Of all the MOBA games that are coming out these days, SMITE is perhaps the most original and interesting. It’s got everything a good MOBA needs: strong concept, mix of skill and tactics, and all the other trappings of the genre. Where SMITE makes its mark is in the perspective. The game is played from the third-person, forgoing the top-down perspective that most MOBAs (and indeed most RTS games) favor. Additionally, the game abandons the traditional auto-attack gameplay, adopting instead a real-time click-to-attack option. This makes the game even more fresh, as basic attacks must be aimed and treated the same way as skill shots. It makes last-hitting minions more satisfying, and allows for some more outplay options in a 1v1. Unfortunately, the third-person perspective does have its drawbacks, but ultimately it’s not enough to ruin the entertaining gameplay.
It’s hard to distinguish yourself in a genre as competitive in the MOBA market is, but most people know what SMITE is, even if they’ve never played it. This is mostly because it has both a unique take on the genre and an exciting, relatable concept. League of Legends and DOTA are kind of generic fantasy settings with an amalgamation of popular tropes, but SMITE takes heroes and gods from various mythologies, including Greek and Roman, and adapts them to an already successful game type. Players can take control of legendary figures like Hercules and Thor to strike down minions and towers. I first started playing SMITE while it was in closed beta, and I have to say that it looked a bit ridiculous. Time and Hi-Rez have been kind to the game though, and the visual style is much more mature and impressive. The gods are given looks that are more in line with their personalities, so Marvel fans might be left wondering why Loki isn’t tall, dark, and handsome.
What most impressed me about SMITE relative to other MOBAs is just how impressive everything looks and feels. Maybe it’s the close perspective that a third-person angle gives, but even the minions look more dangerous than their top-down MOBA counterparts. The effects are equally awesome, with more than one even taking place beyond the confines of the map itself. I was minding my own business in the bottom (or perhaps “right” in the case of SMITE) lane when the enemy Ne Zha knocked me skyward and proceeded to beat the ever loving crap out of me with a furious combo. He then slammed me back onto the map, leaving me wondering what happened. Ne Zha isn’t the only god to have such a cool ultimate, but even the moves that don’t knock you out of the map feel impressive and powerful.
Unfortunately SMITE isn’t perfect. As cool as some of the third-person elements make the game, there’s a glaring disadvantage that is lost from the traditional camera angle. In a genre that is fairly loaded with skill shots and zone control, depth perception becomes a large problem fairly quickly. Gods are controlled with the WASD keys, which makes dodging much more responsive and easy than clicking to move, but there are certain abilities that aren’t so much about dodging as positioning. Ymir, the Norse Father of the Frost Giants, has an Ice Wall ability. It’s essentially an Anivia wall that blocks player movement. I’m sure that it gets easier as you become more accustomed to the spacing, but from a third-person perspective, I found it extremely difficult to tell whether or not he was in range to put the wall behind me.
The interface for SMITE feels a bit cluttered, and a lot of it has to do with the amount of information the game provides you with. The game of course tracks all of your stats, such as kills and deaths, but also tells you how many kills both teams have, how many towers they’ve taken, and even how much gold each team has accrued. I’m not sure the total gold is a good statistic to reveal, as it makes it much too easy for the teams to know who’s ahead. I’ve had plenty of League of Legends games in which the team with more kills thought they were ahead, but didn’t realize that they were behind due to CS, towers, or global objectives. Outright telling people the gold values negates that player aspect of knowing how much objectives are worth and who has the gold lead in a game.
Still, there are a lot of things SMITE does incredibly right. The ability to see skins applied directly to character models makes it much easier to decide which skins you want or whether or not it’s worth it. The game also sells voice packs that you can demo to make your god sound different than other players playing the same god. I also like the way the Titan (the “nexus” that players must destroy to win the game) fights back, making it a bit more difficult to win the game without significantly defeating the enemy team. However, I could do with the Titan’s power being toned down a bit. Fighting that thing is like fighting a raid boss in World of Warcraft. Combined with the fact that the enemy team can simply keep healing on their fountain, it can be very difficult to close games out. It’s not the best MOBA I’ve played, but it does some interesting things that make it a good option for people who are looking for something a bit different. I can’t promise that you’ll fall in love with SMITE, but I can promise that you’ll enjoy it if you like MOBAs.