Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent slightly more time than I’m comfortable admitting playing Smite, Hi-Rez Studio’s new MOBA/third-person shooter hybrid. Being that I’m actually enjoying myself a whole lot, I figured I should try to explain why, in the hopes that some of you might give it a try and also enjoy yourselves a whole lot.

Joining me as I attempt to explain why Smite is something you should – at the very least – try out is… well, me. It’s okay. This might seem weird, but we’ve worked together before.

Hello. So, why should people play Smite?

If I could answer that in one paragraph, I probably wouldn’t have called the article that.

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Scylla is a personal favourite, not least because she can suddenly unleash GIANT TENTACLES OF DEATH.

Alright, fine. Then what is Smite?

The easiest way to sum it up is what I said above – it’s a hybrid between a third-person shooter (or at least, a third-person action game) and a MOBA. Rather than viewing the action from overhead, clicking where you want your hero to move or attack, you directly control him or her through WASD. You aim with the mouse, and click to swing your sword or fire your bow or hurl a spell or whatever. There’s obviously a lot more to it than that, but we’ll get to that a bit later.

The other rather excellent thing is that all of the playable characters are drawn from various mythologies. You’ve got Thor battling it out with Chang’e, Sun Wukong smacking Zeus in the face, Bacchus and Loki fending off Kali, etc. If you’ve got at least a reasonable grasp of mythology then most of the characters will be immediately familiar, and you can likely take a reasonable guess at how they play.

Oh, sorry; are you done? I stopped paying attention at “MOBA.”

Which you really shouldn’t have done, because it’s largely possible to play Smite without delving too much into the MOBA aspects.

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The behind-the-character viewpoint also means you really need to keep an eye on your minimap and ward effectively, because otherwise it’s very, very easy for people to sneak up on you.

Wait, what?

The traditional MOBA stuff – the multi-lane creep-pushing, with towers getting in the way, and calling “missing”, and all that? Only a few of the game modes focus on that. There are plenty more that are really centred around god-vs-god combat, instead of the meta that dictates how you should arrange your lanes.

Okay, that actually sounds a bit more interesting.

Honestly, I’ve barely touched the more “traditional” modes.

Go on, then. What are the other modes?

No. Let’s start with the MOBA modes, and get those out of the way first. Conquest is the “typical” 5v5 mode, with three lanes and a sizeable jungle, while Joust is a 3v3 mode with one lane and a small jungle. Honestly, these are really the focus of the game – Conquest in particular – but…

Why are you even having me ask questions if you’re just going to ignore them?

I’m just trying to get past the MOBA-y stuff so that we can talk about everything else in more detail, rather than have that hang over our heads!

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Things… can get a bit messy, in close-quarters.

Fine, fine. So are you ready to talk about the bits that are less MOBA-y now?

Sure. The other modes focus a lot less on the laning meta, and are instead all about hot god-on-god combat. There’s Assault, which gives everyone a random god and puts you into a single-lane battle with absolutely no jungle, so it’s just about pure pushing and five-on-five combat. There’s a mode which changes every day and provides a weird set-up, like “everyone plays Vulcan and starts with 100,000 gold.”

Then there’s Arena, which I’ve spent a lot of time playing.

Arena is five-on-five, but it’s set in a big open area. Rather than pushing to try to destroy the enemy’s Titan (the equivalent of a throne/ancient/heart/whatever) each team has 500 points, and you’re trying whittle your foes’ down to zero by killing their creeps, getting your creeps through their portal, or killing their gods. Obviously, killing an enemy god removes the most points.

This mode is fantastic, not least because you really don’t need to play it like a MOBA. Sure, you can push your creeps up and defend your portal, but you can just as easily ignore them and focus on the enemy gods. You level and get money quickly, games don’t tend to last too long, and if you’ve ever played a point-based game mode before in any shooter then it’s pretty easy to figure out what’s going on and how to play. To my mind, this is probably the best way to try out a new god in PvP.

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Yes, okay, Conquest mode does involve quite a lot of sitting in lanes and last-hitting, but the way it plays makes it feel quite different!

You mentioned levelling and items, though. Surely that requires some actual knowledge of the meta, and how the game works? I mean, if you don’t know which skills to level or which items to buy, then…

True enough, though Smite cleverly avoids this trap. You can actually set your skills to auto-level, and your items to auto-purchase. Obviously, you’re not going to be as effective doing this as if you’d chosen these things yourself – the auto-buy doesn’t really react to the situations you’re in, so you might really need some damage and it’ll buy you yet another defensive item – but when you’re starting out, it’s a nifty little option that removes a lot of the complication and lets you just run around punching gods in the face.

That said, I haven’t had too much difficulty getting to grips with the item system itself. Most items work on a fairly simple upgrade mechanic, where smaller items can easily be turned into bigger ones, and for the most part the items make sense. If something offers Magical Lifesteal, you can probably guess what it does.

Er. Isn’t that exactly what Dota 2 does, though? You buy small items, and turn them into bigger ones.

Yeah, but there, you sellotape multiple items together to make a bigger one. In Dota 2, Arcane Boots are brown boots + energy booster. Here, you’d just buy the brown boots, and – when they’re selected – you can see a big upgrade tree to the right. You don’t need to buy other items, you just need to pump gold into the one you’ve already got, and you can see all the possible ways that item can upgrade at a glance.

That’s all well and good, but it’s also extremely boring. Can we talk about the combat, instead?


Tim McDonald
Tim has been playing PC games for longer than he's willing to admit. He's written for a number of publications, but has been with PC Invasion - in all its various incarnations - for over a decade. When not writing about games, Tim can occasionally be found speedrunning terrible ones, making people angry in Dota 2, or playing something obscure and random. He's also weirdly proud of his status as (probably) the Isle of Man's only professional games journalist.

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