Combining genres is a difficult task for any game studio to accomplish. Hi-Rez Studios has worked tirelessly to bring their adaptation of the MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) into third-person. Whether or not they have succeeded with Smite, has yet to be determined. But their product has been judged by millions internationally and things are definitely trending in the right direction.
The world of Smite is a multi-mode MOBA that has players battle Gods against one another. Unlike games of the genre, Smite offers additional modes of play that can change the pace of action quite dramatically. Conquest can be related directly to the 3 lane format of Dota 2. There are differences to the formula that aren’t always noticeable, but are appreciated. Assault focuses all of the players into one lane, while modes such as Arena will centralize everyone into a gladiatorial-style battle.
In the match lobby, you will select a God to play as, and the role you will provide for your team. Hunters will generally fill the attack/damage/carry (ADC) role, which will help greatly to secure kills for your team. Mages provide the team with high burst damage, perfect for pushing/harassing enemy players. Guardians, the main support role in Smite, will both protect and disrupt players in the big battles that will inevitably happen. Warriors are a mix between a tanky and damaging role that are adept at controlling the pace of fights. Assassins, more suitable for one-on-one battles, have the opportunity to ambush fights and deal excellent damage.
Each God’s abilities will ultimately dictate how effective they will be at carrying out their specific role. This is where the “current meta” will play a part in Smite. Depending on the scenario, certain Gods may be beneficial at filling multiple roles. Since this is a team based game, balance between roles is crucial to your success. Updates will come often and in many forms such as: nerfs, buffs, new Gods/skins, special modes/events. It’s important in the competitive scene that you understand which Gods are trending positive and negative.
More is always better for MOBA players, especially in the free-to-play model. Smite offers something for every type of player. Those looking to transition from popular MOBA models such as Dota 2 and League of Legends need not worry here. Coming straight from Dota 2, I felt most at home in the classic Conquest mode. In Conquest, you will battle against 5 enemy players in a tug-of-war style death match. Every match the field of battle will remain the same. It is up to your team to dictate how each objective will be utilized. Fortunately for players, Smite has offered character and item builder tools to ease your entry into what is, a very steep difficulty curve.
Instead of landing mouse clicks from a birds eye view, your point of view is fixed directly in a 3rd person chase orientation. Each team will start on opposite sides from one another. Before each mode starts, there will be a limited amount of time to purchase items and choose your level one skill. Once the game starts you will be thrust into defending the lane that best fits your God’s play-style. To most players, this will be the most difficult part of the game to grasp. If you are new to MOBAs you will endure some early hardships. Tutorials and guides can help, and watching competitive streamers/commentators will keep you in the know. Being a visual learner, I found YouTube channels such as DrybearGamers a great resource for learning specific Gods.
The benefit of being closer to your character, is that it brings the multicultural mythologies to life. The artistic recreations of each God are carefully thought out. Animations are fantastic as well, everything seems to pop with life. There are rough edges on textures if you look closely, but it didn’t seem to bother too often. Casting abilities is very discernible from one another; seeing them at a closer distance is even easier to recognize. Great care was taken to give each God their very own place in Smite. Abilities seem for the most part, unique to that character, with minor overlap due to type of attack. Buying specific items in Smite will teeter your role as the match progresses into mid, and late game scenarios.
Although the goals of each match have been predetermined, the struggles you will have throughout each transition make for some memorable experiences. Team chemistry is a big player in those experiences, and when things aren’t going well, it can get ugly fast. MOBA communities are fickle in nature, and if you’re not winning, your team will be quick to point fingers. It can become more than a hindrance when progressing the ranks of Smite, and could discourage you altogether. It’s unfortunate that I found more mature players at the highest rank of 30, obtainable only through hundreds of matches of play. There is also much more to be desired as far as their matchmaking process goes.
Server stability is an on going issue that ties all the features of Smite together. It’s essential to have low-lag environments when executing highly precise gameplay mechanics. Expect team/enemy players to disconnect often enough to annoy, drastically altering the balance of the game. Servers are being added to fix some of these issues, but it is still a noticeable flaw in the growing pains of Smite. If your region is notorious for lackluster internet, you may not enjoy an optimal experience. Fortunately, with my standard broadband connection, I have been able to maintain my end of the client to host bargain.
Overall, the user-interface made the new mechanics of Smite a pleasure to learn. Buttons are big, text fonts are large, and menus are neatly laid out. It’s apparent that bringing in new players is a top priority for Hi-Rez Studios. It can be daunting to learn a stockpile of concepts all the while enjoying the game. Smite will hook you in and force you to keep coming back for more.
Micro-transactions are heavily on display, but don’t affect the actual game-flow of a match. They come in the form of voice-packs, alternate skins, and other custom overlays. When you play a match you are accruing points in the form of “favor”, that unlock specific skins of your choice. Hi-Rez Studios is clever, in that, not all unlocks are purchasable with favor. You will instead have to purchase a preset number of “gems” from the online store. With those gems, you can then spend them on more premium content. In some events, purchasing specialized items can grant access to even more content. It’s a credit once again to the Hi-Rez art department for enticing players with a steady stream of content.
All in all, Smite offers a gameplay idea that has been widely successful elsewhere. It’s the thought put into the player experience that will eventually win you over. Smite’s unique 3rd person combat, along with a variety of play-styles to discover, make it a game easy to recommend. However, your level of commitment to the philosophy and direction of Hi-Rez Studios will determine whether or not you stay for the long-haul.