In the just over a year and a half since Overwatch came out, it’s fanbase has grown exponentially and shows no signs of slowing down in terms of popularity. Lauded as THE arena-based hero shooter, Overwatch is everywhere, it dominates YouTube in a way no game has since Minecraft, go to a cosplay or gaming convention and there will be some mention of Overwatch somewhere in some form or another.
Then there is Hi-Rez Studios’ free-to-play game, Paladins. A first-person arena-based hero shooter, like Overwatch; there are Payloads to be moved and objectives to be captured, like Overwatch; there is a flying character who shoots rockets, like Overwatch; there is a character who can teleport around the map, like Overwatch; and there is a large, heavily armoured character with an expanding shield. Just. Like. Overwatch.
Now at this point, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of ‘What a rip off!’, and in a way, yes, it is a bit of a rip-off. But you have to understand that Paladins officially began development long before Overwatch was announced – dig around for the early test footage, it’s actually laughable how different the game used to be, each character has gone through so many iterations it’s not even funny. And it is technically a rip-off but only in the way that League of Legends is a rip off of Dota (which is actually a rip-off of Warcraft so let’s not go there), it is a rip off in the same way that Call of Duty and Battlefield are technically rip-offs of Halo: Combat Evolved (many mechanics and ideas that both franchises use were originally introduced in Halo), it is a rip-off in the sense that Lawbreakers is a rip-off of Unreal Tournament… no, wait, that one’s actually true – seriously though, turn on a few mutators in Unreal Tournament and the gameplay is practically the same as in Lawbreakers).
Doth ye see what-eth I’m getting-eth at?
The fact that they are hero-based arena shooters means that there will be similarities, some of them a little more glaring than others. But first, let’s look at the differences.
Quick sidenote: I’ll mainly be focusing on Paladins for this article because just about every gamer out there has played Overwatch at some point or another and more or less knows how the game works.
When you open up Overwatch for the first time, you have no idea of where to go or what to do first, you have to traipse through a couple of screens to get to the Tutorial; the game teaches you basic movement mechanics, how to kill an enemy and how to capture a point.
When you launch Paladins for the first time, you are instantly thrust into the tutorial. You are taught how to move around, how to kill, the basics of using an ultimate, how to capture a point and how to move a payload – you even have to contest the point and payload against enemy bots.
See, there are already a couple of differences, and that payload section in the tutorial is something Overwatch could probably use, because literally none of those twenty five million players are on the (expletive) payload!
In Overwatch, you can skip the tutorial and go straight into a match, without having any clue as to what you’re doing and having only a basic idea of what some of the characters do (you are also given access to all the characters; in Paladins you are only given a few characters for free, the rest have to be bought with in-game currency; which, by the way, is SUPER easy to earn, you have no idea). Here is where the first MAJOR difference comes in; in Paladins, you are forced to play against bots until you reach level five and you are unable to enter Ranked games until you are at least level fifteen and own a minimum of twelve Champions; which means you have to be at least somewhat competent before you can actually play against other people. Your player level and rank are taken into account when matchmaking for both ranked and unranked matches (meaning that there is less chance of a higher level player getting stuck with a beginner, even in casual).
Both games have a Payload mode (opposing teams take turns moving the payload across the map), and both have a ‘king of the hill’ type mode (called ‘Onslaught’ in Paladins); but Paladins also has something a little extra (besides the recently released Team Deathmatch mode and the upcoming team-based Battle Royale mode): Siege.
Siege is just like Payload, with two major differences; in Siege you have to contest and capture an objective before you can move a payload and there are four points to be won – capturing the objective grants a point, moving the payload to the enemy base grants a point, stopping the enemies from moving the payload to your base also grants a point; win at least three out of the four points and you’ve pretty much won the match.
Oh, and Paladins lets you choose which gamemode you want to play, Overwatch doesn’t; on top of that, you can continually enter training matches (available for all gamemodes) to get used to certain characters or to try new loadouts. There is even a Shooting Range where you can try out characters you don’t yet own.
Possibly the two biggest differences between the games would have to be the Loadout system and the Item Shop.
“Oh Lord! An Item Shop in a free-to-play game! It’s pay-to-win isn’t it?!?!?!” I hear you internally screaming. Well, you can be thankful that it isn’t pay-to-win. Overwatch uses loot crates to give you cosmetics, Paladins uses loot chests (same difference) to give you cosmetics and cards (bare with me, I know that sounds like there is a pay-to-win aspect but there really isn’t).
Here is where we get to the Loadout system.
In Overwatch, every Genji is the same, every Reinhardt is an exact copy of another, but in Paladins, unless the Fernando player on the enemy team is somehow using the exact same loadout as me, my Fernando has different stats to his. You are allowed six loadouts per Champion, each loadout has five cards. Cards are used to reduce cooldown times, increase movement speed under certain conditions, increase the durations on certain abilities, increase damage done, reduce damage taken or increase your maximum health; each Champion also has four Legendary cards, which you pick over and above your loadout before each match starts; you cannot change your loadout (or Champion) once a match has started.
This is where that potential pay-to-win aspect comes in; cards have levels. When you first start playing Paladins (as of the release of the OB64 update) you are given all the cards in the game, but only some of them are set to level 4, you increase the level (and thus, potency) of a card by unlocking duplicates of that card and these duplicates are accessed through loot chests – note that the max level on all cards is 10. You might be thinking that this is definitely pay-to-win, but to be honest, it really isn’t. The game grants you a ‘Win of the Day’ chest for each Champion once a day (provided that you first win a game with that character), a Win of the Day chest will only give you cards for the character you won that chest with and will never give you duplicates of fully levelled cards; you also gain a character chest each time you level a Champion up (Champion level just shows how good you are with a particular character and has no effect on gameplay).
The reason I say this isn’t pay-to-win is because ‘Yes, you can buy a couple hundred character chests and max out the levels on all the cards in the game’ but ‘It literally just takes a couple Win of the Day chests a day for a month or two and you’ve maxed out all the cards on the Champions you actually use’. See my point? You can pay for those cards but grind for two months and you’ll be in the same position as the guy who payed.
Onto the Item Shop. No, there is no actual money involved. During a match, you earn credits, you spend these credits at the Item Shop. ‘What am I supposed to buy from the Item Shop?’ I read your racing thoughts; well, you buy four out of sixteen items and you can level these items by purchasing them again and again – note that items can only be levelled twice, with a max level of three. Items are arranged into rows of four and you can only buy one item from each row. The idea behind these items is that you can purchase them depending on the situation – the main reason for the Item Shop’s existence is that once you’ve picked your Champion and loadout and the match has started, you can’t swap them out for a different one, the Item Shop adds a layer of adaptability and hence, strategy.
Is the Grover on the enemy team doing an exceptional job of healing his teammates? Buy Cauterise, it’ll slow down healing effects on enemies.
Want to reduce cooldowns? Buy Chronos.
Want to increase movement speed? Buy Nimble, but be careful because you can’t buy Nimble and Chronos.
Maybe the enemy team has a couple of stealth-based characters, like Skye or Strix. If it’s your job to deal with them, or if they’re just being complete nightmares, buy Illuminate and you’ll be able to see them more easily when they’re invisible.
Or maybe you do a fair amount of damage per second and you’ve noticed that your team’s Support player has decided to try and be a Damage, get Life Rip and you’ll get a portion of the damage you deal back as health.
You gain credits by doing your job; Frontlines (tanks) gain credits by standing on/contesting the objective, Damage characters gain credits by doing damage, Supports gain credits for healing and Flanks gain credits for Eliminations (basically by getting the killing blow on an enemy). The Item Shop is not only a nice way to buff your character within a match, it is a great way to incentivise playing your part in a role-based team of players (this also makes it a great way to get your tank on the frikkin payload).
While Overwatch has spawnpoints spread out over the map, Paladins doesn’t, and this would make getting to the point or catching up with the payload a complete nightmare in the middle of a game if it weren’t for the mounts. In Paladins, when you start the game you are given a mount, your mount disappears when you attack or are attacked and will reappear when you respawn.
Overwatch has health pick-ups (among other things) spread out across the map, Paladins doesn’t have such things, you can suffer.
Or, you know, play your part in the team and use the credits to buy Life Rip or Rejuvenate (the latter increases the healing effects of your team’s support characters).
If you’re an Overwatch player and you’re looking into playing Paladins (or the other way around), you’ll find yourself enjoying the one almost as much as you enjoy the other. While there are differences, its about time we take a look at the glaring similarities; because Spanish Reinhardt isn’t fooling anybody…
Except, you know, Fernando uses a flamethrower. Although granted, they both have a ‘Charge’ ability but most characters in Paladins have an ability like that – though in some it is substituted by the ‘Teleport’ or ‘Dodge’ ability.
One similarity between the two games being that every so often, usually in casual, you will find yourself without a Support (thank goodness the Paladins Item Shop has Life Rip, because we’re gonna be here a while; oh, and there is a healing cooldown for when you’re out of battle, so it is entirely possible, by very slim margins, so not recommended, to play without a support).
And no, Inara/Mei, your Stone/Ice Wall is not helping me at all!!!
Overwatch is Overwatch and Paladins is Paladins. Once you get passed the differences in graphics (Blizzard is, by comparison to Hi-Rez, made of money) and the similarities in gameplay, you’ll come to realise that Kinessa is more a Tracer/Widowmaker mashup than a straight-up copy of Tracer and that while Pharah is an Egyptian wearing a high-tech battlesuit, Drogoz is a fire-breathing lizard with mechanical wings that were built by a dwarf… a dwarf who also builds turrets all over the place. His name is Barik, and he totally does not have the same mannerisms as Torbjorn.