The Battlefield of the Gods Hit Xbox One
written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
MOBAs have taken over the gaming space in recent years, League of Legends and DOTA tournaments are played in packed venues with huge cash prizes. So with all the hubbub of where MOBAs are going and the continued popularity of this relatively new genre of gaming, one place it hasn’t hit hard was platforms outside of the PC Master Race. I know Vainglory is a iOS MOBA made for the mobile space, but we haven’t seen any of the more popular PC MOBAs step outside the mouse and keyboard crowd; until now.
Smite, a MOBA growing in popularity featuring Gods from various pantheons of mythology, has hit the Xbox One; opening up MOBAs to a whole new audience. Xbox One users can now play Smite, and just like its PC counterpart, it is free-to-play.
In preparation of this article, I decided to start playing Smite. I’m only a couple weeks in and though I’ve played League of Legends, DOTA, and Infinite Crisis (rest in peace), Smite grabbed my attention in ways other MOBAs haven’t. Speaking of DOTA and LoL, I just couldn’t find myself caring about the characters. Maybe I wasn’t as invested in the game, but the cast of characters of both games, especially DOTA, never drew me in. I may be slightly unfair to DOTA, but with a cast of heroes like Axe, Sven, Pudge… their whole roster felt boring to me. What Smite has over the competition, and what Infinite Crisis had but unfortunately couldn’t make work, was immediate recognition of its cast of characters. Ask any random person and if you ask them about Jinx from LoL or DOTA’s Omniknight, you’re likely to draw a “raised eyebrow” with a side of “perplexed confusion.” Follow suit with and rattle off the names Zeus, Thor, Osiris, and Hercules… unless they’ve been living under a rock or utterly failed Mythology 101, you’re likely to get a response… at least a “you mean that one guy Kevin Sorbo used to play?”
This is where Smite’s greatest strength lies, a new player may not understand the intricacies of the traditional “three-lane destroy the tower” objective of MOBAs, but it does draw a crowd in who dig mythology and want to control Zeus as he rains lightning on the battlefield. Another aspect of Smite that set it apart from the MOBA crowd is the game’s perspective. In lieu of a top-down isometrical view, you control your God from a third person perspective. Comparing Smite to LoL and DOTA, combat is more immersive, due in large part to the fast-paced action only possible thanks to its third person perspective. SO! I’ve rambled at length about what this game is, now let’s get down to comparing the console version to PC.
Growing up as a dedicated console player, and thanks to the very first time I played Halo back in the original Xbox days, using the left analog stick to move while using the right analog stick to control where I look is like second nature to me. I don’t know if it’s because the competition is better on PC or if it’s thanks to using a gamepad, but I noticed I was quite a bit more accurate aiming with two analog sticks as opposed to mouse and keyboard. Granted, since I’ve literally played Smite every day since I first downloaded it, I am getting better on PC; but in the interest of writing this piece, I spent a considerable amount of time playing the various game modes on the Xbox One.
The biggest strength in playing on console is the use of voice chat to coordinate with your team, rather than using generic phrases, you can simply say to your party “Loki, gank right!” or “Zeus, protect the middle phoenix.” While this is a strength, it does lead to the games biggest downfall. Even though new Xbox One consoles came with a standard mic in-box for voice chat, I couldn’t for the life of me get a random party together of people who were all using mics. Sure, I could just coordinate with my friends to get online with me to ensure we get a party of all mic’d players, but in the interest of sharing a real world account of what matchmaking is like on any given day, I just jumped into random matches with random players.
Not having a mic and having very limited auto commands to coordinate tactics made modes like Conquest (the standard three-lane MOBA game mode) and Joust (a 3v3 single lane game mode) cripplingly difficult to play. This isn’t that big of a deal in modes like Arena where combat is pure 5v5 battle with zero objectives aside from kill the minions and any enemy Gods in your path; but in game modes that require synergistic team communication to win, unless everyone was mic’d you just hoped to Odin that the other teams sucks a little bit more than you.
On the gamepad, skills are all mapped to face buttons, and with each god given four skills this feels made for gamepad gameplay. Holding down the left trigger as a modifier allows you to select one of your two consumable item slots or active item slots in the same regard. This dramatically speeds up using abilities for those not used to keyboard and mouse gameplay and fit right at home for the console version.
Visually, both platforms look great. Running Smite on decent mid to high quality graphic settings look much like it does on the Xbox One. The uniformity between both products is fantastic, and the ability to link your Hi-Rez account to your Xbox Live account lets those who have already unlocked quite a few gods in PC to jump right into Xbox without having to fiddle with the whole tutorial bit and leveling up to at least level 5. It must be noted that this can only be done once, and just because you link the two accounts it does not allow growth and unlocks to transfer after performing the link. Let’s say you were level 15 when you linked the two accounts, even if you go back to PC and level yourself up to 20 and unlock a few more gods, that progress will not reflect the Xbox One version. It’s a bit puzzling and I admit that I wish I had progressed quite a bit further before I followed through with linking my accounts. But I can see the point in it, the in game currency for unlocking Gods and cosmetic skins for your Gods are gems. Just playing the game you can earn gems slowly, but if you really want that Nurse Neith skin, you can drop real world money into the game and buy gems. If the two accounts were truly linked, then what’s stopping people from popping over to PC to earn gems through promotions or various third party surveys as opposed to purchasing the in-game currency through the Xbox Live marketplace?
So, where does the console version stand for a dedicated PC player? While I enjoyed playing on console and would do so again, I feel I will put most of my effort into progressing on PC, only hopping over to play with console-only friends occaisionally. While it does offer options for the dedicated PC player, I see Smite on Xbox One drawing in new players to the series… and the genre as a whole… rather than populating it with those who already play regularly on PC.
Before I end this piece though, I wanted to give a shout out to a player I met on Smite. Major props to RektemM80 for being an awesome player and going out of his way to take a newbie like me under his wing and show him the ropes. Much of the online community of Smite is pretty darn tootin' awesome to be honest. But there are a few bad eggs I had to report for being assholes, but that can be said about anything on the internet eh?
If you dig mythology and want a fun, fast-paced, and exciting MOBA to play... this may be right up your alley. If you are an Xbox One user, you can finally find out what all those PC players are fussing about.