Quick & Flashy with Great Combat
I enjoy most MOBAs and DotA-likes. The success of games like League of Legends, DotA 2, and now SMITE is something all gamers should take notice of. SMITE is the newest prodigal child from HiRez Studios - maker of games such as Global Agenda and the Tribes successor Tribes: Ascend. These titles and the management of them has given HiRez a mixed reputation, but the upcoming launch and current state of SMITE is nothing short of enjoyable. Featuring a wide selection of aesthetically and mechanically different characters, an easy-to-learn style of gameplay, and a growing population of players and competition; SMITE is well on its way to becoming a major player in the MOBA-sphere. There are some issues present, but nothing that has been grave enough to scare me away.
Gameplay - 9
Knocking this section right out the park, the gameplay in SMITE is extremely enjoyable. Farming is streamlined, as you receive money simply by being near dying minions. While most heroes require two abilities in order to really start fighting, that first level is quickly gained. The focus is shifted to quickly engaging the enemy team, with minions and buildings providing a safe barrier for a time. Every hero also gets a free recall ability, so getting items and recovering health isn’t particularly difficult. Did I mention that you can set up builds beforehand, and automatically acquire items when you return to base? No more opening windows and peeking through the shop!
Now, this simplicity and ease of playability might dissuade some players. Where is the challenge? Where is the competitiveness? Well, majority of this can be found in the enemy team. In the standard game, you can’t see enemy picks, so quickly adapting your playstyle is a must. The characters themselves, while not necessarily overpowered, are quite strong in comparison to anything outside of the jungle, and they will take some force and time to eliminate. Strategy and coordination is involved as well, as some gods are simply structured around surviving. The age old adage of “easy to learn, hard to master” could very well be applicable to SMITE. This also does not include some arbitrary amount of time played, like the levels/runes system of League of Legends. Yes, HiRez has decided to not include a system similar to that so far, and I hope they never consider it. I don’t mean to bash LoL, but that is easily my biggest problem with the game.
Speaking of which, the archetypes of various gods provide the opportunity to concentrate on a particular role, or balance across all roles. The most notable classes are assassins, supports, and guardians, but there are also mages, bruisers, hunters, and a couple others. I’m currently trying to master the guardian caste, as they have the most notable area of effect skills in my opinion, and I like it when things go boom. More-so if the enemy team can’t do much about it. With this variety among classes and 40+ gods (and rising), SMITE is sure to provide something for everybody. Only a select group of these gods are available during a rotation, but there is a wealth of information on all gods available.
Innovation - 9
Some people will probably say that I rated this too highly. “There are MOBAs like it out there”, “Third person action games aren’t new” and so on. The fact is, whatever HiRez is doing, it’s working marvelously. Other companies have attempted to combine the action of a TPS with the scaling and match size of a MOBA, and not one of these competitors has beaten SMITE in its pure entertainment value. It’s because of this that SMITE has essentially beaten out its closely related competition, and gone directly to be a big boy in the genre. With combat that is highly entertaining, a level of animation and polish not seen in most current Dotalikes, and gameplay that is easier to hop into than a brand new Porsche, SMITE will surely stand as one of the strongest MOBA games of our time.
Aesthetics - 8
The looks and feel of the game foster a fun atmosphere. The graphics themselves are not horrible, and while they are a bit stylized for my tastes, they do not detract from the experience. An example of this might be Mercury or Cupid, who are more like caricatures rather than fearsome. I might be in the minority but I’d really like another game that takes a serious tone with mythological deities. Aside from that, this game might be a turn off regarding it’s flashiness (some of my friends actually explained that it was difficult to play more than a couple games per session. I called them sissies out of good fun, but it shouldn’t be ignored that the over-the-shoulder view and flashy effects might take some getting used to).
Moving onto the music… Well, that’s about it. There happens to be music. Typically in games based around quick matches and combat, this is bound to happen. It’s a shame, but it’s the truth. The sounds effects in general however are quite good, and they seem to match the intensity of the situations they are involved in.
Value - 8
As I said before, the game features a rotation of heroes each time a new god is released, sometimes when a certain patch is released. This isn’t very concrete. Pre-Ullr there was a stretch of time as long as a month where the rotation did not change, so maybe HiRez should consider putting the rotation on a fixed schedule, regardless of god releases. Besides that, however, the game costs about as much time as you’re willing to put into it. All gods can be unlocked with the in-game currency (some skins too!), or you can buy all the gods (including new ones!) for a one-time fee of thirty dollars. Thirty bucks for a fully functioning game with continued development ain’t too shabby. The favor gain moves at a snail’s pace, so purchasing the god pack is probably a smart move.
Polish - 7
Speaking plainly, SMITE is a fairly well-made game. I could play for long stretches of time and not run into a single issue. There were some hiccups, sometimes I would randomly disconnect and have to reconnect, but that wasn’t the thing that upset me the most. What really ticked me off is the amount of people who just leave games. It might not be every match, but it sure feels like someone leaves/gets kicked within the first 30 minutes of each. This has led me to believe that whatever punishment HiRez is handing out for leavers, it isn’t enough. League has its Tribunal, which is a bit of a joke, and DotA has it’s muting policy (don’t talk ever, this lowers your chances of being misunderstood/reported by someone who can’t even speak your language).
SMITE has… What does SMITE have? According to some research, leaving lowers your Good Will rating, which scales from 0-100%. This influences the amount of favor you get each match. You also get locked out of the queue for 30 minutes, but what’s the point? Favor gain rates are already extremely low, and if you purchase the Ultimate pack then it’s not like it’s hampering your progress towards a new god.
So I’m not sure how the current system really punishes rage-quitting, and some people seem to agree that it only gets a bit better in the later levels. Whether people are leaving due to technical issues or rage, it’s happening often enough that I feel the need to mention it. Here’s hoping it gets addressed sometime in the near future.
Longevity - 7
Overall, I get the feeling that SMITE could be something that I partake in regularly. It would be a bit difficult as someone who works and already has a favorite MOBA, but I could manage it. Especially if my current cup of tea ever gets really boring to me. It’s not really a question of which is the better game however, rather which style of play would I enjoy at any given time.
On the other hand, there are a couple major issues with SMITE that prevent me from being really interested: the most notable being HiRez’s reputation regarding their other products. I’d love to play their game, I really would - but there have been a lot of broken promises, debacles, and outright halts of production with both Global Agenda and Tribes: Ascend.
This puts a very reasonable fear in many owners’ minds: “What if my purchased game is suddenly victim of developer abandonment?” HiRez isn’t the first, and they won’t be the last, but they should really think about repairing the scuff marks on their reputation. If you release a game, then release a more successful game, don’t just hop ship entirely. You’re leaving a lot of angry players (and potential customers) high and dry.
Social - 6
The community at large is fairly nice. However, there are always bad apples in games like these. SMITE also features a friends list tool, and a chat channel bar for the community. The SMITE sub-reddit is widely held as the official forums for the game, and a competitive scene is mounting (the first official tournament being on Launch Day in Atlanta!). Other than these examples, the game doesn’t offer much in the way of social tools, much like every other MOBA on the market.
I like SMITE. I like it a lot, and I wish it well. I’ll probably continue playing the game in my off-time, as it provides an easily accessible source of fun. This MOBA is quick and flashy, has great combat. It’s a model that seems to be what HiRez is sticking to, so I can only hope that they don’t make a huge bunch of changes just a few months after launch. If you like the idea of MOBAs, but haven’t really dug into them because of whatever reason, give SMITE a try. It’s different without being alienating, and has a lot going for it already.