Paladins are an important class to a lot of people. They traditionally are a mix of two things: brawn and peace. The Paladins are holy warriors, serving the purpose of something greater than themselves. But while they fight to protect, they also are built to take a beating. They combine the peace, healing, protective nature of a Priest with the brutal and battle-hardened exterior of a Warrior.
That religious point comes from history and has an ugly past. The Paladins weren’t always loved, as they are heavily designed off of the real life Crusaders. They carry big armor and holy symbols on their shields. They are the idealized version of the Crusaders. But unlike those who used religion as an excuse to attempt to genocide a entire race and religion, Paladins use their connection to the light to heal and protect. The image of Paladins have shifted away from sad memories and into powerful hope. Blizzard has been a huge factor in this, as has Dungeons and Dragons’s fourth edition. Over time, the class has shifted from its historical roots, to the “lawful stupid” archetype roleplayers hate, to a positive force depicted in media.
Paladins have appeared in all kinds of games from D&D to Blizzard’s own World of Warcraft or Diablo III (called Crusader). If it’s not clear from the games listed above, fantasy is their preferred setting. Why? Because the religious aspect of a Paladin is an important one, and it’s hard to make it feel correct without it.
In science fiction, Paladins fall to the wayside. Religion and magic is so often replaced with science and technology in that genre. But Blizzard has managed to create a wonderful Sci-Fi Paladin with their latest Overwatch hero, Brigitte.
Brigitte is a support that carries around a giant shield and flail. These are very traditional Paladin weapons, showing off the duality of attack and protect. But where most Paladin’s would have healing or holy magic, Brigitte uses that engineering brain of hers. She offers medical packs, she grants her allies buffs. She protects and heals with tech rather than prayers.
Normally, without magic, a Paladin wouldn’t feel right. But Brigitte is built from the ground up to be our modern Paladin. In one of her Highlight Intros, she leaps into the fray with her shield exposed. But instead of pressing the attack, she turns to the camera and stretches her hand out, offering assistance. She is more concerned with defending what she loves than attacking her enemies. And at its core, that’s what being a Paladin is all about.
With Reinhardt we have our Warrior. Sure he carries a big shield to defend his allies, but his belief is that the best defense is a good offense. With Mercy, we have our Priest role. She has almost no offensive capability, but holds her allies up when they need it most. Brigitte slips in between them as perfectly as any Paladin should. She’s the middle ground. The fire that sparks a conflict and the wall that keeps her allies safe.
Paladins are big at Blizzard. We have countless examples in the Warcraft universe of beloved Paladins like Uther, Lady Liadrin, and Tyrion Fordring. Even Prince Arthas, who would turn and become the infamous Lich King, started his young life as a Paladin. And now Brigitte fits perfectly in their elite crew.
People like me and the HND Big Boss Cass love Paladins for a reason. They are gentle and kind but burn with fire when it comes to protecting what they love most. The duality there is beautiful and interesting whereas Priest and Warrior fail to make their mark for me. Being given someone like that to play in a game like Overwatch is a real gift, and I can’t wait to open it.