Really, the upset here isn’t that I’m enjoying something (although that IS a turn up for the books, whichever way you slice it) it’s that I’m actually playing something. Life, and my inexorable march toward transcending this fleshy prison, is jabbing its elbows into my ribs and demanding I ‘do stuff’. Which is getting in the way of my time sat listlessly in front of a monitor to a truly irritating extent. Not that this hasn’t been happening for the last decade or so. I just want to moan about it today. Again.
Anyway, this dire state of affairs, this travesty of justice, this unholy detriment to all that is good and right, has left me still feeling rather thankful for the Switch, what with my ability to haul it around and use it in lieu of wanting to have conversations with people at work.
Games of all types of surprising shape and size are flooding onto Nintendo’s mighty morphin’, globe crawlin’, TV – erm – adornin’ console and it’s a genuinely exciting time to be paying attention to the Ninty news.
There’s a shedload of excellent indies (yes, fine ‘Nindies’… whatever) constantly shoulder barging their way onto the eshop (I have an eye for Salt and Sanctuary, Serial Cleaner, Dead Cells, and North to name a few) and with Wolfenstein II’s reportedly excellent port hitting the ground running, Dark Souls Switch finally having a date and Diablo III also being teased, this fine furnace of game publishing is roaring.
Amongst all the excitement, you may have noticed Hi-Rez’s Overwatch tribute band Paladins has not only landed on Switch itself, but it has landed at the rather inarguable price of ‘Free’.
And I am enjoying it a lot.
But I don’t want to be. I don’t want to enjoy Paladins because it is a clone. In almost the truest sense of the word. To the extent in fact, that it makes me feel a bit dirty playing it, and yet like so many irreverent and questionable past times of years gone by, I just cannot seem to stop.
I’m going to go into some detail on Hi-Rez’s Clone ‘Em Up ethics in another post so let’s shelve my misgivings on that front for the time being and look at the game itself.
There’s a good chance the main reason I’m gleefully booting Paladins up so frequently right now, is because, unfathomably, I seem to be good at it. Or at least, good enough to keep up with my compatriots, which is a miracle that anyone who’s ever played a game with me will attest to. Similarly I have at last gotten right into Overwatch of late, so having a version I can take with me is certainly a selling point.
Interestingly, there’s a hint of depth to the gameplay that I’m yet to really discover, chiefly because to get to it you have to pay lots of money, as far as my terminally cash-fearing attention span has allowed me to deduct. Certain abilities and ‘perks’, for want of a word that doesn’t make me want to be sick into a bucket, activated via a sort of trading card system, are locked away behind tall, thick, diamond-coloured paywalls, and as I’ve said in the past, I have an innate aversion to paying for free games.
As such I’m left with a sort of barebones ‘hero’ shooter, now for want of not mentioning Overwatch again, that actually plays really well. It’s not the same calibre as its older, wiser brother, there’s a stringy quality to the movement and shooting, but it translates onto the portable with satisfying enough stride. In certain configurations anyway.
Like with Doom, I do really struggle to aim if the Joycons are linked onto the machine itself. Something about the position of the right Look stick just devolves my manual dexterity to that of a legless cat (I don’t mind if you take that to mean drunk or without any legs – it’s an interactive simile). Fortunately, snap those fruity blue and red numbers off, and slide them instead into the grip and it’s a lithe, or at least manageable, experience to play.
There’s a wealth of heroes that you can spend ages testing out and getting used to, only to discover that you initially have access to just six of those in the actual game. As is my go-to tactic with these sorts of affairs, I picked one character (Cassie) and then clung on for dear life. Except that while I usually spend the first few hours feasting on my enemies’ delicious bullets, (and then the remaining hours as well) I managed Play of the Game in my first round. I barely even died. How? Who knows.
Even more bizarrely I managed to keep up this wanton display of competency, and while I’ve barely deviated from my initial character in the main rounds, I’ve got a certain handle on the playstyle and, ultimately, well, I like it. It’s simple enough that I can get in and get shooting, but there’s a potential in the various heroes and their abilities that, should I really crave an extra layer of tactics and strategy, will be there for me.
The lack of sound in certain parts of play is weirdly disorienting, and sometimes imbues it with that knock-off demeanour. Though technically understandable given the typically large file size of audio and the small scale port, it’s an odd thing to miss.
All this taken into account though, for me, right now, Paladins feels like a handy, stripped back Overwatch I can put in my pocket. Maybe there’s more depth than I’m seeing, maybe I’m supposed to be experiencing different aspects of the game, but all that genuinely seems unnecessary. If you’re after a quick fix for this style of not-so-serious team deathmatch, and don’t really want to spend any money, it’s entirely worth a go.
That said, with the recent announcement of Diablo III for Switch, Blizzard, when probed, confessed that an Overwatch port is ‘feasible’. Which is as good as a confirmation for the rumour mill. If that did turn out to be the case, Paladins would likely be out in the cold in comparison to its forebearer. We’ll have to wait and see. More on Respawn soon!