Up until recently, the Switch hasn't had the best of luck with multiplayer titles. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Overwatch have dominated the PC and console scene over the last couple of years, with Switch users needing to suffice with Splatoon 2 and, to a lesser extent, Doom. Hi-Rez Studios is looking to repeat the success of their home console counterparts with the free-to-play release of superhero shooter Paladins, which is now available on the Switch after a lengthy but successful period of beta testing.
Players compete in 5 vs 5 battles with a choice of three objectives - a standard ‘us vs them’ style Deathmatch, Siege mode in which each team takes control of a central point before attempting to deliver a payload to their base, and the territory-claiming Onslaught, which is Paladins' version of ‘capture the flag’.
Anyone opting for the free version of the game will have access to a handful of heroes, with the rest of the roster gradually being unlocked through playing the game. There's also a Founders Pack, which grants immediate access to all 36 heroes, as well as any additional characters released in the future. All of these characters are really well-designed and genuinely do look like they've come straight out of a comic book. They all control exactly the same, so the learning curve isn't too steep in that sense, but each hero feels completely unique due to the huge variety of weapons and abilities that each possesses.
Choosing a character can feel a little daunting, as there's no information on the menu screen to tell you about the hero's skills or background. It's all a bit trial and error until you come across the particular character that suits your playstyle. Each hero can be levelled up individually by spending experience points gained during matches, and a huge variety of equippable ‘cards’ give a massive amount of customisation options to further enhance your abilities. Yes, microtransactions do allow players to purchase upgrades, but these are all entirely cosmetic and have no bearing on the game itself, so everybody is on a level playing field in every single match. Most people are likely to stick with one or two characters in the end, which sort of makes the others redundant, but it's always good to have a choice.
Winning a game of Paladins is usually a matter of playing alongside your teammates as a cohesive unit, which makes the lack of voice chat in the Switch edition kind of disappointing. There are other ways to contact your fellow players, but it's a shame that the most straightforward option isn't currently available here, especially when Switch users can find themselves playing with or against Xbox One who definitely do have access to much easier ways and means of coordinating their attacks.
Early forays into the world of Paladins can be quite overwhelming, but everything starts to make sense when you begin to work out what's going on. It remains to be seen how the player base will fare after the not entirely unexpected but almost simultaneous release of Fortnite, as well as the impending launch of Nintendo's paid online service later this year. For now, though, Paladins is a solid addition to the Switch's multiplayer library that any online shooter fan should definitely consider taking a look at.
PALADINS: CHAMPIONS OF THE REALM / DEVELOPER: HI-REZ STUDIOS / PUBLISHER: HI-REZ STUDIOS / PLATFORM: SWITCH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW