Hi-Rez Studios recently announced an updated progression system for its free-to-play hero shooter Paladins. And many players are angry over its apparent similarities to Star Wars Battlefront II's Star Card system, arguing that the changed make the system a pay-to-win one.
Prior to these changes, the stat-boosting cards needed to be unlocked through randomized loot boxes or by crafting. Under the new system, called Cards Unbound, all cards are available to all players, but have also been split into levels ranging from one to five, with higher-level cards offering better bonuses. Which sounds great. However, levelling cards has become the problem.
To upgrade a card, players must collect a set number of duplicates to essentially fuse them into a better card. The currency that was previously used to craft cards has been removed, so the only way to obtain duplicates is by opening chests purchased with gold or crystals, which are Paladins' in-game and real-money currencies. However, Hi-Rez has temporarily turned off real money purchases while the new system is being tweaked and tested.
Many players are arguing that Cards Unbound not only makes earning powerful cards much more time-consuming, it also strongly incentivizes spending real money to speed up progress. Others are complaining that progression is now too random, as they can no longer directly craft cards to upgrade the heroes they want to play.
The comparisons to Star Wars Battlefront II are entirely unsurprising and almost obligatory at this point. And it seems Hi-Rez expected them as well as the studio described the update as "a major change that may be controversial, particularly given some recent questionable moves by full-price games." Hi-Rez insists the new system makes Paladins "even more free to play" and "more balanced and competitive than ever before." Naturally, those comments have not gone over well in the player xommunity.
When asked for comment, the developer provided the following statement to IGN.
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
As we continue to develop this system, we do so with three key goals in mind:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Ensuring the free-to-play experience is excellent. We recognize that 90% 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.