All Hail the Move to PlayStation 4
Those of you that know me well are aware that I don’t much care for massive online battle arenas (MOBA). While I appreciate them from a game design perspective, especially the difficult work that goes into level design and class balance, I don’t find them much fun to play. So you may find it somewhat surprising that I actually enjoy SMITE.
It took a while for me to put my finger on the exact reason but it boils down to the camera. The top down camera is a relic of the RTS and while it works for most MOBAs it’s not my cup of tea. Hi-Rez was able to take intricacies of games like DoTA and LoL and repackage them with a third person over the shoulder camera that is more reminiscent of an RPG than an RTS. I love RPGs and this shift in perspective is the missing component that finally drew me in.
That’s all old news though. SMITE has been out for years and has become a major success on the PC and to a lesser extent the Xbox. However I’m talking about it now because it finally made the jump to PS4. This port seems like a no brainer. It’s hard to ignore the install base of over 40 million units the PS4 enjoys. One of my chief concerns was whether or not a person would need PS+ to play the game. The good news is you do not. This makes the game free to download and play and leaves Hi-Rez to sell gems in the game as a form of monetization that allows players to purchase additional gods and skins.
Since Hi-Rez already ported SMITE once to a console they pretty well had the control scheme down. When working on taking a game from PC to console this can be a tricky prospect. Even if a developer can scale their game to work on the limited hardware none of that will mean anything if the game handles terribly. Using both control sticks to move your character feels natural within minutes. Using the right trigger to fire your normal attacks and your shaped keys for your special attacks make perfect sense and will take next to no time at all to get used to. If you ever forget what attack is mapped to what key it is all labeled for you on the user interface. The UI is also clean and unobtrusive while conveying maximum information with minimal interruption.
Besides control scheme concerns with PC to console ports system capabilities can also be called into question. With the PS4 by all accounts being technologically superior to Xbox One, one would not think the raw power would be an issue and from all appearances it wasn’t. By using the Unreal engine It doesn’t appear that the graphics have taken a big hit and the frame rate held steady. SMITE always sported stylistic graphics over photorealism and this lends itself to lower end machines being able to support play. SMITE appeared on my PS4 every bit as good as it did on my PC. Even the draw distance appeared to be good and this is something that usually gets the short end of the stick on ports. I even turned on remote play at one point and played SMITE on my PS4 from my laptop without any noticeable lag. A large part of that though depends on your internal network so your results may vary.
It’s been a while since I played SMITE on the PC and when I did they didn’t have the tutorial. That was the first thing that greeted me when I booted up SMITE on my PS4. You are given a series of 5 missions. Each of them take an aspect of the game and break it down into small step by step instructions on how to control your god and navigate through your objectives on the battlefield. These tutorials also cover character development through increasing skills and purchasing gear from the item shop. The game will also recommend the best gear for your god based upon its design but you are free to buck the archetype and purchase whichever items you have collected enough gold for.
If you are itching for a MOBA to play on your PS4 you can’t go wrong with SMITE. The camera angle and control scheme are a natural fit on console. The power of the PS4 allows the game to be played without much noticeable difference than if it were on a PC. Also the ever growing pantheon of gods provide an interesting if not compelling reason to bring chaos to the battlefield from the comfort of your couch.
Gameplay: 8 | This third person MOBA is solid. The controls feel natural on the PS4. The overall game play learning curve is steep but the controls won’t get in your way.
Visuals and Sound: 8 | The Unreal engine looks great on the PS4. The art style has always been above par.
Polish: 8 | This is the third release of the game. Second port. A lot of work has gone into SMITE and it shows.
Longevity: 8 | Lots of gods to choose from with different playstyles. It’s a solid MOBA. You’ll play it a lot or you’ll dump it and move on.
Value: 8 | It’s free to download and you won’t need PS+ to play. Skins and gods cost a lot of gems at times but you can eventually earn them through free play. It will just take a lot of playing.