For the best part Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs) simply don’t interest me. They’re a genre that, to say I’ve missed the boat on, would be an understatement. I’ve had friends rave about League of Legends, and I often hear great things about DOTA 2, and I’ve meant to play them. I will get around to them. But nothing about them ever leapt out at me, that was until I heard about Smite.
There’s just something about a game in which characters based on different pantheons of deities beating the snot of each other. It sounds like a compelling idea; finally putting to bed thousands of years of religious turmoil by settling the age-old debate of who actually is the one true god. (Everyone knows it’s Odin, right?)
With 70 different Gods to choose from and those coming in all shapes and sizes, you’re bound to find someone to fit your play style or theological leanings. As well as the aforementioned king of the Norse Pantheon, there are Assassins like the Norse God of Thunder Thor, Tanks like the Greek Wine God, Bacchus; perpetual piss head (seriously, his passive abilities involve getting wasted) and he’s unsurprisingly my personal favourite, Mages like the Egyptian God of the dead Anubis, and slash happy Warriors like Japanese goddess Amaterasu (in human form). There is however, a distinct lack of deities from the larger religions, I’m not asking them to put Jesus in, but it would be fun to be able to play Jehovah. However, there have been rumours for a while that we would get to play as gods from the Hindu pantheon such as Shiva and Ganesh.
Since Smite is currently still in Beta on PS4, it’s not quite as fully featured as it’s PC and Xbox one cousins, but the basics are all in place, and what is available is compelling enough for a fledgling MOBA player like myself.
However, although the in-game tutorial does guide you through each of the game’s three main modes at a steady pace, it doesn’t really help you understand any of the nuance of the game, or assist you with potential tactics, wsalking a weird line between stating the obvious and simply leaving you to be confused. It doesn’t even explain the point of the three-lane system used in pretty much every MOBA, Smite included. However, although the in-game tutorial is as basic and bewildering as they come, there is a wealth of information on the game’s actual website. It’s just a shame that this information hasn’t been translated into some more practical within the game itself.
Like other MOBAs, the key to victory is to find a character that you like and stick with it; mastering their abilities, really getting into the ins and outs of the character and figuring out how to use them in tandem with your troops is the path to victory. One that is clearly apparent when your opponent picks the same character as you, and kicks the crap out of you before you could even reach their first tower.
Initially, I played about with a few different deities and classes to, trying to find one that fit my particular preferred playstyle. This was no small feat as each God feels unique and no two work in the same way, even if they’re part of the same class there are numerous subtle differences. For example, playing as Ra is a very different experience to playing as Sol despite them both being Mages. I eventually settled on focusing on playing Guardian (tank) since you could take more of a beating before dying, and their tactics are usually fairly straightforward (smash everything that gets in your way), and ended up having a great time with Ymir, leader of the frost giants.
Ymir is huge, hulking, and capable of soaking up quite a bit of damage. The frosty behemoth is best used for a mixture of crowd control and taking out more fragile targets with his hard hitting melee attacks, while his Ice Wall is a useful defensive measure, for when you are low on health or to slow your opponents advance while you are waiting for your own minions to spawn.
Smite’s visuals are bright and colourful, while the design work on each of the games playable gods is top notch and everything is animated beautifully. Though it’s an attractive game, it doesn’t tax the PS4 hardware much either, which is unsurprising since the PC version of the game could probably run on a calculator. However it was odd to find that the game was running at 30fps, though I have heard that it may get upped to 60 in a patch, something I hope they implement sooner rather than later.
It’s also worth noting that you don’t need PS+ to play Smite despite it being an online only game. This means that it is properly free to play, it’s payment model is also rather fair and it’s possible to pay a flat fee for the entire roster of Gods past and future with a flat $30 fee. Something I think other character based games should seriously consider (*cough* Killer Instinct *cough*).
Thus far I’m really enjoying my time with Smite, it throws just enough at you to be challenging and allows you to drill down as deep as you feel comfortable, being both welcoming to newcomers and having more complex systems at play for players who want them. It’s not perfect, but in its current state it is still well worth checking out.