By: Jeff Cater
A good MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) is hard to come by on consoles, but leading the charge is Hi-Rez Studios, who have brought their PC hit SMITE to the Xbox One. Just like its PC counterpart, the XB1 version is a free-to-play game where gods and legends clash in a constant fight between light and dark.
Unlike other MOBA games, SMITE is played from the third-person perspective rather than the traditional top-down view. Your four activated attacks and consumables are bound to the face buttons, with the left trigger allowing you to toggle between them. Scaling the distance of your attack or ability by using the right stick can be a little tricky to get used to and feels awfully restrictive at first, but it will click with you after only a few matches.
Practice makes perfect, of course, and executing a move effectively is an exercise in dexterity and prediction. The in-game shop is pretty clumsy to navigate at first as well, with a few buttons not clearly showing their function.
SMITE doesn’t truly stand as a showcase when it comes to the power of the Xbox One, but the visuals are wildly varied and creative. There’s a huge plethora of gods to choose from, all stemming from different regional and cultural backgrounds, and all are depicted accurately according to their traits and abilities.
For example, The Roman God of Transitions and Portals, Janus, has two faces; one that faces forward (to look into the future) and one facing backwards (looking to the past). Anubis has the menacing jackal head whereas Cupid has rounded cartoonish features and comically fluffy wings and so on.
Just as varied as the characters themselves, and just as impressive, are the spell and ability effects. The newest god to be released, Ah Puch (the Horrific God of Decay), features an Ultimate Ability that fills the field of battle with dangerous and deadly ghostly apparitions.
The soundtrack is pretty epic, if not repetitive after a while, which most MOBAs suffer from. Battle effects are thumpy and crashing, and the announcer does a pretty good job matching the atmosphere. Sometimes he can be drowned out by the combat effects and music, so it can be hard to discern what he is saying without adjusting the volume levels.
SMITE deviates from the traditional MOBA construct further by having six different game modes, plus a bonus seventh. They are as follows:
- Conquest pits five players against another five with a familiar three-lane setup. This is where the heaviest player base seems to be. Push your enemy’s Minions back, destroy their towers and defeat their Titan to secure victory. In between the lanes, in the Jungle, are various camps to destroy for bonuses.
- Joust is a single-lane 3v3 that starts players off at Level 5 (the level at which you unlock your Ultimate Ability) and has smaller lanes on the peripheral sides of the map containing camps of NPCs that can be killed for damage or speed bonuses.
- Siege features two lanes and powerful weapons that are pieced together by destroying enemy fortifications.
- Assault picks your hero for you, has only one lane, no jungle camp bonus opportunities, and the inability to use the Recall function, the ass-saving feature that allows you to teleport back to base to use the shop.
- Practice mode gives you a basic rundown on the mechanics of the game and allows you to choose any hero whether you own them or not. This is meant to familiarize newcomers as to the structure of the game, but Hi-Rez encourages players to jump into any mode.
The bonus seventh mode is a daily variation that does fun things like start players off with 100,000 gold, infinite mana or any of several other creative modifiers and restrictions (like players only can use Norse gods).
In each above mentioned game mode there are clear indications written out on the walls (literally) as to where certain things are. If you get caught up in the heat of a fight and the battle leads into the jungle, you won’t have to squint at the mini-map to figure out your position because the wall in front of you literally says “MIDDLE LANE” with an arrow pointing which way to go.
This not only helps new players stay on track, but it keeps the battles intense and on-point at all times, because it can get confusing when using and reacting to certain spells and abilities.
Finding your character is extremely fun because, simply put, every single character is fun to play as, even if you aren’t all that great at them. The time will come where a character just jives with the way you want to play (in my case, Ullr) and SMITE really becomes a unique experience on the Xbox One.
There’s a lot to be said about putting out a quality console-friendly MOBA, and SMITE is an absolutely fantastic value. Whether or not you decide to pay into it (it’s free-to-play), there’s a slew of things to do, fun mechanics and awesome clashes of the most fearsome and all-powerful gods. For free, you can choose from a constantly changing selection of characters in the rotation, or pay a very modest $29.99 to give you access to all current and future gods, some special outfits and a small sum of in-game currency. Hell yeah, SMITE.