Free-to-play hero shooter Paladins has always invited comparisons to Overwatch. There's a tanky knight character with a deployable shield and a bearded dwarf who builds turrets. While developer Hi-Rez Studios has always denied cloning Blizzard's game, a mobile port of Paladins lifted artwork from the game, a foul the studio is blaming on a contractor.
The issue surfaced two days ago when a Reddit poster Arcieth noted the comparison on the Paladins subreddit, pointing out that promotional material for the mobile game Paladins Strike appears to feature background art from Overwatch, specifically the loading screen artwork for Control map Lijiang Tower.
The image, which promotes a new skin for the champion Lex, was featured on Paladins official Twitter last month.
A comparison GIF from Reddit user Arcieth
Responding to the thread on Reddit, a user called ThunderArtBrush, a Hi-Rez Studio art director who works on the game, addressed the situation.
"This art was created by a overseas partner studio for Paladins Strike and had not much in the way of oversight in its content creation by anyone internally at Hi-Rez," they said. "We will be looking into this immediately."
That investigation has led to Hi-Rez cutting ties with the outsourcers, Paladins brand manager Alex Cantatore told Kotaku in an e-mailed statement today. "We are very disappointed that a contractor for our mobile hero shooter, Paladins Strike, made use of artwork from another game in the splash art for our Covert Ops Lex skin," they said. "Unfortunately as this piece came from what was previously a trusted outsourcer, it did not go through a full internal review cycle at Hi-Rez and made it to the public."
Cantatore said Hi-Rez plans to handle more of its in-game 2D art internally, "because we want to have better control over our art."
While it's common for overseas clones to crib heavily from popular games, as was the case for Overwatch clone Hero Mission, it's quite the oversight for an international game to grab an asset like this.
Paladins' similarities to Overwatch make it all but impossible for the game to move out of the latter's long shadow. Kotaku also reached out to Blizzard, who did not reply in time for publication.