This week developer Hi-Rez Studios unveiled a big update of their free-to-play hero shooter Paladins: Champions of the Realm. Among many detailed adjustments of the hero roster the studio shifting its upgrade mechanic to a somewhat "controversial" model, as they admit themselves. Starting next week, after only seven days of trials and testing for players in the PTS environment, Hi-Rez plan to launch the new card mechanic on the live servers. The 'only' problem is that some highly invested fans are incredibly irrate about the changes and call the developer out for its obvious pay-to-win formula.
Right now the game uses a unique stand on upgrade cards, letting players adjust strengths and weaknesses based on the means they have from purchasing stuff with in-game currency, real-world money and the existing recycling feature. The current system has its drawbacks but players seem to not think about that too much. With the Cards Unbound update Hi-Rez completely changes this mechanics and introduces rare variations to their existing perks while also removing the possibility to dismantle unwanted cards and craft new items. Furthermore, players can't buy the cards they want with in-game currency anymore and are left to the blessings of lady luck to gain higher tier cards (which by the way significantly increases the stats of your character).
Although microtransactions are currently turned off in the test environment, players understand the system being way too grind-heavy and unfair for players, because they have to actively upgrade every loadout for the heroes they want to play from next week on. To upgrade an existing card you have to collect the same card over and over again through playing and gaining lucky drops or through buying loot crates which drops random things, too. If you're looking for something specific to boost a certain character you'd better keep your fingers crossed.
Hi-Rez also addressed a couple of changes to their existing play modes, competitive and quick play, which makes the situation even worse. In the competitive area Paladins: Champions of the Realm will automatically raise the card levels to rank 3 (out of five) (which according to fans lowers the true amount of customisation options in this area overall), but the quick play mode will allow new players to compete against people who have significantly higher level cards because they spent much time and/or money into the new system without any benefits or the slightest chance of balancing the experience.
In the official update notes Hi-Rez tries to explain their shifting focus with looking at current trends like Star Wars Battlefront II's loot crate integration (which may not be the greatest inspiration to draw from).
"This is a major change that may be controversial, particularly given some recent questionable moves by full-price games."
"The vast majority of our players will never spend a dime. Regardless of how much money you have in your wallet, we want to make sure you have a great time. Our number one priority as we introduce Cards Unbound is that the free-to-play experience feels great."
Do you play Paladins and what do you make of these changes?
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