By Julian Aidan, Daily Arts Writer
Published March 22, 2013
It has to be pretty boring to be a god, sitting on Mount Olympus or battling in Valhalla for all eternity. Thankfully for deities everywhere, Hi-Rez Studio’s entry to the Massively Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre, the recently out-of-closed beta “SMITE,” pulls gods from every pantheon and puts their power in players’ hands.
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“SMITE” stands out from its peers by offering four different game modes and an over-the-shoulder perspective. The lack of an overhead camera restricts visibility, making Combat feel more similar to “World of Warcraft” than “League of Legends” or “Dota 2.” All attacks are “skillshots,” meaning they must be manually aimed, adding another layer of difficulty to the frantic combat. Player accounts level up as they play, unlocking access to new game modes.
The standard three-lane, tower-pushing extravaganza is present in “SMITE” via the Conquest game mode, where two teams of five gods fight for dominance. Each base is protected by three Phoenixes and a Minotaur, powerful creatures who punish overconfident teams. Jungle monsters provide buffs ranging from reduced cooldowns on abilities to team-wide multi-stat upgrades. Organized teams can play in unranked and ranked modes, the latter offering bans and favoring tactical god choices and decision making to climb in rank.
For those tired of game after game of team-centric, base-taking tedium, “SMITE” offers three other modes — joust, arena and domination. Joust is a condensed version of Conquest, where players face off one-on-one, trying to get rid of each other’s respective towers and Minotaurs, using every advantage possible.
Arena is the Team Deathmatch of “SMITE.” Players square off in teams of five, starting with 500 tickets, with minion and god kills knocking tickets off of the enemy team with the ultimate goal of reducing them to zero. The camera and nature of combat makes this an unbelievably intense test of skill and reaction time.
Domination is a King of the Hill type game mode where teams of five players aim to control Egyptian obelisks defended by gigantic Sand Guardians pulled straight from “Aladdin.” The team with the least amount of currently controlled obelisks loses its initial 500 tickets at a constant rate, with a constant back-and-forth between teams making for nail-bitingly close games.
“SMITE” is an ambitious game that delivers on all fronts. Its 32 gods have very little overlap between them and each offer over-the-top abilities: Poseidon, for instance, can call upon the Kraken, and Hindu god Bakasura can regurgitate consumed foes.
Aesthetically, there isn’t much to be desired — the crowd roars in Arena, hearkening back to gladiatorial matches; the world beyond the map is every bit as beautifully detailed as the characters and their surroundings. With patches and fixes rolled out regularly and strong ties to the community, Hi-Rez Studios seems every bit as committed to keeping “SMITE” as great as the gods populating the game are committed to beating the living (and unliving) hell out of each other. Gamers everywhere will find a solid, rewarding and intense multiplayer experience in any one of “SMITE” ’s modes.