At the 2015 Smite World Championships, held from January 9th-12th of this month, I was able to get thirty or forty minutes on the playable beta version of Smite for the X-Box One. For those who do not know, Smite is Hi-Rez Studios' recent entry into the MOBA genre, released in March, 2014. Smite is no standard entry into the genre dominated by Defense of the Ancients 2 and League of Legends, the devs over at Hi-Rez have made several very significant innovations.
First, and most significantly, Smite moves the players view from an isometric top-down view, to an over-the-shoulder third-person view more similar to that of an MMO than other MOBAs. This simple change makes Smite feel much faster and creates an incredible amount of immediacy to the player experience. Another significant change from standard MOBA’s is that every attack in Smite is a skill-shot, meaning that the player must line up his attack with his target and time that attack correctly so that it hits the target.
These two changes make Smite look like a natural fit for the XBOX, using one stick on the controller to move in any direction, while using the other stick to aim and line up abilities and attacks. For those worried that Smite has too many abilities and hot keys needed for proper control on the XBOX, the devs have really put some effort into creating several controller pre-sets, using every possible input, from triggers, to 4-way directional pad, to A, B, X, Y buttons, to the bumpers. There is also a built-in contextual input system included, which helps a great deal in managing shopping in the item store. When you enter your base, a subtle graphic pops up showing which button to press to access items in the store. You then use the d-pad to select the item you want and press A to buy it, or upgrade it. For the most part, you will activate your abilities with the A, B, X, Y buttons and then “fire” them by pressing the button again, or pulling the right trigger. You can cancel an ability with the bumper. It sounds a little awkward, I know, but in practice I quickly picked it up.
Of more concern was the current tuning of the directional stick. While movement felt pretty smooth, aiming and changing direction felt a little sluggish, and I sometimes found myself having difficulty turning fast enough to defend myself from an opponent who managed to get behind me. This seems a simple matter of making a couple of tuning passes, to get to the right sweet spot, and that issue should be minimized. Of course, I could just not let enemies get behind me, but that’s probably beyond my skill level. Active item use is “prepped” by holding the left trigger and then selecting which item using the A, B, X, Y buttons to choose which one you want to use.
Smite has always had a robust collection of convenience systems; auto-buy, auto-skill, quick-cast, etc. and these are all present in the XBOX version, allowing players to pre-set the order in which they buy items and skills, and upgrade them as the game progresses. As useful as this is on the PC, I think it will be invaluable on the XBOX, as console menus tend to be a little clunkier than PC menus. Players who play Smite on the XBOX will not be able to play those playing on the PC, as the two games have significant differences and will likely not be on the same update schedule. The XBOX version strikes me as for the more casual player, who wants to jump into the game fast, and get in some action after school, or work. The PC version appeals to the more serious player, one who really wants to test his own skills against the best in the world, and get deep into the guts of the game and the strategies and tactics of Smite.
I have a moderate amount of experience playing Smite on the PC, but I knew there would be a period of adjustment getting used to the XBOX controls, so I stuck to Arenas during my time with the game. I can honestly say that it is as much fun on the XBOX as it is on the PC. Frame rates were a bit lower than on the PC, but this is a game in Alpha, so that is to be expected, and the action all flowed smoothly and cleanly. Unfortunately for me, I got whomped by other players who were obviously more skilled than I, but it was fun even so, and the few times I was able to land a kill or an assist were that much sweeter for their rarity. I think that Smite is equally suited to be played on the XBOX as it is on the PC, it has the player-vs-player competitive edge that console gamers love, combined with beautiful graphics and audio, and a colorful collection of incredibly imagined characters, all with distinct personalities and differing strengths and weaknesses. I eagerly await its release, so I can start hurling lightning bolts, hammers, spears, and other implements of destruction, at my friends and family.