Smite Preview: MOBA Goes Third Person
Civilization V: Gods & Kings wasn’t the only game at PAX to focus on religious subject matter. In Smite, the new MOBA from Hi-Rez studios, players take control of deities from a wide variety of world religions (living and dead), squaring off against other gods in the quest for victory.
I’ll confess to having been pretty ignorant of MOBA gameplay until I sat down with Smite, but I still recognized the basic trappings. Over the course of a round, players acquire money and experience that enables them to purchase items and unlock abilities, strengthening their characters. Two fortified bases are connected with a series of pathways, defended by static defense towers. By supporting a constant flow of AI-controlled goons, clearing a path to the enemy’s base, and defeating a desperate, last-ditch defense, one team wins the round.
Smite’s big innovation is its third-person perspective, which makes the game feel less like DOTA or League of Legends, based on Warcraft III, and more like, well, World of Warcraft. Built using the Unreal 3 engine, the game is bright and sharp, and the close-in perspective is certainly appreciated. Spells were easy to aim and nice to look at, and the RPG-style gameplay felt more intuitive than LOL’s punishing RTS-derived micromanagement.
I was particularly taken with Smite’s beautiful, iconic character models, which captured gods both familiar and esoteric in colorful, high-definition guises. I played as Ra, an Egyptian support character with a variety of sun-derived nukes and buffs, but I also had a lot of fun simply identifying the deities that flew by during gameplay: “There goes Odin, spear in hand!” “Buddha just pwned those noobs!” It must be a creative challenge for the developers to keep coming up with different ideas — some, like Arachne, were kind of a stretch — but the god-on-god combat is a creative conceit that I don’t think I would ever tire of.
It remains to be seen whether Smite can compete against its better-known rivals, but Hi-Rez have certainly made a strong case. Head over to their page for beta registration if you’re interested in becoming a god.
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