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PAX – The Game Teaches Us to Love the MOBA

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Hi-Rez studios tapes up their hands and gets ready to step into the MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) ring with SMITE. It doesn’t look like they are planning on pulling any punches from what I have seen so far.  I really would expect nothing less from the people who gave us Global Agenda, especially when making a MOBA about ancient gods pummeling the ever living crap out of each other.  It’s all action with an MMO combat flare as opposed to the traditional RTS style of gameplay.  And it’s a whole lot of fun.

There were some heavy hitters featured in the hands on demo at PAX. Hi-Rez was showing off the ass-kicking abilities of Kali, He Bo, Ymir, Anubis, Zeus, Hades, and Odin in the match I was a part of two of us played Ymir on opposing sides.  Unfortunately for my entire team I played as one of the two Ymir and at the time I had never played any type of MOBA other than a brief foray into Bloodline Champions.  Needless to say I died a lot. Like, a lot-a lot. I may have set a record for the most times killed at the show.

Oddly enough, that really didn’t make it any less fun.

The reason that SMITE was still chock full of fun-time-happy-sauce (that’s a real saying, look it up) is because it is all in the third person perspective and has more of a standard MMO feel to it as opposed to other MOBAs.  Controlling your selected God is done with WASD for movement and the number keys trigger your special abilities. Some attacks are even targeted with the mouse and executed with a click. It is the best control scheme for a DoTA style game I have played. (I would like to note that since playing SMITE at PAX I have been kind of addicted to MOBAs, much to my wife’s dismay.) The WASD controls really get you into the action way faster than clicking a point for your character to travel to.

The only thing that kind of messed with me was how disoriented that third person view made me. I really wasn’t sure what lane I was about to travel down until I was already halfway down it. I don’t have that problem with the top down floating camera in other MOBA’s. That’s really my only complaint for SMITE, but I was also a noob to the genre so that probably didn’t help at all.

SMITE has your standard MOBA structure. Start on one end of the map and kill your way to the other, crushing towers along the way. It has all your staple MOBA mechanics. Players use gold which is gained from killing creeps to purchase gear, there are three lanes you can charge down to get to the opposing base, with some woods in between which have side objectives, and the object is to destroy your enemies’ base. Where SMITE stands out is that your base is a Minotaur.  It isn’t just a statue of a Minotaur either. It is a giant monster that isn’t going down without a fight, a boss that has his own attacks and tricks and flavor. I feel like that small change is probably going to help SMITE out a great deal when it comes to going head to head with its competitors.

Did I mention how amazing the visuals are in SMITE? As you can probably tell from the screenshots SMITE looks sexy as hell. Apparently Hi-Rez understands that just because a game is free to play doesn’t mean you should skip out on the details. SMITE uses the Unreal 3 engine and apparently some kind of sex pheromone because I want to have its babies. At least I won’t feel guilty shelling out big bucks for a new computer knowing that at least I can play SMITE for free.   The revenue model follows League of Legends closely, Producer Todd Harris told us, and in so much that everything you buy will be convenience based and cosmetic… never an advantage on the field of battle.  They’ll likely allow you to buy gods to use at all times, since the gods available will be on a cycle from week to week as well.

Now then, since all that is out there, the only question left is if SMITE has what it takes to survive? Will Hi-Rez be able to make any money off of this game? My answers are yes and yes. SMITE brings enough originality to a formula that everyone has already taken quite a liking to that it I don’t think it possibly fail. There are enough eSport MMORPG fans to take notice of SMITE and move to it for their Battleground/Scenario/Warzone/Warfront fix I think.  If anything the people who don’t like LoL because of its RTS feel will but still like the MOBA concept will be playing SMITE without a doubt just because it plays more like an action game.  MMO fans will flock to SMITE because it will feel familiar and comfortable. It’s like all the action and progression of a competitive MMORPG in one match: gold, gear, levels, all with the feel of a boss fight at the end in about thirty minutes per match. Fantastic visuals, action packed game play, and solid controls are a moneymaking combo for any video game. The crazy part is that the build I played at PAX was just an Alpha.  I didn’t notice anything wrong with it; then again I’m not a game tester or anything so I wasn’t really looking. To me it looked like it was ready to be shipped which I suppose would be a good way for your game to look in the alpha stage. SMITE can only get better from here.

Hi-Rez is surely winding up for the knock-out punch with SMITE and it is going to be aimed straight at your jaw. It’ll hit you as soon as the bell rings and there won’t be anything you can do about it. Then, when the ref wakes you up with smelling salts, you’ll shamble to your feet. Weak kneed, you’ll spit out your bloody mouth guard, and ask SMITE for more.  Is it a deep, immersive MMORPG?  No.  But’s one hell of a fun MOBA.


Guest Writer