Twin stick shooters are ten a penny these days, so much so that it takes something really special to stand out in the vast overcrowded genre. Paladin sadly doesn’t accomplish that, but it’s solid enough to at least please those that enjoy the formula. Paladin doesn’t house much of a story, but then that’s not really a key ingredient for a twin-stick shooter, with much of the focus being cast on the gameplay alone. You take on the role of a space fighter that’s been tasked with defending civilisation from annihilation. The last remaining civilians on Earth are relying on a safety that’s entirely dependent on your success. So, no pressure, right?
There’s a total of five different ships for you to select from, each of which boasting its own unique parameters, or at least that’s what it says on the tin. In reality, each of these ships handle the same – or close to it. Ships consist of the Boa, the Viper, the Asp, the Cobra, and the Manta. Regardless as to which one you gravitate towards the gameplay will remain identical throughout, which is to say you’re still going to be twin-stick blasting whilst navigating left and right. Don’t get me wrong, there are some differences between each ship, but the differences are only subtle. One ship for example will have dual projectile blasters and slow speed, whereas another ship trades marginally faster movement for more dialled down firepower.
The cost of the game vs the length of the game is the biggest problem for me. Paladin costs just £7.99 / $9.99 but only offers up a 90 minute (at best) campaign. That may well be a price that cannot be scoffed at, but for a game that lasts less than two hours in total, it just doesn’t cut it for me. There’s a good deal of replay value to be had from Paladin but this mostly consists of trekking through the campaign levels with different ships in an attempt to get them all fully upgraded. That will no doubt appeal to completionists but in my opinion, replay value should be engaging and enticing, not repetitive nonsense that has you repeating the same process five times over.
As you make your way through the game you’ll be blasting alien enemies by the bucket load, earning EXP and in-game currency as a result. EXP will go towards filling up your Rage meter – which grants you that extra bit of firepower, whereas the cash will come in handy for upgrading your ship. You’re able to upgrade a decent range of functions too, such as your rate of fire, your fire power, extra lives, city defences and more nukes. There’s a handful of different difficulty settings to take on, but I couldn’t see much of a difference between Easy and Normal, both of which are far too simplistic to be considered a challenge. Hard mode on the other hand, that’s probably the best place to start. Enemies actually feel challenging and you’re encouraged to use your special abilities more here than in the lesser difficulties.
The aim of the game is to blast anything that tries challenging you, or anything that will start attacking the cities below. You have a full 360 degree twin-stick control scheme to rely on, which is decent enough to see the adventure through. Boss encounters are also somewhat of a letdown, being that they don’t really go above and beyond to truly test your skills and reflexes. Much of the problem here is that the difficulty of the game (regardless of the mode) doesn’t scale too well against the upgrade system. You’ll find that you’re typically over-powered from 15 minutes in, which may well come in handy when you want a high place on the scoreboard, but it tragically sacrifices that for one of the most important aspects of the game. The level design is another downside, with each and every location looking damn too similar to the last. There may well be some nice colours and effects on-screen at every given moment, but this means sweet F-A when almost everything else in the game falls short of the mark.
Paladin is a poor take on the popular genre it adopts. There’s nowhere near enough innovation to allow this to stand out from the crowd of other twin-stick shooters on the market. The level design is poor, the gameplay is basic, and there’s not much of a challenge to soak up. It may well be a colourful blast with a good selection of upgrades to lean back on, but when you take into account that you can complete this entire game in just 90 minutes, it leaves a lot to be desired. If you have yet to play it, pick up Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved instead. It costs a tiny bit more but packs much more content, a better design, and outdoes everything that Paladin fails to grasp.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.