Let’s take a look at the world of Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs). What do we see? We see a genre of games that has been in constant evolution ever since its first appearance as a map in Starcraft, which later inspired IceFrog to develop Defense of the Ancients (DotA). In the past few years, we have seen a number of DotA-like games entering the gaming landscape; like Heroes of Newerth and League of Legends, the latest being Valve’s rendition of the age-old favorite, DotA 2.
If we take a closer look at these games, we can see that they are quite similar in many ways. But this is exactly where Hi-Rez Studios is looking to capitalize with its new entry into the genre, Smite. Smite aims to add some variety to (or rather revolutionize) the way MOBAs are played. The first thing you will notice about the game (which also happens to be the most game-changing aspect of it) is that, unlike most MOBAs, Smite is played from a third person perspective. That means you will see your champion much like how you’ve seen Altair in Assassin’s Creed, with the camera locked behind your character at all times. It also means you no longer play the role of a ‘Summoner’ (like in most MOBAs) but the champion himself (or herself).
Smite is as similar to the other MOBAs as it is different. Just like any other game in this genre, each player in the five-on-five game has control over one champion who, in Smite (much to my amusement), takes the form of a god. These gods are adapted from several different mythologies and cultures including those of the Greek, Roman, Norse and Hindu. Each hero has four abilities (which are unlocked and upgraded as you level up by gaining experience) and one passive (which is characteristic to your hero from the beginning of the game). The battle is fought on a diagonally symmetrical map with three clear paths (lanes) connecting the two bases. At the base, players can buy and equip items to boost their champion’s stats and also restore lost health and mana for free. The game commences after a short setup period, and small groups of ranged and melee minions (which are essentially Non-Player Characters which players do not have any control over) are spawned and set out from both bases along each of the three lanes toward the enemy base. Each lane has a number of towers leading to the altar. The goal of each team is to destroy the enemy’s towers and finally destroy their altar. At the end of each lane you will encounter a guardian who is essentially a super tower and a channeler (or inhibitor) who is diminishing the strength of the enemy minions. Destroying the channeler will make your creeps in the respective lane stronger and thus make it easier for your team to control that lane. Between the lanes, there is a dimly lit forest which is home to a number of neutral monsters that can be killed for gold and experience.
So far the game sounds a lot like the other MOBAs you might have played. But believe me when I say that the third-person perspective of the game changes a lot more of the gameplay than you think!
- For one, you now have direct control over your character, its movement and abilities. That means even if you attack an enemy, you can completely miss a hit merely because you weren’t facing the direction you intended to attack.
- Secondly, the new perspective gives you much less awareness as to what is happening in other parts of the map. For example, in other MOBAs you can unlock the camera and fly though the map to take a look at what’s going on elsewhere in the game. While the mini-map still lets you see positions of your teammates and the enemies they can see, that’s about as much of the peeking you can do!
- This new perspective also means that you can see in just one direction, which makes you a lot more vulnerable to ganks. This means they can actually just creep up behind you unnoticed, and ‘GG’ your butt to a ‘QQ’.
- On the brighter side, you will also never lose track of where your character is. How can you? The camera is always locked right behind it!
- The good part about this development is that it’s now easier to tell which parts of the map you can see and which parts you can’t without the need of an overhead camera dimming the environment (More popularly known to us as the ‘Fog of War’).
- It is now easier to see when a spell or debuff is affecting your character. In the sense if your character is hit by an enemy caster, you will know instantly because your character will not behave the way it’s supposed to. For example, if your character has been silenced, the color changes and you won’t be able to use any of your activated abilities. Of course, unless it’s one that removes such effects!
To sum it up, the third person perspective does change a lot of how the game is played, and you will only realize the extent of how much the gameplay changes once you actually play the game. Which is why I think you should register yourself for the beta right now! (It’s a closed beta which will be made available sometime soon this year.)
That said the camera isn’t the only thing about this MOBA that will take some getting used to. No sir! There are also changes to the control scheme (which I gather is a direct result of the change in perspective), which further sets Smite apart from the rest of the MOBAs in terms of gameplay.
You control the movement of your character using the WSAD keys and look around using the mouse. Attacking is done by aiming in the direction you want to attack and clicking the left mouse button. When it comes to melee attacks, they hit the enemy closest to you within the tolerance of small cone in the direction you’re pointing, whereas the ranged attacks are a lot more precise and need to be aimed accurately in order for you to land a hit. Abilities are activated using the 1-4 keys. Once activated an outline showing the area which will be affected by the ability will appear on the ground. This makes it easy to comprehend where the spell will land and the area that the spell will affect whenever you activate it. The spell can then be cast by clicking the left mouse button or cancelled by right-clicking.
The game is reasonably easy to pick up and the auto-leveling up and auto-buy feature to be included in the game ensures that beginners don’t waste time deciding what would be the best items to buy. Obviously these set builds and their order aren’t the best for any given character, but till beginners get a hang of the game, they should do nicely.
If we take a closer look at the marketing strategies of Hi-Rez with regard to Smite, we can see that it’s going to be a lot like League of Legends. The game itself will come as a free-to-play but with the option to purchase new characters and skins for these characters as well as certain boost items to improve the stats of your character.
‘Smite’ retains the intricacy and competitive feel of a MOBA, but at the same time revolutionizes the gameplay. While the game may seem all too familiar to existing fans of the genre, the third person perspective of the game is sure to bring about a refreshing change that many gamers (pros and noobs) will, quite frankly, take a liking to. We can safely say that Smite will define a genre within a genre, being a host to as many changes as it is to similarities between itself and the other MOBAs. While its simplicity may draw some criticism from the elitist DotA community as being less skillful (you know how elitist gamers can get), I still believe that Smite will do famously with the rest of the MOBA-loving, head-pwning, creep-farming community and someday even be competition for the currently dominating game in this genre, ‘League of Legends’.