What happens when you take League of Legends, change the camera and control scheme, and add 100% more deicide? You get something pretty cool. So yeah, I’ve been playing Smite as often as possible for the past two days (thanks Hi-Rez for giving some folks early access!) and I’m finally getting to talk about it.
Let’s talk about how nice this game looks, yeah? We’ve all seen the videos from PAX and all that, but they don’t really do it justice. The models are incredibly well-made and hit the right balance between cartoon-y or exaggerated and realistic. Spell effects are a pleasure to look at and are different enough that you usually know what’s going on in a big teamfight. Also, I must go on for a bit about the skins, because they are absolutely excellent (with some exceptions). Sun Wukong, for instance, has the ‘Shaolin Monk-ey’ skin, which puts him in Goku’s familiar orange gi and gives him a hairstyle that resembles Dragon Ball’s protagonist. The game isn’t even in open beta yet, and we’ve already got new models for skins. That’s not to say they’re all great; He Bo has a skin whose name escapes me at the moment that’s just his basic model with a watery texture.
Now, onto gameplay. Smite is probably the most interesting take on the MOBA that I’ve seen in a while. It’s still very traditional, yet different enough that it stands out. You’ve got your 5v5 map, your lanes, your jungle, your not-Baron-Nashor-guy. It’s all very familiar and satisfying; people who are familiar with League or DotA will definitely have the upper hand at first. It helps that a lot of gods remind me of champions from League, with some changes. Agni is, appropriately enough, Brand except with more mobility and Xerath’s ultimate. Anubis, meanwhile, is Malzahar after borrowing a skillshot stun and Kassadin’s Force Pulse. Thankfully, they still feel unique, but it’s good to be able to tell people “If you like X from League, you’ll probably like Y from Smite.”
But Smite wouldn’t be as interesting as it was if it didn’t bring something new. Aside from the third-person perspective and controls, Smite has some really great features. First you’ve got the auto-level system for abilities and items. Never played a god before and have no idea what you should skill up first? No worries, man, you just tick that little box and Smite will handle it for you! Confused about your items? Tick a box and you’ll get boots (or a staff, in Anubis’s case) and some potions (or none, because it’s an expensive staff) the moment the game starts. Also, if anyone from Riot is reading this, start taking notes; Smite has the ability to change your recommended items without needing an external program or to fiddle around with config files. Although it’s either not active or I just don’t know what I’m doing, it’s a great feature to have and more games need to embrace it.
I have to give a special shout-out to the shop and inventory in Smite. It’s confusing as all hell at first because it’s fairly cluttered. The big point of the shop for me, though, is the ‘abilities’ category. I had no idea what it was, so before a game I decided to check it out; what I saw was pretty awesome: Summoner Spells and active item abilities that I was familiar with in League. Off the top of my head, I can think of a Zhonya’s item, an AoE Smite, Clarity, and Randuin’s Omen. You get to buy these for about 500 gold (which isn’t too much, really) and you can have up to three. I’ve noticed that I haven’t been forgetting about the more situational things like in League. Maybe it’s the big ol’ icons being right next to my spells that helps. Anyway, very cool idea and very good implementation.
Despite all of this praise I’m throwing at it, the game does have some problems. The fact that there’s no /ignore or /mute in game (to my knowledge) means that griefers and assholes will have a field day. Sure, you can block people after a game, but that requires you to remember their name and hope it didn’t have a weird, misleading spelling. There doesn’t seem to be a report function, either. I hope those two, if nothing else, get added by release. Also, the skills panel is a bit of a pain in the ass. It’s big, it’s the only way you can see what skills do, it takes up the whole screen and it doesn’t immediately close when you level something up. Also, it’s the only way to level up skills outside of auto-level. I wish I could just mouse-over things to get a brief description, rather than having a big window in my face and the possibility to level up skills with some sort of key combination would be nice, too. Finally, the text in some places is pretty small (the item shop and skills window comes to mind) and kills my eyes when I try to read it. I’ve checked the settings, but there’s no text size option, so it would be great if we could get that in before release.
All in all, Smite is very much like… Well, let’s say Kirby’s Adventure, because I like this comparison. It takes something we know and love, changes a lot of the mechanics while keeping the basic stuff the same (push lanes, kill nexus, etc), and makes it something unique. I’m glad I put down twenty bucks on this game, because it was definitely worth it. If you’re a fan of MOBAs and you want something different, go give a shot. It’s a breath of fresh air in a world full of DotA/League clones. As always, thanks for reading and have a good’un.