What is a fantasy game without mages and dragons? With the next champion revealed at Hi-Rez Expo, the fantasy shooter Paladins will be getting both rolled into one. Imani, the Last Warder, will add these quintessential fantasy elements in a frontline character come January’s Update 2.01. Her addition to Paladins concludes the Dragon’s Call ongoing story arc and kicks off the next season’s new storyline.
Imani was well received at the convention’s keynote address just from her reveal trailer — especially after she called down that massive dragon to her side! But of course folks wanted to learn more about her. I gleaned more information to share throughout the interviews and panels at the expo.
Making a mage
During the Guns + Magic = Paladins panel, Evil Mojo’s devs (Lead Designer Garrett Martini, Designer Keven Meier, Technical Director Andrew Thayer, and Brand Director Alex Cantatore) discussed how the team wanted to create a champion that embodied what it means to play Paladins. Imani is that. People from shooters are already getting the shooter FPS feel from a number of gun-toting champions, but a fantasy class was not available. Imani is the best combination of shooter with fantasy; she’s a dragon-calling mage who flings fire and ice at her enemies while still having to line up her projectiles just like shooters.
With this champion, Paladins goes deeper into the idea of casting spells. She can rotate at will between two stances, fire and ice. When in ice stance, her attacks are faster and have more crowd-control properties. It makes sense that frozen foes would go slower, right? In fire stance, the attacks are slower, have longer cooldowns, but pack a much larger punch. You’s expect that of a fireball! Players will always know which stance Imani is in by the colors/look of her outfit.
For those who’d love to see more fantasy elements such as buffs, debuffs, and DoTs, know that the team has explored this quite a bit but it never works for the type of game Paladins is. The panel explained that you can’t have a decision making tree (buffs and debuffs) that takes time to build up, develop, and manage; decisions have to happen quickly. As for DoT’s like poison and necromancy, the devs admitted that those really cool and could have lots of cool animations, but having something that kills you after your engagement with the enemy is too frustrating and not fun at all for the victim, making it much too unbalanced. The devs emphasized that both the kill and the death have to be acceptable to both parties; shooters are my skill vs. your skill, we see each other be both have a chance. A delayed death after the fight is not acceptable.
So whats a mage without some amazing spells? During the panel we got to see Imani’s powers on display (which can also be seen in the behind-the-scenes video below). Her powers change between stances, with the exception of her movement power, and each stance has unique animations for her spells. Each spell also has three variations of casting animations for some added variety in the first person experience.
The left click in ice stance shoots projectiles that do less damage but fire off quicker and add a slow effect. The right click is a frost bomb, a slow-moving large projectile with a high arc that is a huge AoE root. Imani can either detonate it in the air or let it go the full distance. Note: She is locked out of any other abilities while the ice ball is in the air, so if Imani needs to react quickly she may have to detonate it prematurely.
But we (I) want to know about the fire! In fire stance, the left click is your fireball with 1,000 damage. This fireball is not a splash AoE attack and must be aimed right at a foe. The right click is a beam of fire damage that also pierces. This attack locks Imani in one direction, but if she jumps before casting, she sort of hovers there and can move slightly to the sides.
Imani’s travel power is the one power that does not change according to stance; instead it combines the two. She creates an ice slide with one hand a la Iceman/Silver Surfer and surfs along it while being propelled by a fire blast from her other hand! She can elevate a bit, but not extensively. And each time Imani turns, she’ll go slower. Devs noted that there will be cards that will increase both the speed and duration of her ice surfing.
Now this is an ultimate! Imani looked cool and drew me in with her spells (you know how much I love fire!), but the moment she used her ultimate I knew I had found the frontline character I’d be playing. Imani summons a humongous dragon! The player moves form Imani into controlling the dragon across the battlefield. Yes, it can fly, and it breathes massive frostfire down on enemies that both slows and causes massive damage. This dragon, whose look mirrors whatever stance Imani is in even if the breath weapon is a combination of the two, also has a dragon’s share of hit points — a nice 7.5K worth. However, it does also have an extremely massive hit box, and percentage damage attacks work well against it. Right now, devs note that the summon lasts about 25 seconds, or disappears if either the as-of-yet-unnamed dragon or Imani herself are killed.
It is important strategy-wise to realize that Imani does not turn into the drag but only calls it to her aid. Yes, the player then moves to the dragon (which has caused a number of technical challenges and wizardry leading to a new camera system to be designed for the head), but Imani is still on the map, rooted and very vulnerable during this summon.
A little lore
For those who are really getting into the story of Paladins (and we know that is not a small number!), the devs disclosed that it was not Iman’s dragon that killed Dredge. Her dragon is a very young one. The one that killed Dredge in the story was more of a matron known as the mountain. Think of that massive dragon head snaked around the mountain.
Where else will this story go? Imani is just the beginning of this new arc, so we’ll have to wait and see!