep it that high pretty damn consistently – even in handheld mode. The only issue I have is the occasional resolution dip when things get hairy. But even then, when the action picks up you are kind of occupied, so you probably won’t notice it. Overall Paladins runs silky smooth, and looks good to boot.

The same thing can’t be said about the sound design unfortunately. In fact it is probably the only area that is truly lacking. Whilst your guns and abilities all sound impactful enough, things like music and voice acting just fail to leave any lasting impression. The music is passable in its mediocrity I guess. Whilst the voice acting is ok a best and weirdly awkward at worst. An unfortunate crack in an otherwise solid mug of awesome.

I think it’s time to address the elephant in the room – the Free-to-Play model. Honestly Paladins is an absolute beacon in a sea of blegh. The only thing your cash can buy is cosmetic. Premium currency can be earned in game, allowing you to pick up some pretty sweet swag without having to break the bank. What’s not to like?

Now it must be noted, you don’t start with all 40 Champions. In fact you have to buy them. Thankfully Paladins gives you a very generous number of free characters (on rotation), and all Champions can be bought with gold earned in game. For those who really love the game, you can even pick up the Champion Pack. Basically every Champion that has ever been, or ever will be in Paladins for a fairly low price. They even refund you any gold you’ve spent before picking the pack up as an added bonus. It is very easy to play Paladins without spending a single penny, but if you wanted to invest some dosh, it never feels like your being nickel and dimed.

So should you pick up Paladins on Switch? Did you even read my review? Of course you bloody should. Not only is it the only shooter of its kind on the Switch, it is an absolutely stellar title in its own right. Whether you want something light to drop in and drop out of, or enough depth to submerge Atlantis, Paladins has you covered.

I give Paladins (Switch) a 4 on the Toaster scale. You pop this bad boy in and get rewarded with crispy slab of golden deliciousness. Grab your butter, lather it crust to crust and enjoy the sweet, sweet arterial clottage.

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