Last week, Hi-Rez Studios co-founder Todd Harris took to Reddit to address comments that upcoming team-based shooter Paladins was a copy or clone of Blizzard's Overwatch. Harris pointed out that Paladins was in development before Overwatch was announced but also said that the developers decided to stick to their guns despite elements of their game being similar to Overwatch, as other approaches didn't focus test well.
Looking at the discussion online, there's still a fierce chicken-and-egg debate going on about who (if anyone) copied who first, a lot of which focuses on whether Paladins changed to become more like Overwatch after Blizzard's announcement. (The rest of it is populated by Team Fortress 2 fans making sure everybody knows TF2 was copied first.)
It's a messy discussion, frankly; one I can't see ending anytime soon. Instead of trying to arbitrate over who did what, I decided it was better to simply play Paladins and see just how similar the two games are.
I found, of course, that there is a very strong Overwatch vibe to Paladins. There are several champions, as they're known in Paladins, with striking similarities to heroes from Overwatch. A lot of comments online, for instance, have focused on Barik; a diminutive beardy fellow who wields a blunderbuss and builds defensive turrets. Looking at him, it's difficult not to be reminded of Overwatch's Torbjörn; a diminutive beardy fellow who wields a rivet gun (with a shotgun-like alt fire) and builds defensive turrets - albeit only one at a time. Fernando is another Paladins character who seems oddly familiar: his suit of armour, energy shield and short-range offensive capabilities are strongly reminiscent of those of Reinhardt, Overwatch's ageing German tank. I could go on.
While it's hard to shake that feeling of familiarity, however, there is a lot to Paladins that sets it apart from Overwatch - features that, I think, will help it carve out a loyal player base without difficulty. The champions are augmented by card-based loadouts, for example, allowing you select and power up a fistful of perks that will direct your chosen champion toward a particular playstyle. In each match, players will also purchase items using currency generated by getting kills and contesting the match objective. These items are geared toward helping players counter their opponents' team picks; unlike Overwatch, you can't switch champions mid-match, but buying and upgrading a health buff might be enough to give you the edge against a team that's picked a lot of damage dealers.
I go into more detail in the video above, so if you're interested in seeing Paladins in action for yourself, give it a watch. As for me, I still haven't quite got my head around seeing a dragon with a rocket launcher riding around on a horse, if I'm honest.