"Smite is a good game with lots of potential, but it’s still pretty rough around the edges. Problems with the menu layout, graphics, item tiers and camera angles bring down the overall experience."
Smite is a free to play downloadable third-person action MOBA from producer Hi-Rez studios. It’s a different and relatively refreshing take on the tried and true MOBA formula that DoTA started years ago. Instead of heroes or champions Smite uses gods. The gods are taken from a variety of religions and for the most part are handled respectfully. The variety of gods may span across the board, but a good portion of them are taken from Roman, Greek, and Norse mythology. Smite also places a heavy emphasis on skill shots, which are abilities that do not hone in on a target automatically. Instead they are shot in a line, cone shape, or area around your god. This is a cool idea in theory, but in practice it can make for some pretty clunky gameplay, especially when coupled with the game’s over-the-shoulder third-person camera. Smite offers up a variety of modes that can be a refreshing take on how the game is played. This helps to split up the monotony of constantly playing one map at any given time, allowing the game to remain fresh even after I was bored of the normal three lane push maps that all MOBA’s implement. Smite is a good game with lots of potential, but it’s still pretty rough around the edges. Problems with the menu layout, graphics, item tiers and camera angles bring down the overall experience. But, at its heart it’s still a fun way to pass the time, due to its high replay value, and, with some future tweaks it could sport formidable competitive scene.
As I’ve already mentioned Smite’s playable characters are gods. They’re taken from multiple religions, but for the most part you’ll find that there’s an emphasis on Egyptian, Greek, and Roman mythos. For the most part it’s really cool to see these gods in action, but every once in a while I found myself questioning the practicality of some of the character design choices made my Hi-Rez. Female characters are obnoxiously busty which is all amplified by the game’s generous use of “jiggle physics”. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get some level of entertainment out of it the first time I realized it, but I think the extra touch was unnecessary and ended up making the game feel a bit juvenile. Furthermore, it’s awesome to see well-known gods implemented in the game, but I wish that there would have been a wider selection of gods from other religions, especially ones that are lesser-known. I do applaud Hi-Rez’s decision to include pages for god bios. It’s a nice little addition that really shows that they’re willing to go the extra mile and it was a fun way to educate myself about some gods that I’d never seen or heard of before.
"Supporting was fun in Smite, but there were a lot of problems with skill shots when it comes to support spells."
One of biggest differences between Smite and other MOBAs is the fact that it’s done entirely through a third-person camera rather than the traditional isometric view. When I first heard about this it was one of the things that pulled me to it, and during my initial rounds, while I was still learning I found it to be a very fun and fluid experience, then I started playing more complex gods and began to notice the inherit problems. While straight line and even cone shaped skill shots are fun and easy to pull off, distance AoE spells are quite difficult to approximate given the game’s field of view. This problem is amplified in large team fights where the ground is covered by characters obscuring the template from view and making it very frustrating to land skills that would be absolutely no problem if the game was isometric.
I’m a huge fan of playing support units, and I always have been ever since the original DoTA: All-Stars. Supporting was fun in Smite, but there were a lot of problems with skill shots when it comes to support spells. Coming from DoTA I was a huge fan of Dazzle (Shadow Priest) due to his ability to heal heroes, high survivability, lane effectiveness and his ridiculously overpowered skill, Shallow Grave. After playing around with all the gods in Smite I found that Aphrodite was a pretty close match to Dazzle’s play-style and experimented a lot with her, attempting to gauge whether or not she was a practical choice in competitive gameplay. I learned quickly just how clunky support spells can be, especially ones that effect allied and enemy players differently. Since skill shots impact the first player hit within a spell’s applicable radius I found that allied units were constantly running in my pathway when a spell was intended for an enemy. So my spell would produce the allied effect rather than the stun effect that it has on enemies, causing plenty of instances where enemy players were able to escape. As you can imagine this lead to some seriously frustrating game scenarios that really turned me off from Aphrodite and eventually dedicated support units in general. Due to this issue I find that the game strongly favors DPS classes like Hunters, Assassins, and Mages in competitive play. I eventually found some solid footing within the Guardian role, especially with gods like Athena and Hades, eventually finding an even balance and assuming more of a support role.
"Now we stumble across one of my major gripes with Smite, the item system. The whole thing is inertly flawed. There seems to be no system in place, especially with early game items, to govern why items cost what they do."
Smite offers a variety of incredibly fun game modes, breaking up the monotony of the tried and true three lane push maps. Arena, Joust and Domination are just some of the other available modes permanently featured, with another random mode that rotates out daily featuring an emphasis on ridiculous scenario match-ups like silly unique objectives or 5v5 mirror matches. This is one of the things that Smite does right, and it really gives the game an opportunity to shine in ways that exceed other MOBAs in a traditional sense. I especially had a lot of fun with the Arena mode, which is essentially a team death match on an enclosed map with some minor MOBA mechanics (there’s only a minor focus on creeps and pushing, most of the game revolves around slaying the other team). I would love to see Hi-Rez to continue to nurture these kinds of game modes and attempt to create some new ones as well because this one of the game’s selling points. The one downside to all of this stems from the popularity of these varied game modes. Because most players seem content with engaging in Arena or Joust more traditional and team oriented modes like Conquest are left in the dust and are forced to deal with alarmingly high queue times. There were instances where a five man conquest pre-made would take upwards of 10 minutes to get into a game, which was absolutely ridiculous.
Now we stumble across one of my major gripes with Smite, the item system. The whole thing is inertly flawed. There seems to be no system in place, especially with early game items, to govern why items cost what they do. Let’s look at an example: Light Blade versus the Ancient Blade. Light blade is an item that grants a 10% increased attack speed for the hefty price of 700 gold, while Ancient Blade offers 10% increased attack speed and 4% movement speed for only 580 gold. Pause for a second and re-read what I just wrote and consider how that makes any sense at all. Maybe I’m just bad at math, but I think there’s something incredibly wrong with this picture. In addition to the seemingly random reasoning behind item costs Hi-Rez seems to be removing items instead of adding new ones. I can understand removing an item temporarily because it has introduced some sort of game breaking bug, or unforeseen imbalances, but the guys over at Hi-Rez seem to be constantly removing items, dwindling the list of choices which in turn limits play styles, builds and the ability to respond to certain forms of cheese. Where are items that offer pure HP boosts? Where are standard MOBA items that offer bleed, mana burn or other passive abilities? Why aren’t there more active ability items? This is by far the weakest part of Smite, and since items and builds are a significant part of how MOBAs work I feel it’s holding the game back significantly.
"Skins are unlocked using in game currency or can be purchased with real world money as well. I was disappointed to find that some skins can only be purchased with real world currency, especially when you notice that these are by far some of the coolest skins in the game."
So, as with any free to play game weary gamers have to wonder: just how free is free? Well, Hi-Rez has managed to strike a relatively even balance between DoTA 2 and League of Legends in the sense that the roster is constantly rotating, but all gods can be unlocked with in game currency that feels fairly earned. It takes a while to save up, but you can do so without the fear of being forced to dump hundreds of hours into the game to unlock a god that isn’t in the standard rotation. In addition you may pay a small fee to rent a god for one round if you wish, or If you just want access to all the Gods without having to grind for currency Hi-Rez has implemented an option to buy all the heroes (including ones released in the future) for a reasonable asking price of $30 (US). Skins are unlocked using in game currency or can be purchased with real world money as well. I was disappointed to find that some skins can only be purchased with real world currency, especially when you notice that these are by far some of the coolest skins in the game, but the game is just advertised as free to play not free to customize, so I can’t really knock them for that. If anything, it’s a genius business practice that borrows liberally from the Valve mindset.
Smite’s graphics are a bit rough around the edges (the game requires that users install Direct X 9 when most games now utilize Direct X 11) but they’re optimized well allowing the game to run on a large variety of machines, increasing the game’s player base. The game doesn’t look bad on high end rigs, but it’s definitely dated, especially when noting backgrounds and level design. Character design for the most part is fantastic and expressive, featuring a colorful palate that really gives each god a unique look and feel. Some models look better than others, but for the most part they’re all smoothly animated and I noticed no stutter or slowdown at all even when the action became paramount.
"So, aside from my two major issues with the items and UI, Smite is fun. It really shines in its more basic death match combat, but, suffers a lot due to poorly implemented items, camera angles and UI."
Onto my last serious gripe about Smite before I wrap this all up for you: the game’s menus. It’s been a while since I’ve encountered a user interface this atrocious. The game is buried in a system of connected menus that make it incredibly hard to navigate. Even the game’s auto-communication commands require players to memorize a sequence of key presses to communicate the most basic things effectively. Instead of implementing a simple scroll wheel or allowing for in game key-binds Smite requires that you either create out of game macros or hope your fingers can remember all the correct combinations. So, when the pressure is on and it really matters here’s to hoping you can remember how to spam “Help” effectively. This, in my opinion, is another thing that really holds this game back from being on higher level of quality and polish and is a detriment to ranked gameplay.
So, aside from my two major issues with the items and UI, Smite is fun. It really shines in its more basic death match combat, but, suffers a lot due to poorly implemented items, camera angles and UI. With some work it could become a more respectable competitive MOBA capable of sitting at the feet of its much older and more refined brothers, DoTA and LoL. But as of right now one thing is for sure: for a game that prides itself on godliness it’s got a lot of cleaning up to do.
Review by: Palmer Sturman | Reviewed on: PC