Paladins players angry over new loot box-based progression system

Hi-Rez Studios is testing some big changes to its free-to-play hero shooter Paladins, and an awful lot of players are not very happy about it. Essence, the in-game currency the studio rolled out early this year to much complaint, is gone, but it's been replaced by a loot box-based system that critics say will force players to either grind their faces off or spend real money on chests. 

The new system, called Cards Unbound, unlocks all cards in the game—Basic and Legendary—for all players. But those cards now have levels, from 1 to 5, which can be advanced by collecting duplicates. And you will definitely want to upgrade them, because the power differences between level 1 and level 5 cards are significant: Evie's Cold Acclimation card, for instance, reduces self-damage from weapon backsplash by 20 percent at level 1, but goes all the way to 100 percent at level 5. 

The duplicates required to level up cards will only be available from opened chests, and the numbers required are significant: 42 cards are required to take a common card from level 1 to 5, ( the open beta 64 patch notes had it at 43 but it's since been adjusted) while legendary cards require just 4 but, as redditor Battlekid18 put it, "we all know how rare they are." Given that the system is RNG-based, that means an awful lot of chest-popping to put together a specific build. 

Compounding the issue further is that the system only applies to Quick Play, which will replace the Casual queue. In Quick Play, decks have no point limit, so players can put together loadouts of up to five level 5 cards. In Ranked play, however, all cards will be automatically set and locked to level 3. "This ensures that Ranked is all about player skill," Hi-Rez said. "There is no longer any grind for cards in Ranked." 

But as redditor UncleCarnage pointed out, Quick Play is where players go to learn new Champions (or pick up the basics of the game, if they're just starting out), so that they can be competitive in Ranked. Without level 5 cards to keep them from being demolished on a regular basis, players will end up forced to grind with their main in order to earn enough duplicates to make the new Champion viable. 

"And then you're ready to hop onto casual and play that champion/deck and learn him, but wait, you're doing that with a completely unbalanced deck that you wont be able to use in ranked," they wrote. "Or should I just quit casual completely and play ranked exclusively, and even when I want to play a new champion for the first time, I'll just do it there and ruin my team's day?" 

The Cards Unbound system is currently in testing, and Hi-Rez said in a statement that work on the new system is still underway. "The Cards Unbound system has been released to our Public Test Server, with no microtransactions allowed, so we can work with the community to refine it before it goes live," the studio said. "As we continue to develop this system, we do so with three key goals in mind:

  •  Creating the ultimate Competitive mode that is 100% fair and 100% free. No matter how much time or money is spent, everyone will be on equal footing.
  •  Enhancing our Casual mode to be less restrictive and more over-the-top to serve our many players who have asked for a fun-first experience.
  •  Ensuring the free-to-play experience is excellent. We recognize that 90 percent of our players will never spend money with us and those players are the lifeblood of our multiplayer game.

"We plan to update and adjust the PTS version approximately every two days, with changes driven by community feedback and surveys. What is being played on PTS is very much a work in progress, and we will iterate on the Cards Unbound system until we meet the goals above."

Hi-Rez also said, in the Cards Unbound announcement, that it won't allow direct purchases of chests "until we have time to tune the economy after seeing real-world results." It expects to begin allowing purchases in open beta 65, "but we may delay this."

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.