It’s a good gig, if you can get it.
Ever wanted to be a god (or goddess)? C’mon, you know you have. Hanging out on some comfy cloud somewhere with a flagon of ambrosia, tossing a thunderbolt or two off at those who deny you? And don’t forget all that hot nymph chasing action.
Sadly, Hi-Rez’s Smite doesn’t really deliver any of the creature comforts of the day to day life of deities, choosing to focus on the usual internecine rivalry that a bunch of egotistical awesomely powerful supernatural beings get up to. Well, if Homer could milk that sort of thing for a few epics, I suppose we can’t fault Hi-Rez too much on that account.
Smite is basically the latest entry in the growing genre of MOBAs, or Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games. In MOBAs, you take command of a single hero who waltzes about the battlefield attacking and using powers to the greater benefit of the team. In feel, it ends up being about halfway between an RTSand an RPG. You’ve got the small unit battle feeling of an RTS, but with the single unit focus coupled with upgrades that an RPG has.
What does all that mean for our would-be deities? Well, for one, you can forget any notions of complex strategies and base building that you might find in an RTS style game. Since you’ve only got the one god to play with, tactics boil down to deciding where and if to join the four other gods on your team, or whether to wander off into the “jungle” where you can score a few powerups and sneak around behind your opponents. The map you’ll find yourself fighting on has three essentially identical lanes equipped with towers that provide covering fire, and a phoenix at the end that provides literal covering fire. Computer controlled minions of various types periodically surge out of your base to trot down the lanes towards the enemy base, where they have to defeat a Minotaur of Doom to win. Think Lemmings with swords and arrows, and you’ve got the feeling for the little guys.
Smite would be the most boring tower defense game in the world were it not for the fact that all the players are gods who roam the battlefield, aiding their minions and attacking the enemy mooks. You get three basic powers, plus one “Ultimate” (with a hideously long recharge time). That’s a bit limiting, but on the other hand, each god has its own unique power set. Zeus has a bunch of electrical based attacks, Artemis has arrows and the world’s cutest attack pig, Kali drains life and does a spinning death dance, and Cupid slays with the Power of Love. And so on. With over twenty gods to choose from, there’s quite a bit of variety here. Unfortunately, it also means that getting the balance just right is understandably difficult. Hi-Rez seems to be doing a good job of reacting to player input with this Beta, for all that Cupid is pretty insanely overpowered. Love conquers all, I guess.
I found myself strangely addicted to Smite once I got the hang of my “noob friendly” Artemis character.
I found myself strangely addicted to Smite once I got the hang of my “noob friendly” Artemis character. It’s something of a cheerfully mindless game, once you’ve learned the basic combos of your powers. In Artemis’ case, I’d slam my opponent with her pet piggy, tie them down with vines, then fire away with a buffed arrow attack. Rinse and repeat. Like high noon, a lot of winning is dependent on how fast that itchy trigger finger of yours is. If your opponent tags you with their ultimate power first, you’re pretty much doomed, and vice versa. Combos with your teammates require a smidge more thought, but basically boil down to one god holding the enemy down with a power while the other slaps the unfortunate silly with a damage dealing power. In between fights with other gods, you’ll find yourself kicking back and slaughtering hordes of the minions for fun and profit. It’s a relaxing way to spend a coffee break.
Speaking of profit, that was the one thing I freely admit I didn’t get the hang of. Smashing baddies squeezes gold coins out of them, which you can spend back at your home base on various power boosting items. There’s a bewildering array of items and potions, but Hi-Rez helpfully offers up a list of suggested items for the god you’re using. That said, judging by my immortal’s mortality rate, it was pretty clear that my “buy stuff that looks cool” strategy wasn’t working too well. I strongly suspect that the usual OCD suspects are out there making spreadsheets about which upgrades to grab for each god.
You kill stuff, you get rewarded with shiny stuff.
In general, the upgrade system presents a balance problem. To be fair, it’s part and parcel of the MOBA/RTS genre. You kill stuff, you get rewarded with shiny stuff. That’s how RPGs and all their various spinoffs have been since the day Gary Gygax threw his first set of polyhedral dice. Problem is, by about halfway through the game, one side ends up ahead with super god crunching power. Since you power up by crunching, those ahead in the crunching race pull even farther ahead as they get more and more buffs. Things go from bad to worse pretty fast, and it’s no surprise that over half the games I played ended up with one team surrendering long before the final battle with the enemy base’s Boss Minotaur.
That’s kind of unfortunate, because it significantly reduces the exciting possibility of end game excitement as the losing team tries daring Hail Mary moves and the like. I’m not sure the problem can be fixed without changing some of the essential elements of the game. To be fair, a game level cap does help, which gives the losing team a chance to catch up in powers, if not in items.
You just can’t find good worshippers these days.
Smite, as the saying goes, is what it is. If you want to truly feel godlike, go play Civilization or From Dust. Being a god in Smite means being a powerful chess piece. Heck, you can’t even fly (hovering a meter above the ground doesn’t count). But getting on its case about that is like complaining that the help documentation isn’t written in dactylic hexameter. That’s not really what Hi-Rez set out to do. Smite is a multiplayer smash fest, with some mild strategy elements. If that’s the sort of thing that makes you giggle with glee (manfully, of course), you’ll have a good time here. It’s also important to recognize that it’s in Beta– hopefully later editions will bring more options for powers as well as more complex maps. Perhaps the gods will even be able to control their mortal minions as well, instead of being consigned to watch helplessly as a single archer flings himself against the walls of a well-defended tower. Idiot.
You just can’t find good worshippers these days.
Note: all screenshots were taken in the single player version, because this reviewer didn’t feel like losing a game for an entire team while taking screenshots. Gods are best not provoked, ya know?
Worth a look.