Take a glance at Paladins Strike, and you'd swear blind it was a MOBA in the style of Vainglory.
You have a zoomed-out birds-eye view of a symmetrical fantasy battleground, with two teams of five distinct heroes attacking one another's bases.
But whereas the MOBA genre derives its core movement system from real-time strategy, Paladins Strike gives you direct control of your champion.Up close and personal
You move with a virtual analogue stick on the left of the screen, aim and shoot with the virtual stick on the right, and activate several recharging special moves with corresponding virtual buttons.
The effect of this shift seems subtle when viewed from afar, but has a fundamental impact on the way the game feels. This is an online shooter, albeit one with a much bigger emphasis on team dynamics and strategy than, say, Guns of Boom.
Just like Overwatch and its many imitators, it's essential that you utilise your hero's unique abilities to help your team. This isn't about racking up kills, but 'playing the f(lipp)ing objective', to borrow an online gaming term.Very classy
Among the characters to choose from you'll find several varieties of tank, healers, ranged experts and assault classes. These can have dramatically different levels of health and speed, as well as a distinctive primary weapon.
My early favourite is Ash, a tough front liner with a potent grenade launcher, a moving shield and a chargeable dash that can knock your opponents flying - perfect for clearing enemies away from a capture point.
No doubt this will change after a bunch more play, as a large part of the appeal here lies in learning the quirks of a new character.I need a hero - 24, in fact
There are more than 20 of these heroes to unlock, though it should perhaps come as no surprise to learn that you'll need to pay real money if you want to unlock them at a reasonable rate.
It initially frustrated me that the Paladins of the title - the whole focus of the game - are initially locked away unless you can stump up the appropriate currency. That's not uncommon is this kind of mobile experience, of course, and it's actually handled pretty well here.
As it is, if you're not prepared to spend money on the currency for new heroes, you have two options. You can grit your teeth and grind for meagre quantities, or just use the daily unlock feature to gradually uncover the entire roster.
Every hero has their strengths and weaknesses, so this isn't pay-to-win. However, you can enhance the abilities of each Paladin with 'runes', which can of course be acquired much more readily if you spend real money.Things could get messy
The main issue I have with Paladins Strike relates to the messiness of its gameplay. The battlefield frequently descends into a mess of neon effects and overlapping limbs.
It can be impossible to discern what's going on at times. That's something fans of mobile MOBAs will be familiar with, of course. But it seems to matter more here when you're more directly responsible for the positioning and aiming of your hero.
Related to that, there's the tendency for Paladins Strike's main central node-capturing mode to create intense pile-ups in the middle of the map.
Dying means you have to wait to respawn, then run through a largely empty level to get back to the front line. Doing this repeatedly to a particularly effective team can grow tiresome.Summoning the strength
Summons mode is way more interesting and varied than the main mode, with its separate capture points and summonable titans. The only trouble here is that matches can take ages to complete.
I noticed a few technical hitches with the current build too, such as the odd control freeze and an annoying message that kept popping up about the instability of my internet connection (it's absolutely fine).
While it certainly needs refining, though, Paladins Strike is a more than welcome addition to the App Store. It provides the kind of tactical team-based fun that no current mobile shooter can offer, and stands as an interesting bridge between the MOBA and the online hero shooter.