Holy moley. Smite: Battleground of the Gods is a good time. It is a third-person MOBA (the newest darling genre of the industry) where you play as gods from different pantheons of the world’s cultures. Now, we know how much I love a good third-person MOBA. But, unlike the great SMNC, this is much more strict. In essence, the only difference to the formula is the shift from RTS controls to a more MMO/over-the-shoulder view.
This, as it turns out, works just dandy.
Now, first off, I would be a remiss scurrilous churl if I did not say that our very own Luke Frazier forewent his own beta key and gave it to me. Something about him not liking competition, blahblahblah. Never have I been so happy to receive a throwaway before. So, let’s talk for a bit about what I am so keen on.
If you’re unfamiliar with the genre, a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena–games like LoL orDota 2) goes like this: two teams have a base on a symmetrical map. From these bases spew countless, AI-controlled minions and they work their way down two or three corridors, fighting other minions along the way. Now, eventually, they will get to the bases’ multi-staged defenses. These minions go in, destroy the defenses and, finally, destroy the base. There is a no-man’s-land in between the corridors called the jungle, where bots never go.
How the players work into this equation is exactly how you would imagine. They assist minions, take out defenses (which, without the aggro draw of the minions, would melt you), and do all sorts of PvP shenanigans in and around the jungle. As you play, you level up and buy thingies, of which there are a ton. Luckily, beginners can let the game do this automatically, easing them into it slowly. Even if you want to simply go all-in, there are recommended sets. Okay, moving on.
Maybe Legolas could surf down the chain or something.
Now, this is a very strict MOBA inasmuch as SMNC is a sort of bastard child of the genre, changing and picking aspects and keeping the main thrust intact. In Smite, everything is fully fleshed out. There’s a store with armor, weapons, additional abilities and trinkets, mini-bosses, bigger mini-bosses, upgrades, stats to manage and stat modifying side encounters. It is–bluntly put–a lot. Not to mention the main goal at hand.
Traditionally, the MOBA takes place in an RTS-like disguise. Point here, click here, go here. But Smite drops the camera down low and asks you to dust off the WASD keys (no jumping?). Incredibly and smartly, developer Hi-Rez takes the typical abilities of a MOBA and fits them to a third-person perspective. You hit a hotkey and your ability’s area of effect pops up on-screen. Furthermore, enemies within become highlighted. There is no guesswork and little aiming. In other words, if you dislike shooters, you are very welcome here.
The player characters are rather uninspired from an aesthetic standpoint, with Hi-Rez not really developing an art style of its own. Still, the game’s graphics are good, if that even matters. You have the token cheesy announcer, trying to boom announcements like Zeus (a playable character) from on-high. A nice touch is that any quick chat options are spoken from his voice, so you will inadvertently giggle at a godlike voice yelling “Gank!” from time to time.
So, what do we have here? Like most MOBAs, it’s a smart, RPG-intensive game that makes teamwork number one. However, the shift of controls and camera makes it an intrinsically different experience. Each round is a tower defense, mini-RPG, PvP and strategy game in one…and that is the draw. It can be all of those things or none of them, whichever you wish.
Smite is in a closed beta, and it shows a bit. A bit reckless UI, the game crashed on me once, and not everything is balanced. But, what is important is the pillars are in place. The game is fun, dancing around the growing genre’s tropes a wee bit.
Cupid’s gonna make it raaaaiiiiinnnn!
Finally, I will say something concerning the PCs of the game, those titular gods. I earnestly hope no one gets their jimmies rustled over seeing one of the gods depicted as a fighting machine. It’s all in good fun seeing the Chinese dragon, Ao Kuang of the Eastern sea, and the four-armed Hindu deity Kali fighting against Artemis and Ymir, Lord of the Frost Giants. Oddly, there are no Judeo-Christian gods or prophets, which I find a bit–how shall I say it?–cowardly. The obvious media lampooning would be a nightmare, but the omission is glaring. Though I in no way consider myself a knowledgeable man about world religion, past, present or mystical.
[Editor’s Note: Jimmies have been rustled.]
But, forget that. If you like MOBAs but feel them to be a bit standoffish in presentation, this game will do you wonders. If you’re a bit intimidated by the complexity, Smite does wonders easing you into it. It’s a bit rough, and obviously a beta, but the cosmology seems to be aligning.