by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
Online battle with a twist
Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games are all the rage at the moment, and having seen how much money the likes of Riot Games and Valve are making from the Ďfree to playí models of League of Legends and Dota 2, more and more developers are giving it a go themselves. Smite is a MOBA with a twist being developed by Hi-Rez Studios and is currently in the beta testing stage.
For fans of existing MOBAs, the concept will be very familiar. There are two teams of five powerful Gods who start on opposite sides of a map with three lanes, and the goal is simply to reach the other side and defeat the enemy Minotaur. Less powerful creatures called minions spawn in waves and run down each lane and fight each other. The minions provide a way for the Gods to gain gold and experience by killing them. Static minions are also placed in the wooded area between lanes called the jungle, and provide extra buffs to those daring enough to venture there. Earning enough experience allows the God to level up, thereby becoming more powerful and unlocking new abilities. Gold is used in the shop, located back at each teamís main base, to buy new items to aid them in their fight. Also standing in the way are towers. Two towers are in each lane, and do massive damage to those who get too close. After destroying these towers, the Gods are then faced with a Phoenix. Destroying a Phoenix allows your team to spawn more powerful minions in that particular lane for a period until the Phoenix is reborn. Finally, the Gods are faced with the Minotaur who, unlike normal MOBAs, is actually a roaming being, acting as a kind of final boss battle for the team.
Sounds like pretty standard stuff, right? Well hereís the twist: Much like Super Monday Night Combat, Smite uses a third person camera perspective. You use the keyboard to move, your abilities are mapped to the number keys and left click is for your auto attack. I came into the beta from playing a lot of LoL and Dota 2 which both use a top down, strategy style camera, so this was odd at first. The main issue is not being able to see behind you, so unless youíre watching the minimap closely, getting ganked from behind is commonplace. This, combined with having to actually aim your auto attacks adds a new level of strategy to the game which will be refreshing for MOBA fans.
Gods earning themselves Favours
Since MOBAs usually take place on the same map, and usually have the same objective, one of the main draws of a game like this is the character design. In Smite, the characters you will be using are well known Gods from various Pantheons. For example, you might have a team consisting of Hades, Zeus, Odin, Ra and Kali, all of whom are designed in game to look as close to their counterparts as possible, and to have abilities corresponding to what they are known for. There are currently twenty Gods in the game, and Hi-Rez Studios are going to be putting out another ten before the game is released.
Playing games earns you experience and in game-currency called Favor, and you earn a bonus to each of these if you win. Earning enough experience levels you up and you are granted an extra thousand Favor. Favor is used to buy new Gods or skins to alter the appearance of Gods you already own. However, as with all free to play models, all of this can also be done using real money. Real money buys you the separate in-game currency called Gems. You have to buy Gems in set chunks, which means you canít just buy what you want, but you take out of your in-game wallet what you need to spend, often leaving you with a teasing amount of Gems just below the amount you need to buy something else that you want, tempting you to spend that little bit of extra cash to get it. Itís a payment model which many people have a problem with, but at the moment you donít get any gameplay bonuses from paying, leaving Smite as a free to play game rather than a Ďpay to winí game Ė at least for now.
Calm before the storm
Another nice thing about the beta so far is that itís mostly lacking the hate-filled chat that more established MOBAs are notorious for. Since itís still in beta testing, this is understandable as everyone is in the same boat of learning how to play properly. Hopefully this more relaxed attitude will continue after the game is released fully, but thankfully even if it doesnít, there is an option to turn off the in-game chat.
Other than a few main changes, this is still a MOBA. It will be endlessly addictive for some and utterly baffling to the rest. Soon enough there will be plenty of item builds online for each God designed to maximise their performance along with plenty of forum discussion about metagame and such. Whether it will become as popular as other MOBAs remains to be seen, but, if youíre into MOBAs, or perhaps enjoy a bit of blatant sacrilege, it is certainly an entertaining way to spend your time.