Heads-Up: Smite is Becoming a Worthy MOBA

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This isn’t a Smite review. As promised I won’t be writing reviews anymore, so consider this more of a recommendation from someone who enjoys these types of games to those who may also enjoy them.

I didn’t really enjoy Smite when I first booted it up a few months ago. I played about twenty games before removing the shortcut from my desktop, forgetting about it all together. Everything was a bit too rough around the edges, the visuals were misleading, the HUD took up too much of the screen, and I couldn’t ever really follow what was going on in team fights. I liked the idea; a third person, skill based MOBA, but the execution in my opinion fell flat, at least that was how I felt at the time. But it’s a beta, there are supposed to be some growing pains, so when they announced a big patch a few months ago, which included changes to many of the things I disliked, I figured maybe I should update, login, and give it one more try. It’s a good thing I did.

Pretty much everything I didn’t like about the game was tweaked in some way; they’ve cleaned up the visuals, including the map, the HUD, and some of the in-game effects. Most of it is very subtle, but for some reason I can’t explain these simple changes make playing the game much more enjoyable. I think part of my problem with the game originally was poor feedback from abilities. The visuals for some of the gods didn’t give me enough information about what was happening; some of the game’s most dangerous abilities didn’t look all that dangerous on screen, meaning I would die walking headfirst into something small and innocuous but lethal. Now the dangerous abilities look dangerous, giving me a chance to make better in-game decisions.

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Ymir is a tank he shouldn’t do too much dama… and I’m dead.

Because of these visual changes I am now more willing to fight through the typically difficult MOBA learning curve. In most MOBAs players need to learn three basic things before settling and learning the metagame; who each character is on the screen, what their abilities do, and what items to buy. To me once a player learns all of these they can begin to unravel the subtleties of that particular game’s strategies.

In Smite, however, the item system is organized so neatly that it was barely a few games before I knew everything I needed to know about it, drastically reducing the learning curve in that area and allowing me to focus simply on the gods and their abilities. There are recommended items which will pretty much get you through all of your initial games and popular items which will allow you to see what other people choose once you begin to figure out your own play style. Past that the rest of the shop is organized into simple to browse categories, perhaps the simplest of any MOBA I’ve played.

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Upgrades add a simplicity to the item system you won’t find in other MOBAs

Farming is also fairly simple. Players receive passive gold similar to League of Legends in that even if you are having a rough time you will receive some gold to work with. “Last hitting” creeps is still important, although not nearly as much as in other games. As long as a player stands within range of a creep when it is killed they will receive roughly two thirds of the gold they would have received if they actually killed it, the same also goes for experience. This means that support players or weak early game gods aren’t forced to compete with their late game heroes and can instead focus on actually supporting their lane without the fear of falling behind. This does have a kind of rubber banding effect on the whole game, keeping everyone a bit closer together when it comes to farm and slowing down some gods from snowballing out of control, at least in the early stages.

With simpler item and farming systems in place, players can focus almost entirely on the game’s combat. Like I said earlier this makes learning the game a bit easier as it gives new players less to worry about, but it also focuses most of the player’s energy on early engagements and team fighting, the bread and butter of any MOBA. Unlike other titles, Smite’s ability system is entirely skill based. With the exception of the one passive each god receives, all characters have four active abilities which require some tactical skill to use. There are no targeted abilities, no simple stuns, and definitely no easy to use abilities. While some are easier to use than others, each of the game’s abilities requires the player to utilize both timing and placement for effective use. It’s difficult at first, but very rewarding once you begin figuring it out. It also takes the edge off of any abilities that seem a bit too strong, as even the game’s most powerful abilities can whiff if used incorrectly or with improper timing.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WJnsPHHHBE

Of course they are also using the free-to-play model where players earn points after each game that can be spent on new gods or even a few skins. Players to have the option for fork over some cash to speed up the process, but that’s entirely optional as a weekly rotation of gods allows even the most frugal players to experience all the game has to offer.

There are skins for each of their gods as well. When I had originally played the game last year the skins were little more than color swaps, but now they’ve begun really exploring some more fun possibilities, poking fun at the seriousness of their early builds with some truly funny and ridiculous skins. This is a good thing, since F2P MOBAs rely almost exclusively on the revenue generated by their aesthetic content, unique and funny skins will help make the game a real success.

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Yes, that’s Vamana, the fifth avatar of Vishnu, dressed as a gangster baby.

I’m still learning about Smite and all it has to offer, but I find that the game does offer a unique alternative in the fastest growing genre in the game industry; it’s fast-paced, funny, and rewarding. So if you’re in to these types of games or you’re just curious I highly recommend it as there’s almost no risk at all, except a bit of hard drive space, to give it a shot.

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