Brush up on your favorite world mythology because SMITE is going to give you a god and let you duke it out against the gods from Hinduism, ancient Egypt, Greece, China, and many other cultures. Developed and published by Hi-Rez Studios, SMITE is a free-to-play Windows game in the MOBA genre that forces an RPG third-person-perspective instead of the usual top-down, which makes it a unique contender in the DOTA-styled MOBA market.
From a first look, the gods available—acting as heroes do in other MOBA games—look very nice and each comes with abilities styled after their mythological origins. Ra happens to cast balls of light; Ymir splashes out ice and hoary thorns; Kali spins and slices with blades in hand; and so forth—it’s actually an amusing look at the classical interpretation of various mythologies from the perspective of an outsider. Almost purely an aesthetic effect then distilled down into game mechanics.
Interestingly, SMITE pulled down some controversy for using mythological characters due to their connection to modern cultures such as Kali—who is a noted deity in Hinduism—and the game also includes Agni and Vamana. Chances are this sort of controversy, brought by these groups, may only rise as the game makers continue to add more gods to the arsenal. This controversy reached such a level that it even has its own section on the Wikipedia page about the game.
Meanwhile, let’s grab a god and roll on into SMITE. I’ve played Kali and Artemis (Greek mythology) mostly; but I’ve gotten a chance to try out a few others. Here’s my impressions of the game.
Graphics and Audio: FPS, forgettable soundtrack, excellent sound FX
The graphics in SMITE feel appropriate for a MOBA-styled game with plenty of animations, special effects, and flashy bits to show off when an ultimate is triggered or any other abilities for the given different gods available. Artemis has her boar that rushes out and stuns people, Kali can pull up a spinning pool of blood that damages foes, and Ymir smashes the ground with his club splashing ice in pillars or spikes across the battlefield.
In fact, the graphics can be very important for determining where-not-to-stand and certain big attacks are telegraphed with warning circles before they obliterate the landside.
This doesn’t mean that you won’t get caught in one once and a while; but it’s a necessary component for any game that permits people to get out of the way. In fact, unlike the standard MOBA game, there’s a lot of movement using the WASD keys instead of click-to-move, so dodging out of the way of incoming attacks is an important element.
There is music in SMITE but I can’t remember hearing it—it’s somewhat drown out by the voice of the announcer and the loud rumble of defeat (or victory). This game promotes a sense of intensity when it comes to laning and facing off against enemy gods. I think this is primarily because the graphics and audio both put the battle very close to your character as well as the third-person-perspective that brings it all home.
The audio for the attacks, the announcements, and all that work together very well—in fact—meaning that the symphony of the battle becomes the tempo of play. Slowly but surely rising as towers come under attack, are destroyed, phonenixes come under attack, and finally the minotaur. Eventually it’s obvious whose attack you’re up against because of the sound, before the graphics effects swallow you.
I think Hi-Rez did a fair job with how they approached what makes what noise and how.
Gameplay: Get your smite on and ream some mythological deities a new one in this game
The first thing that I enjoy, in that SMITE is a MOBA, is that I can jump into a queue and then minimize the game and it announces to me (in no uncertain terms) that my lobby is ready. If there’s a long queue time for me, I don’t need to sit and chew on my mouse while waiting for something to happen. For example: I’m writing this review while waiting between queues.
As I just mentioned, this is a DoTA-styled MOBA—you’ll find the standard and expected staid lanes, towers, and creeps. I found myself pushing lanes, defending towers, and avoiding feeding the enemy team with deaths. The way that SMITE separates itself from other games of a similar type, however, is that it’s not the standard top-down view of the most popular MOBA such as League of Legends: it’s a third-person view.
In a way, this makes the battlefield a little more present and in-mind when fighting a wave of goons or trying to defeat an enemy god.
While the game supports the standard tower defense mechanic, the final three towers (before the defeat) happen to be phoenixes. They can also fire immense bolts that are capable of laying low an attacking god; but they’re also just as fragile as other towers and can be struck down. However, unlike normal towers, they respawn after a short time—as in they “rise from their ashes.”
Behind the phoenixes in each lane is the team’s minotaur—a towering monster with gleaming fists, and gruesome horns—that will beat down both enemy creeps and invading gods. Of course, a concerted effort can bring it down and when it is felled the game ends in defeat for the team who lost their minotaur.
In many other ways it is quite reminiscent of every other DoTA MOBA on the market including the development and leveling of powers, a number of items that can be bought to enhance certain talents and skills of the player chosen god as well as a press towards earning gold for the team so that items can be bought. For novice players, it’s also possible to allow the game to autolevel skills and autopurchase items for you (useful for me as a beginner, I’ll say.)
The games can be quite exciting and although the number of gods currently available does not rival how many heroes are available in other more popular MOBAs on the market, they all have unique skill sets, nice avatars, and present a particular challenge that most players of DoTA-style games might find themselves drawn to.
Freemium: Got your gods here, smoking hot gods; buy you some! Skins included.
SMITE is a free-to-play game and supports itself with a virtual item shop. The shop exists primarily to allow players to buy skins and extra gods for them to play—otherwise they’re relegated primarily to playing the free gods and working their way up the ladder as they skirmish their way through the MOBA game play.
Like every other MOBA out there, skins are a big portion of the cash shop (aside from unlocking new gods) as a way of looking unique and better than the other folks. Plus, there’s quite a few promotions available that give entire packs of gods and skins for a nice discount; possibly a good way to entice players to spend money on the game when they might not have otherwise.
Conclusion: Gods will be gods, and MOBAs will be MOBAs; it’s a unique pitch may be a selling point
SMITE feels like a uniquely styled DoTA game. The queues are not that long (especially in the junior league) the ability to run minimized until a queue is filled is very nice; the games themselves on the standard map rarely extend more than 30 minutes at a time. Although, it feels oddly as if the game doesn’t run very quickly—but engagements between gods can sometimes end brutally quick.
The addition of the minotaur and the phoenixes respawn ability changes the way that lanes are attacked very little. In fact, the phoenixes are fragile enough that sometimes enemy teams will grind through lanes even after pressing all the way through one just to keep a defending team off balance.
The community so far has been extremely nice, and helpful on some occasions—also especially in the newbie queue—and there seems to be some extremely veteran players already rising through the ranks even though the game is still in beta.
We’ll see if it can keep up this level of charm once it’s launched to full commercial release. It’s looking extremely solid so far. SMITE is worth checking out for anyone seeking to enter into a MOBA game or looking for one for them to branch out into.