Rage quits, incessant swearing and table flips. Welcome to Smite. A MOBA where ancient gods battle it out in a strategic fight for victory.
Until recently, I’d never played a MOBA before and had found the genre slightly daunting to approach. It seemed like gamers fitted into two groups:
a) you’ve been playing MOBAs all your life and are likely to smash noobs up for breakfast; or,
b) you’ve never played a MOBA before and never will because of aforementioned group a.
I decided to try Smite as it came out for PS4 only recently and as it’s not cross-platform, I was kinda hoping we’d all be noobs and therefore, could grow together like one big happy family – yay! I was wrong. However, it turned out, this didn’t matter too much in the end…
In the game, released for PC in 2014 and XBOX One in 2015, there are several game modes for you to express your inner rage – most of which carry the traditional lanes/towers/minions set-up.
Step one: CHOOSE YOUR GOD. Which isn’t as apocalyptic as I just made it sound and just involves choosing a character, all of which are loosely based on gods with some sort of mention in real life.
Step two: CONQUER THE ENEMY TEAM’S CORE. Smash/burn/freeze/stab your way down the lanes, killing armies of minions as you go and if all goes to plan, finish up by destroying the enemy team’s tower(s), phoenix(es) and Titan – huzzah!
Technically this is all you need to know to begin, and can skip merrily into gameplay without a care in the world. However, after dying many – many – times, I can now say with confidence that there’s a lot to be said for coming up with strategies, working through them and having a small group of fellow mobateers to help you along the way.
Levelling works slightly differently in MOBAs in that everyone starts each instance at the same level regardless of how long you have been playing. It’s then a race to who can level-up the quickest, gaining strength, gold and kills.
This made it slightly more accessible for new people like me in the sense that you knew for example, Almighty_Cocopops94 wasn’t going to turn out to be some sort of massively overpowered Smite Titan who spends his time trolling the lanes with his lvl50 meat cleaver.
However, how you actually level-up quicker than the other team is a bit like asking your mate Steve what his favourite film is. You want one and it turns out there are hundreds and they change all the time. Damn you Steve.
And the worst part is, no-one ever really tells you how to do it, so aside from trawling through endless online guides or conveniently having a MOBA-connoisseur friend, there aren’t many ways to find out what your approach should be.
Luckily however, the games are well matched depending on your history of wins/losses, so if you’re having trouble picking up the strat, you won’t keep losing over and over again for long.
One of the ways to get your foot-up in the game is by getting in some early kills. If you just walk up to someone and start hitting them repeatedly, you may eventually kill them but lest we forget, they can hit back, and therefore it’s a bit of a suicide mission.
The best way seems to be to group up and ambush a couple of enemy players at the start of the game, while still keeping an eye on your lanes and protecting your towers.
As you can guess, this requires a good amount of coordination between players, and mirrors MMOs in the sense that everyone fills a specific role and they all need to be in the right place at the right time. If you’re a tank on your own – you will probably die. If you’re a damage dealer trying to take on an enemy party of four – you will definitely die. Horribly.
I need the jungle buff.
Luckily I have been levelling up with some fine friends so we can coordinate and react using voice chat over a light soundtrack of crisp munching and drink spilling/swearing. Unlike other MOBAs for example, Heroes of the Storm, there is no chat box, which I was relieved about because this means I don’t spend my evenings being told to delete the game/die of cancer – which unfortunately is the calibre of players we’re dealing with here. But it does also mean it can be very hard to communicate complex strategies with strangers, as only a few standard phrases can be communicated, such as “Hi”, “Attack middle lane” and a personal favourite, “I need the jungle buff”.
Early games can be played with randoms and you can always practise with AI, but as you progress, I’d say it’s quite important to group up with people you know so you can work together and pick demon character combinations. Plus no-one repeatedly shouts, “You suck!” while you’re still learning. (NB if your friends are doing this, then… get new friends).
Items. They’re great aren’t they? Whether it’s a gem, potion or some more timber for that Fallout shelter/casino/hot-tub you’ve been working on, they usually provoke a good response.
Items in Smite however will become the bane of your Smite-life – Smife, if you will (thanks). Not all MOBAs have these and so this aspect of Smite does make it a little less accessible.
As you start to stack up gold from crushing enemies, you can teleport back to base (or if you’re like me, just wait until you die and it’s all done for you – what a pro), open shop and buy additional items to complete your build. For example, you may want more defense, to do extra damage, reduce spell speed times etc. but there are lots to choose from and not really enough time to read through all the descriptions as you play, so it really is about learning what they all do and what they all look like. Easier said than done.
However, I soon learnt that you can sort of cheat by copying a build off a recent online guide and then put auto-build on. Woot.
The only issue with this is you won’t be able to react to specific teams. For example, if an enemy keeps using crowd control effects on you and you don’t have any purification beads (not those sorts of beads), then you will keep getting chained up/frozen/stunned/caged over and over again and are completely powerless to stop it. Booo.
So I have to concede, the items thing is kinda important, but again, not until you’ve started to progress and so you can pretty much rely on auto-build while you’re still practising.
If you’re still not convinced, then Heroes of the Storm might be a more accessible MOBA for you as it is a lot more forgiving and doesn’t expect everyone to know what everything does straight away. Instead of items, you choose a talent from a restricted list. The descriptions are shorter and you can easily work your way through as you go along.
Luckily I have been levelling-up with some fine friends so we can coordinate and react using voice chat over a light soundtrack of crisp munching and drink spilling/swearing…
If you’re trying out a new character or if you just want to play without your brain hurting, then Smite has just the ticket. The Arena is a mode unique to Smite which is laneless and is literally a PVP area where you can try out new tricks, get to grips with your attacks and if you’re paying attention to the rule-book, practise escorting minions to their relevant portal (however most people just ignore them). Arena games are quicker than their strategy-heavy, laned equivalents, and there isn’t much more to it than: you good team, hit bad team, try not to get hit by bad team, repeat.
I found it fun, light and with the AI option, you can leave anytime and just make your way through the gods like a big bag of pick and mix.
Smite has no subscription but like many online games, extras such as different looks (“skins”) or fancy profile designs will usually cost you a few quid. In return for your hard-earned cash, Hi-Rez regularly releases new gods and hosts seasonal events which so far have been really fun.
A big bunch of gankers
Up until now, I have never used the words Wombo Combo in a sentence.
Luckily for me, this has now changed and I can also use the words gank, smurf, hearthing, laning, jungling and oh, I found out who Karl is.
Yes, Smite has its own lexicon of MOBA-isms which, if you’re used to MOBAs already, is pretty easy to pick-up.
If you’re not used to MOBAs then don’t worry about it – there’s no chat so you’re probably not going to come across many of these terms anyway but if like me, you inadvertently end up talking to a Smite-veteran online and want to sound like you know what you’re talking about, there’s a helpful online Smite dictionary – a Smitionary, if you will (again, thanks), to help you with all your terminology-related woes. Go! Be free! Gank!
Noob vs Smite – Can it be done?
Of course it can. The world of MOBAs isn’t as scary as I first thought and even though Smite offers a slightly more challenging experience with a wide range of items, there are ways to get round it and you can jump in and start playing more or less from the outset.
In comparison to other MOBAs like Heroes of the Storm, Smite doesn’t have a fixed-camera perspective so you can easily scan the area around you. The arena is also pretty unique and eases you into gameplay in a refreshingly chat-free environment.
Saying that, once you get going, progression is fairly slow and learning the full extent of strategies as well as learning to react to specific character combinations can be quite daunting. But, if you have a good group of friends who you enjoy playing with, then that’s all that matters and Smite is a great platform for getting together and just having fun.
As a MOBA noob I can tell you I now play Smite almost every night and have been doing so since its release winning around 50% of our games. When we lose, I learn from it and it just makes me want to get better.
So my advice? Give it a go – you never know, you Smite like it *Drops mic*.