Smite Review: Playing God

Posted by | November 25, 2015 | Reviews, Xbox One | No Comments

Available on Xbox One, PC
We played on Xbox One

I enter the Smite arena with my four teammates, a ragtag assortment of gods and goddesses based on various mythologies like Chinese, Greek, Norse, or even Mayan. Each one brings something different to the table. Some are walking tanks—warriors designed to absorb damage and maybe deal with crowd control—while others might be stealthier, choosing to pick the opposing team apart by targeting one enemy from the shadows.

I go into battle as Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt. Armed with her magical bow, I stay on the fringe of battle, assisting with kills until I’ve gained enough experience to become an offensive powerhouse. At that point, I can put my team on my back and carry us to victory. Or I can hope to end the game with a respectable kill/death ratio as we are handed our heads in a terrible loss. Whether I’m experiencing the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat, I’m enamored with Smite for Xbox One.

Multiplayer online battle arena games, or MOBAs, are all the rage and it seems like every game company wants to cash in on their popularity. Smite has the distinction of being the first console free-to-play MOBA as it makes the leap from PC to Xbox One. Smite’s core concept is the same as most of the other popular MOBAs. Choose an avatar and go into co-op or versus gameplay modes such as the 3v3 Joust or 5v5 Conquest Modes, or the aforementioned Arena Mode. Where Smite differs from previous games is its third-person camera angle, giving players a more intimate perspective on the action. Where the Xbox One version of Smite specifically differs from the rest of its contemporaries, even Smite on PC has the ability to use the controller.

Smite on PC caught my attention because of Hi-Rez Studios’ decision to make it in third-person perspective instead of top-down. I’ve played plenty of real-time strategy games, including the Warcraft 3 mods that helped spawn MOBA as a genre. A different viewpoint on the genre and the ability to choose from all sorts of mythological figures to battle with and against seemed like my kind of jam. I really do enjoy the genre, but physically, my hand and arm can’t take the constant clicking required to effectively play games like League of Legends or Dota 2.

Smite’s best weapon isn’t Artemis’s bow, Thor’s hammer, or Zeus’s lightning bolts. It’s the Xbox One controller. I can play and have legitimate success, making for a more enjoyable experience in a game that was pretty good to begin with on PC. Sure, there are times where I feel like mouse-aiming would help me out more as I’m trying to attack the speedy Messenger God Mercury as he circles me repeatedly, avoiding my deadly arrows. But I also know my limitations. Smite on Xbox One allows me a more fair chance at competing in the game.

I prefer to play in Arena Mode a lot, primarily because the games are shorter and feel like less of a test of endurance. Games in Joust and Conquest (and its variations) Modes can last close to an hour. The two teams have to traverse the traditional MOBA lanes and jungles, areas of the maps that limit visibility and are usually infested with baddies players can kill for experience or power-ups. Not to mention, with my preferred play style using Artemis, I find myself dying a lot more as I’m left to fend for myself. This happens in Joust and Conquest Modes much more than in Arena, where my team can focus fire on one or two specific targets.

smite

Because Smite is free-to-play, it operates similarly to other MOBAs by offering free gods to play that are regularly rotated out. It offers a casual player new characters to try out all the time, but you can bypass that by paying for the Smite God Pack. For the purpose of this review, I had already purchased the pack, which unlocks all of the previously available gods and any future gods released. There’s a daunting amount to choose from. Learning their abilities and skills can be overwhelming. Thankfully, the game has an auto-buy setting for skills and items to help novice players. But if you’re serious about Smite, you’ll want to learn enough about the game that you can eventually turn the auto-buy off and customize your character. I noticed a drastic improvement once I started choosing items appropriate for my play style. More often than not, I’d end games with a much higher kill/death ratio unless my team was pounded into the dirt because of character match-up issues, something you don’t really have much control over if you are playing casually.

I love being in the thick of the action, which is why I don’t understand the respawn timer and why it needs to be so long sometimes. In Conquest games, dying and sitting out 40 to 60 seconds at a time feels like a huge price to pay between winning and losing. This is especially true if you have to wait and run back to the other side of the map while one or two of your teammates is engaged, only to get there after they died and you’re all alone again. I don’t like that I’m being so forcefully removed from my play experience. It seems less egregious in Arena Mode but I have noticed a lengthy respawn if I get killed after building up a high kill-streak count.

You don’t need to be a MOBA champion to enjoy Smite. Plenty of content and unlockable goodies keep the casual player like myself going. If you do find yourself delving further into the game, there’s always league and season options available as you progress. The best part about Smite on Xbox One is being able to save some physical discomfort by using the controller, something that might not be the most ideal for a MOBA, but it works well. Go grab a god and have fun because this is the best console MOBA to date.

About Michael Martin

Michael Martin is a Seattle-based freelance writer who has far too many pop culture mash-up shirts than he'd care to admit. He writes news and features for IGN, contributes to TechnologyTell's Gaming Channel, and has written for Kill Screen. He's a father of kids ranging from newborn to 19 years old, and they've never needed to worry about not having video games, which might make him a cool dad.