Apparently Star Wars Battlefront 2 is not setting a bad enough example, because Hi-Rez has unveiled a loot box-based card-ability system for Paladins which works in much the same way.
It's not a one-for-one likeness. Paladins is a free-to-play game where microtransactions are the bread and butter income, whereas Star Wars Battlefront 2 costs £50 upfront. Also, Hi-Rez might have been planning this a long time before Battlefront 2 made a pig's ear of it.
Nevertheless, the similarities are strong. Paladins' new Cards Unbound system introduces card-abilities of tiered strength - level one to level five - and they're inextricably linked to the random contents of loot boxes, which you will of course be able to buy (although not yet).
All bottom-level versions of cards (both legendary and basic) are unlocked for everyone. The grind comes from levelling them up, which requires duplicates found in loot boxes. Loot boxes can be earned for free but as you'll need around 43 duplicates to level a card to five, according to Paladins YouTuber Kami (via Kotaku), this will very much be the long the way. Buying loot boxes will be significantly quicker.
Level five card-abilities are significantly stronger than those at level one. Take damage dealer Cassie for an example (the Open Beta 64 patch notes detail each champion):
- Her Blast Shot reduces healing by 8/16/24/32/40 per cent
- Her Dodge Roll distance increases by 10/20/30/40/50 per cent
- Her Disengage cooldown is reduced 1.5/3/4.5/6/7.5 seconds when hitting someone in the air
- Her Tumble (Armor) grants 10/20/30/40/50 per cent crowd control reduction
- And her legendary, Just Breathe, increases crossbow damage 25/37.5/50/62.5/75 per cent over 100 units
The difference in strength between a level one-equipped player and a level five is obvious.
But - and this is a big but, so to speak: tiered strengths are only active in Quick Play (formerly Casual). In Ranked mode all cards are locked to level three.
The justification of a level playing field for Ranked play is clear. But in Quick Play? "Some players just want to have fun and do cool things," said Hi-Rez in a Cards Unbound blog post. "They want an epic experience that's even more over-the-top than Paladins is today, unconstrained by the more cumbersome aspects of deckbuilding and point limits."
Sensing controversy, Hi-Rez added: "We get it: This is a major change that may be controversial, particularly given some recent questionable moves by full-price games. We're moving forward with this system because we believe it will make the game better for all of our players.
"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."
In an effort to get it right, Hi-Rez will not allow Card Chests (loot boxes) to be bought with real money until patch 65, "but we may delay this". "We aren't comfortable charging you for Card Chests until we have time to tune the economy after seeing real-world results (and we definitely anticipate adjustments)." Patch 64 is currently is testing and is not live.
Unsurprisingly, Hi-Rez is facing the ire of the vocal Paladins community, both on the game's forum and on Reddit - where everyone seems to quite like the current system Cards Unbound is changing. Few, if any, seem in favour of the change.
"Hello," began one post, "I've been playing this game almost since Open Beta launched, yet this is my first post on the main forums. I barely play competitive mode and I have never played the PTS version of the game either. I simply like to sit down and play some casual games, and never felt the need to say anything about the game until now.
"The changes to the card system are too extreme, the replacement of casual queue is too drastic, and while I'd love to see an over-the-top gamemode with ridiculous mechanics like Team Fortress 2's x10 servers or Overwatch's Arcade mode, making it directly dependant on player owned cards is really unfair, especially to new players which will be outmatched by veterans with higher level cards."