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Justin Clouse | 10 Aug 2012 21:45
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There are two aspects to Smite's item system that I'm currently not a huge fan of though. Every item is bought in tiers, you buy the first level of a specific item and upgrade it twice into its final form. There's nothing particularly bad with this system, but I found it less interesting than recipe format of buying various other items together to combine them from other games. The other issue with the items might take a bit of theorycrafting and number crunching to confirm besides a gut instinct, but items' level of impact doesn't seem like its high enough. At no point in my matches would I finish an item and get that feeling now that I have X item I can really start putting down the hurt. By the end, I could certainly tell that I was stronger, but somehow the milestones don't feel as weighty.

Given the over the shoulder perspective, the typical DOTA like genre configuration of using the mouse to move and issue commands doesn't really work as well. So instead Smite handles a bit more like an MMO, with the WASD keys driving your movements and the mouse being locked to looking around and aiming. Skills and attacking are likewise affected since now you no longer have access to the mouse to click a target. Smite makes heavy use of "skill shots", which are abilities and attacks that must be manually targeted. Your basic attacks either swing or shoot out in front of you and it's up to you to position your avatar correctly for them to land. Your skill shots are generally a bit more forgiving, with extensive use of cones or area of effect attacks, but you still need to point the right way lest you risk whiffing with your most powerful attack.

So that all sounds fine enough, but what does it actually change? The big difference between Smite and other DOTA games is the greater emphasis on player skill in certain aspects. If you're playing the archer Artemis you need to, actually be in range for your arrows to hit and properly aim in order to hit your targets. Vice versa, the more tank-like Ymir can physically block for a weaker character by standing in the way of attacks. You'll also need to be more careful to defend yourself from being ambushed or "ganked", the third-person camera makes it easy to see down your lane, but it also means it's easier for your opponents to sneak up behind you because that's now a blind spot. You need to be vigilant in watching the mini-map and noting when the enemy isn't visible. Team fights also get quite chaotic with all the spells going off right in your face, but there is a certain sense of pride as you start learning to parse what's going on and what you should be doing to most help your team. A god might have a big aoe attack that deals a ton of damage, but only if the enemy stays in that area. That's where the teamwork comes in by say combining Zeus's lighting storms with Odin's ring of spears to pen them in. There could be some improvements with some sharper and more distinct visuals though, especially when all ten players are in a single fight throwing around a combined 20 abilities.

Smite will be free-to-play with a dual currency microtransaction system, favor and gems. Favor is gained by playing game and gems can be purchased for money. New gods, custom skins and various bonuses can be purchased with either of the two currencies, but besides having a larger pantheon of god characters to draw from, nothing purchasable directly affects your in-game power. There is even a much welcome practice mode where you can try any god before buying them. Some of the prices feel a little off. You gain roughly 70 favor each match, but a new god costs 5500. However, you do gain bonus favor for your first win of the day and a hefty amount for leveling up. A lot of these numbers are still in beta just like the rest of the game, and developer Hi-Rez Studious was receptive to concerns when pricing for Tribes: Ascend. The gem, real money currency, is pretty reasonably priced at around $4.00 to unlock a new god, even less if you buy in bulk. There's currently even a nice sale to have all the starting 30 gods for a dollar each.

A lot of games have been trying to iterate the design and success of DOTA, but it can be refreshing to see a developer run with a crazy idea and see what directions that takes the gameplay. I enjoyed my time with the Smite beta. There's certainly some room for improvement, but that's what beta tests are for.

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