Lanes, creeps, bases, heroes - these are the defining characteristics of the MOBA (what's a MOBA? click here to find out!) formula, and while this framework is pretty static, the gameplay experience is dependent far more on strategic team play and player input instead of map or creep variety. So how can new MOBAs hope to compete with a well-established title like League of Legends or DotA? Well, all Hi-Rez Studios did was change the camera angle.
Smite, Hi-Rez’s upcoming MOBA, abandons the isometric camera view for a third-person angle - think Monday Night Combat but with swords, magic, and skull-crushing hammers instead of shotguns and sniper rifles. While this may seem like a simple tweak initially, the third-person view completely changes the gameplay dynamic.
Above: Check out the first trailer for the game
For starters, every attack - including normal attacks - requires user input. You can’t just right click on a creep to begin auto-attacking, you have to physically position your character within range, aim, and initiate an attack. Nothing is a sure hit in Smite because everything is a skill shot. When it comes to character-specific abilities, pressing a hotkey brings up a silhouette of the chosen ability so you can plan the placement of skills like frontal cone-based attacks or crowd-control abilities. Combat here is extremely fast-paced and exciting.
At the core, Smite’s fundamentals are nothing new. Teams of five must push lanes, down defensive towers, and overrun the enemy base while taking out Phoenix defenses - powerful fiery turrets - and the base’s boss, a tough high-level minotaur that can decimate an ill-equipped team in seconds. It’s pretty comical when you interrupt a successful enemy push and wipe them while they’re duking it out with your base’s minotaur.
Naturally, engaging in team battles and clearing out creeps rewards players with experience points for leveling up (with the cap set at 20) and currency, which can then be spent on items to build your character, as well as up to three abilities with long cooldowns (akin to League of Legends’ Summoner abilities). There’s a sprint, mana regen, health regen, AoE buff or slow, and more, and all of these must be purchased from within a match instead of being equipped beforehand.
Above: Odin fights a cyclops (find out more information on the heroes in the gallery above)
And while Smite’s map is similar to the typical MOBA arena (three lanes, jungles in between, and a base on each end), the third-person view has a dramatic effect on map awareness. You can’t see through walls, so you’ll never know what’s on the other side of a lane if your team’s not communicating. When in the jungle areas, a heavy fog blankets the zone and reduces visibility. Team communication and paying attention to your minimap and is more essential than ever, especially when making team battle pushes or trying to gank junglers.
As for characters, Smite’s heroes are gods based on actual mythologies, including Norse, Greek, Egyptian, Chinese, and Hindu. We had a chance to play around with Ra, the ancient Egyptian sun god who uses light-based damage abilities and support buffs, as well as Odin, who is exceptionally good at stabbing people until they are dead. Every character has three main abilities, an ultimate, and a passive skill, all of which can be powered up as the player increases in level.
With 15 characters already in the mix and plenty more on the way, Smite will have an admirable casting lineup once it hits open beta (which is said to be coming "soon-ish"), and it seems poised to become our next MOBA obsession.