[Edit] Since this editorial went live, Paladins has revised much of its Essence costs, much to the benefit of the game.
Paladins has been doing well recently. New Champions arriving have been fun and had a notable impact on the game (even if Maeve remains overtuned) while many of the systems Hi-Rez have designed have begun to feel polished and well thought out. Its card system shows real promise and there’s genuine flexibility to it, even if some builds feel vastly superior to others.
It’s with the arrival of a third currency however that has me not only concerned for the future of the game, but what in the heavens Hi-Rez was thinking when they implemented it.
Gold could be used to unlock certain Champions and cosmetic items or to unlock Loadout cards instantly. You could earn gold by playing matches, leveling up Champions, completing quests or logging in daily.
While the gold gain wasn’t enormous, even if you completed all areas, it was quick enough to regularly be able to pick up cards or some chests and this in turn would allow you to pursue the completion of Champion Loadouts with relative ease.
The dreaded loot box yet again cements its place as the most hated object in gaming.
If you didn’t wish to pursue a “free” route to unlocking cards and costumes, you could hand over your cash for Crystals which you could once again use on more cosmetic items, and a greater quantity of chests. Effectively, your credit card bypassed the need to play matches and do the leg work for gold acquisition. Time versus Money.
Like many players I was largely fine with this setup because Paladins is inevitably a free game: Hi-Rez need to make money somewhere and the distribution of gold wasn't agonizing to acquire. It felt fair.
The introduction of Essence however, a third currency, has thrown a major spanner in the works that could - if it remains as it is now - cripple Paladins and its future players.
Where gold was once used for crafting cards, essence has replaced this. The premise being that you spend your gold or crystals to acquire cards and any duplicates are converted into a variable amount of essence, based on the rarity of said cards (60 for Common cards, 250 for Rare cards, 1250 for Epic cards).
Duplicate cards when opening Radiant Chests return tiny amounts of Essence.
Numerically those values sound fine when viewed independently but when you begin to attempt to craft cards for its 21 Champions, you soon realize the enormity of the task ahead of you.
Considering Epic cards cost 5000 essence to craft, and rares cost 1250, obtaining enough essence to complete a card collection for a single Champion instantly becomes expensive. When you think that essence is only rewarded on card duplication (at less than half their crafting cost) the wider picture of a grand grind begins to surface. Not only this, but the new legendary cards cost 18000 essence, with each Champion needing to unlock two for a full house.
As the example below demonstrates, as a new player and to complete Makoa’s card collection I would need 44,500 essence. That, to be blunt, is an outrageous quantity. Not only is it bound by gold or the spending of crystals, but further restricted by the RNG placed on chests, and the stingy conversion of essence for duplicate cards (5000 essence to buy an epic card but 1250 essence for a duplicate seems ridiculous).
Even if the stars were to align and on multiple chest purchases I happened to unlock every single missing card for every single Champion, I’d still need to find 36,000 essence, per Champion, just to access all their legendary cards. That’s a total of 756,000 essence. Who, honestly, will ever do this? I'm fortunate I have over 100K essence because I've played since pre-orders opened. Anyone arriving now stands no chance of equaling such amounts.
I'll probably be 65 by the time I earn enough Essence to unlock all Makoa's cards.
If the numbers weren’t frustrating enough, the very implementation of such a system in a game that’s designed to be competitive is ludicrous. I appreciate a Legendary card won’t prevent a team from winning, but when some are ridiculously strong (such as Buck’s Bounce House, Ying’s Lifelike, or Tyra’s Hunting Party) hiding them and the unlocking of them behind a paywall - regardless of whether you use gold or crystals - isn’t conducive to a well balanced game: quite the opposite.
When you have Hi-Rez staffers actively defending the decision (sneeringly I might add), despite the numbers clearly demonstrating how ridiculous the implementation of essence is, there’s a serious problem.
What about when there’s 30 or 40 Champions in Paladins? What about new players arriving into the game only to realize they’ve a mountain to climb to even stand any hope of being on a level playing field with their opponents?
Games such as Hearthstone or Paragon which utilize a card system are fairly generous in not only allowing players to access all cards, but also balancing out time played versus money spent. Where Hearthstone is concerned, it has a robust crafting and quest system that allows players to unlock specific cards of their choosing (or by purchasing a reasonably priced expansion pack). As for Paragon, cards can be unlocked through spending the in game currency; Epic made the decision that money would play no part in obtaining cards. Paragon is, after all, attempting to be a competitive game and they rightly want no player to have an advantage over the other.
The only reason I can think of for Hi-Rez to even think about implementing such a system is to pay-wall, by effectively making gold near-worthless when it comes to time investment. Anyone mad enough to even attempt to unlock all cards using only gold is either a glutton for punishment or blind to what Hi-Rez are attempting to do.
As much as I enjoy playing Paladins (and even covering it here at Ten Ton Hammer) I would strongly suggest you make your voices heard on Twitter, Reddit or by sending them feedback directly. Better yet, don’t spend your hard earned cash in game and find something else to play until they come to their senses.
Considering Paladins is directly competing against Overwatch, it’s madness to think Hi-Rez would even upset the applecart in this way. It should be a time where they’re cultivating players who’re growing tired of other games in the genre, or which are searching for something outside of Blizzard’s ecosystem. Instead they’re not only unfairly challenging those already on board, but making life pretty miserable for anyone looking to participate.
A friend who has only just started to play Paladins (on my recommendation) has already moved back to Overwatch and Battlerite because he took one look at the essence system and had no desire to even try to complete his loadouts.
The new skin for Drogoz is, as far as I'm concerned, the only one in the game worth the money.
What’s so frustrating about all this is that if Hi-Rez want more money from people playing Paladins, all they have to do is implement skins people actually want to buy at reasonable prices. Dreadhunter is the first and only skin that’s remotely interesting while all others are overpriced or largely unappealing (£12 for Troublemaker? No thanks). Why isn’t more time and attention spent on delivering quality here?
Linking your monetization to something as integral as a Champion loadouts however is a slippery slope to earning yourself a very bad reputation. Unless Hi-Rez drastically reduce the cost of crafting cards and significantly increase the essence gained from duplicates, Paladins has little hopes of remedying the fallout.
We’ve contacted Hi-Rez for comment and will keep you updated.
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Paladins Game Page.