Published on August 14th, 2015 | by Joseph Saulnier0
The genre of multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs) is almost non-existent on consoles. With big titles like League of Legends (LoL), DotA, and now Heroes of the Storm (Heroes) available on PC, the selection has been quite thin in the console arena. This gives a good advantage to SMITE to be in a position as an early candidate for front runner. SMITE has been available for the PC for quite some time, but next week it is coming to the Xbox One.
SMITE, for the most part, sticks pretty closely to the traditional MOBA platform that we see in LoL, Dota, and Heroes. Two teams are separated by lanes on a map, and to win, each team must proceed down the lanes to break through the defending towers until they get to the core/base/whatever you want to call it. SMITE is all about gods, so the cores are represented by mobile titans who can defend themselves if attacked. A team is made of five toons, sometimes three, who are all gods. They can be human- or AI- controlled, and you have your NPC minions/henchmen who travel down each lane, but they are, as per usual, basically cannon fodder while you take out the towers. On the maps in which there are more than one lane, your typical “jungle” fills the space between them. Though, there is one map, Arena, that has no conventional lanes at all, but we will touch on that later. The jungle, though, is usually filled with neutral monsters that will give you stat boosts upon defeating them.
Every playable character has distinct skills. Some are sustained damage dealers, some tanks, crowd control, high burst damage, etc. The typical range of skills and play type is represented here, and they all have four skills, one of which is a powerful heroic ability with a higher cool down time. As each character gains experience in matches, they can buy more levels in each skill, but as per usual, these do not carry from match to match. However, the player does level to unlock other content. Buying skills is pretty straight forward, as they are static, but the store system allows for pretty deep customization. Each character has five slots for passive boosts and four more for active/consumable items. Many of the consumables can be upgraded for extra gold as the battle progresses, too. This allows the player to fill in gaps in the character’s stats, or to fill in the teams gaps (i.e. too many tanks).
SMITE differs from other MOBAs in that it has a third-person over the shoulder view as compared to the traditional overhead-ish view. It is very similar to action games or your typical fantasy MMO. When I first began to play, I worried about tunnel vision, but the mini-map is detailed enough that sneaking up on other characters isn’t as easy as you would think. When running forward, the characters move at full speed, but when moving laterally or backwards they slow down.
SMITE is considered what some people call a “freemium” game, but it is quite generous compared to its peers. One payment of $30 lands you with every character ever (currently at a whopping 67, and you are guaranteed all future characters) and a few other things as well. Characters can be purchased with favor, which can be earned by completing the tutorial and practice matches, and of course match made games. Buy a character with money refunds any favor you have spent on that particular character. Gems, found in every “freemium” game ever, can be purchased with USD and are used to buy characters, skins, etc.
In terms of replayability, SMITE, like other MOBAs, has much to offer. Aside from the large pantheon of characters, there are several distinct game types. Each are MOBA-ish, but offer something different than the standard 5v5, 3-lane format. Arena is just as it sounds, with a small map that turns into mayhem very quickly as heroes brawl it out without pesky towers/jungles getting in the way. Assault mode was fun with only one lane, no jungle, and players can only return to their base upon death. This means that running away has limited value, and so players regularly fight to the death. Siege mode has two lanes and a small map, and players are encouraged to push sieve weapons toward the opposing base for increased damage. Joust is favorite of mine, with typical MOBA objective but only two lanes and teams of three.
The only area that I feel SMITE falls short is on visuals. It looks like a dated fantasy MMO that hasn’t received much attention to graphical upgrades in some time. Character models do tend to flicker and stutter in a non-latency way, spell effects are rather underwhelming, and the environments are “blah” at best. That being said, lag is pretty rare, match making is quick and painless, and abilities work as they should.
SMITE demonstrates that the MOBA genre can survive, and possibly thrive, in the world of consoles without sacrifice to gameplay. It is very promising, and the fact that it has been in release for some time on PC means that even in beta, the content available is sizable. With some smartly varied modes, SMITE is a MOBA that does not feel entirely like a MOBA, if that makes any sense at all. All-in-all, it is very fun and, in theory, the game should only get better from here.
3.5 stars out of 5