SMITE? What's that?!
SMITE is Hi-Rez's foray into the MOBA market, throwing its own unique spin on it. What's so unique about it? Well in your average MOBA you control your characters from a top down or isometric view and click about to tell your hero of choice what it is that you want them to do. This has worked fine for most MOBAs but it leaves plenty of room for error, such as causing you to click the wrong thing because the hit box is too big, or missing it because it's too small, or moved too quickly, or causied the pathing of your hero to freak out, even when you give them the most precise of instructions on how to get to wherever they need to be. Those things have essentially turned me off to MOBA style games unless I have to kill time.
So it's fairly obvious MOBA's aren't usually my cup of tea but I will certainly make an exception for SMITE! What SMITE does that makes it so much more appealing to me than your traditional MOBA is that it gives the player direct control of their avatar. Rather than a strategic view of the map, players see the world through the third person perspective of the hero they are playing, which allows them to move how they want, aim at what they want, and hit anything they chose with a lot less trouble than a traditional MOBA could allow for. That feeling of control and accuracy SMITE gives me just makes the game incredibly satisfying to play, especially when a plan comes together and my team wipes the floor with the enemy team, or I manage to escape a terrible situation.
My one and only gripe with the play style of the game is that it doesn't really use the third person view of the game to do anything different with the map from other MOBAs. You can move the camera to look up and down but there's no real use for it at the moment. There is no high ground for players to use to their advantage, like ranged characters laying down covering fire or a melee character leaping down to hit the enemy. There are also no underground segments to maps to sneak through. The third person perspective of the game really lends itself to using things like these where traditional MOBAs would have issues with them. But maybe vertical elements will come in future maps in SMITE and this new perspective on MOBAs will be used to its fullest.
Did I say Heroes? I meant gods.
Yes it turns out that SMITE includes gods from multiple mythologies from human history. Norse, Greek, Hindu and even Roman gods are included in the game at the moment, and I'm certain there are more mythologies to be included further down the line given the huge number of gods and deities us humans have come up with and worshipped through the ages. Ever wondered how Odin would handle a fight against Anubis? SMITE will let you do just that. New gods are added at regular intervals, and there's already a pretty large assortment to choose from.
I'm actually rather curious to see if Hi-Rez studios will ever touch modern or current deities, such as adding Xenu and Jesus to the roster for example. Unfortunately additions like these would probably be more controversial than anyone would want to deal with. Fortunately there is hardly a shortage of deities for Hi-Rez studios to pick and chose from, and they have a nice big variety of gods and play styles.
Of course, with such a large roster of characters there are going to be balance problems. Some heroes might be expected to under perform while others are overpowered, but Hi-Rez Studios has done a good job of keeping them balanced. Maybe it's just because I've had good luck so far, but I've yet to come across a single blatantly overpowered character just yet. Balance in SMITE is pretty solid, even with its current 28 different gods. If I remember correctly, SMITE will launch with a roster of 30 gods and I am rather curious to see who the last two will be.
Different ways to SMITE
SMITE has a nice variety of game modes for players to throw their gods against each other in.
Here we have your traditional MOBA game mode; three lanes to approach the enemy base, two towers on either side per lane with minions running down the lanes to destroy the enemy towers and harass their gods. Destroying enemy towers clears the way to the enemy team's phoenixes, one per lane. Killing these phoenixes causes the specific lane the phoenix occupied to spawn super creeps from the attacking team. Finally players must face off against their Minotaur. That's right, a Minotaur. Unlike most MOBAs the last thing players have to destroy in order to win the game is a big honking Minotaur, and he hurts.
Players fight over control of three different obelisks on the map which start out neutral and hate everyone, hurling flaming balls of death at all who come near. Whichever team destroys the obelisk first earns control of it and now has an obelisk defending their lane, which allows minions to surge through to the enemy side. If they make it through successfully they start burning away at the enemy tickets until one team finally runs out of tickets. Control of the obelisks can go back and forth and taking them out is no different from taking out towers in Conquest, but they are no less formidable and need to be handled with care.
I haven't been able to play this game mode yet since, strangely enough, it has a level requirement of 15, but like the name suggests, this is a one on one version of conquest. One lane with towers and phoenixes defending from creeps, not to mention the jungle that all MOBA maps have. So if you're looking to have a gentlemans duel to prove to your opponent they don't hold a candle to you, this would be the place to do it. It's too bad that it's not actually a game mode where you get to have gods on their mounts literally jousting, but it's still sounds quite fun.
If you want a game mode where big group fights happen faster, arena mode is the place to be. The goal of the game, like domination, is to get your creeps across to the enemies goal point and burn down all of their tickets. It's a nice change of pace from the more traditional maps since this is a much more direct game mode.
There are also ranked versions of all of these game modes, but they require players to be at level 30 for some reason. Maybe it's to make sure that ranked players know what they're doing because leveling up only hands players more favor, the in game currency, so it's the only thing that makes sense.
Godly Business Model?
The free to play model is pretty good here in SMITE. Players can unlock gods with either favor or gems. Gems are the cash shop currency for SMITE. Of course building up to purchase a god with favor takes a bit of time. Players earn favor through playing matches and their first victory of the day in any of the game modes also earns players an extra hundred favor. Each level up also hands players a hefty bonus of favor to help towards purchasing a god for free.
Don't know what god you'd like to purchase? Well there's no need to rush into buying gods. Players can take their time with making this decision and try out all of the different gods before purchasing. Players can do this in one of two ways. The first and most obvious one is the weekly rotation. Every week players can chose between five different gods to try out in the field. But the least obvious and probably the best way to experiment with every last one of the gods is the practice mode. Every single god is unlocked for players to tinker about with and find out what item builds work best for them before taking their experimental builds out on the field to play against others. The AI god in practice mode doesn't put up much of a fight but at least it's enough for players to get their bearings on a new god before taking them out to a match or buying them.
But what would a MOBA, or any free to play for that matter, be without aesthetic items to purchase? There isn't a terrible amount of variety at the moment in the way of skins for the different gods but SMITE is still in beta, even if it's open to the public now, so hopefully we'll see more of these in the future. There are skins for gods that completely change how they look, ranging from the bad ass to just plain silly. For the free players there are re-colors of the gods standard skins, if they feel like grinding up the 11000 favor, but if you want one of the fancier skins, get your wallet out.
Smitten by SMITE?
I guess I could say I am! SMITE is the first MOBA that I have ever played to hold my attention as something more than a time killing tool. Great balance, great game play. The only thing that could possibly make SMITE better is if Hi-Rez Studios added vertical elements to their maps and the ability to jump. A nice variety of environments is always fun as well, since there's only so much you can do for the layout of a map in a MOBA. I'll be playing this game for a good while to come. So head on over to SMITEs website and give the game a try. Whether you're a fan of traditional MOBAs, or couldn't really get into them before SMITE is certainly worth the try.
I'll see you on the battlefield.