Tuesday, September 15, 2015

SMITE (Xbox One) Review

When I first heard about SMITE, I was definitely interested.  I'm a fan of mythological people and creatures, so I knew who most of the character in the game were.  Once the game came to consoles on the Xbox One, I had no excuses not to try it out.  I haven't played many MOBAs, but I have some friends that really like the genre, so I figured I would play with them and try to have some fun.

The goal of most MOBAs is to destroy the opposing team's base creature, which is called a titan in SMITE.  To do so, there are three lanes that your characters and the AI minions will use to get there.  Along the way are friendly and opposing turrets, and a phoenix guardian at the end.  You will want to destroy these turrets and eventually the phoenix so their is a clear path to the titan.  Taking any of these head on is suicide, so you want to clear a path for your minions to be your shield.  This is, of course, not taking into account the other team is doing the same as you inevitably clash with them.  Killing an opposing player will cause them to respawn with a timer, and that might be your chance to push the lane and try to clear out a tower or the phoenix.

SMITE's difference to other MOBAs is the camera, which is situated behind the player, more like a third-person shooter than something like Starcraft, and the skill-based attacking.  Given the perspective, actually hitting enemies does require correct aiming.  It's a nice hybrid of MOBA with third-person shooting controls.  The other controls work pretty well, and are usually laid out on the screen for ease of use.  The only one that took me remembering was using the Right Bumper to cancel a skill.  Pressing a button once will bring out the reticle for your attack, and pressing either it or the attack button (Right Trigger) will execute it.  Many times I would press the B Button to cancel it, but it wouldn't work.  I eventually taught myself to hit the RB.

There are several modes, each with its own map.  There is Arena, Joust, Conquest, Assault and Siege.  Arena is the closest to a pure versus mode.  You have a circular arena with very few places to hide.  It is 5 on 5 with a straight shot for your minions to the other team's base.  Matches can also be over the quickest out of all the match types.  Given how bad I am at fighting other players, I expected to dislike Arena.  However, it was probably my favorite mode, so maybe I'm not so bad at that and just bad at all the other stuff?

Anyway, next is Joust, which is 3 on 3.  There is only the one lane with a few side jungles mostly for buffs.  Since there is a lower player count, skill and level gaps can be even wider without more people to help each other.  Also, someone quitting out of the game is much more severe than in other game types, giving a huge advantage to the non-quitter side.  Sadly, in any mode, having a person leaves will put you at a disadvantage, since the AI won't take over, nor will it put a person there, so you just have to deal with the band hand you have.  Joust is still kind of fun, though.

Conquest mode is the bread and butter of the game, as it is the classic mode.  It's 5 on 5, 3 lanes and lots of jungle areas and buffs.  You need a good amount of skill at fighting other gods, plus knowledge of how to take advantage of minions and jungle buffs to come out on top.  It's a fairly fun mode, and likely has the most people playing it at any given time.  It can also last the longest, with matches commonly going on for 30-45 minutes.  Make sure you have a chunk of time when you sit down to play Conquest.

The last two are Assault and Siege.  Assault is 5 on 5 with one lane, so it is similar to Joust, but with more players.  That is the good part.  The god you play as is randomized, so it can be a real crap shoot to play this mode.  That is the bad part.  If you don't know most of the gods, then I would recommend avoiding this mode for awhile.  Siege is 4 on 4, and the map has two lanes on either side of a jungle.  There are siege monster that you can get to spawn (not fully sure how) to help attack the enemy camp.  While that is a new twist, it is pretty similar to the Conquest mode, but sadly not available in co-op.

SMITE can be played by yourself, and it will match you for a team.  This is fine, but it becomes much more fun when playing with your friends.  Thankfully, if you form a party with them, the host can queue you all up for games and it does a great job keeping you together and matching others to your group.  You can also join a league or clan if you want to.  If you aren't keen on fighting other players, you can do most of the game types as co-op against AI bots.  Sadly, you miss out on most achievements by doing so, though.

One big knock against the game and the genre as a whole is how much knowledge you need to be effective.  It's easy enough to learn the controls and get the basic idea, but you really need to know a lot of things about the lanes, strategies and what your character should be doing.  Also add in the vast amounts of purchasable items that your character equips and uses.  If you don't learn all of these things, you can still play the game, but you won't be near as effective as someone who does.  It can happen all too often that you will start out fine, but get outclassed more and more as the match goes on.

I'm not trying to kill anyone's enthusiasm for playing the game, but if you want to play against other players, be prepared to either do some homework or get used to seeing your spawn countdown a lot.  You can thankfully take a lot of it at your own pace, and I would recommend starting by finding a character you like and fits your play style, then branch out to your optimal skill and item set up.

However, one thing in battles that is difficult to overcome is a level difference.  Even if you have a good skill set up and aren't bad at the game, you can easily be on the losing end of a confrontation if the opponent has a few levels on you.  From one side, I understand that if you are playing better/getting more experience, you should have an advantage, but from the other side, you are kind of screwed if even two levels below an enemy.  Long-term players may disagree with these points, but this is true from my experiences with the game.

While the game is free to play with rotating heroes every so often, you can also purchase the heroes if you want to use them outside of their free rotation.  Each character also has numerous costumes, with more being added all the time.  Some of these costumes are really cool (Super Chronos 64, La Roca and too many others to list here are particular favorites), but will set your wallet back by a chunk if you want to get a lot of them.  You can also spend your diamonds (which are usually bought with real currency) for random chests that may contain special prizes.  Mercifully, there is a cooldown after purchasing one so it is harder to blow through your diamonds in a quick amount of time.  It also cuts down on accidental spending.

SMITE can be a lot of fun, but it is very competitive and takes a lot of knowledge to be even average at the game.  Sadly, I'm not very good, but I like playing with my friends while trying to figure it out and get better.  There are several game modes to try and many, many characters to play as (provided you have the time or money).  Since it's free to play, I can easily recommend people give it a go.  You might want to devote some time before hand to tutorial videos on the internet to get a feel for how each character type is to play.

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