Hands-on preview: SMITE (Xbox One alpha)
MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) games are certainly nothing new on PC. Ironically there’s a veritable arena’s worth of MOBA games, each duking it out to prove they are the best. With MOBA powerhouse League of Legends having over 7.5 million players (as of July 2014), one would think that there might not be room for yet another MOBA, and if someone was so bold as to launch another, it would certainly need to have its own unique vision to bring to the subgenre.
‘Smite’ from Hi-Rez Studios launched on PC on March 25th, 2014, and since then has been gathering a substantial fanbase, as well as the attention of hardcore MOBA players. Pitting legendary warriors and gods against each other, it favours an interesting blend of 3rd person action and League of Legends-style rules and HUD elements. To the delight of many and curiosity of some, Smite is making it’s way to the Xbox One, with an alpha build currently in testing. Sticky Trigger was lucky enough to gain a few alpha codes to check out the Xbox One alpha, but is it any good? And can a MOBA succeed on consoles?
As I mentioned before, Smite features a number of different legendary warriors (simply referred to as “Immortals”) from seven different pantheons – Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Hindu, Mayan and Roman mythology. There are 64 at present, though new heroes will be released in the game’s future. Each of the characters has a number of different combat abilities, as well as different skins that can be unlocked and purchased.
Gameplay is similar to other lane-based MOBAs. You choose your fighter, and once in battle you are tasked with destroying your enemies towers and then their Titan, which ultimately wins you the battle. There are two lanes to run, as well as the jungle betwixt. The jungle is home to neutral enemies, who drop bonuses when defeated (double attack power, speed, etc).
Strategising and co-operating with other players is crucial to victory, perhaps even moreso than any other video game before. Quite often, I tried to “test” my chosen character’s abilities by running into the fray of battle with nary a concern for my own safety. “It can’t be too hard this early on”, I thought, but sure enough I found myself annihilated quickly and thoroughly. Smite is a deep game, though it’s cheerful visuals deceptively hide that fact.
While Smite offers typical lane-based game modes, there is also your standard deathmatch, which also works quite well. Two teams will face off in an arena without lanes, allowing players to freely experiment with different immortals and discover which character and tactics work best for them.
While it takes a fair amount of practice and learning to become decent at the game, that is a reward in itself. It took me a few sessions to get the hang of traditional MOBA gameplay as well as Smite’s unique take on it, however once I did I became thoroughly engrossed in the game.
Though still in alpha state, Smite is at present, a very accomplished and fun experience. In fact, we can’t remember the last time we were this impressed by a game that’s still in alpha! The third person behind-the-shoulder perspective makes the game perfect for home consoles, and experienced MOBA players will no doubt find the game entertaining and engaging. We can’t wait for the full release of the game!