Has Smite been improved by its updates?

smiteheader

Update Night is a fortnightly column in which Rich McCormick revisits games to find out whether they’ve been changed for better or worse.

Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of the Hindu faith, is legendarily generous, wise, and optimistic. He’s a patron of the arts and sciences, and busies himself by working to remove obstacles in the path of honest and caring people.

It’s not really on then, I’d say, to call him a “fucking idiot.”

That’s just what my teammates in deity-themed MOBA Smite kept doing, though. Maybe they had it in for the kind, gentle, and benevolent god? Maybe that was why they spent half an hour just absolutely roasting him? Or maybe it was my fault. You see, this was my first time playing Smite as fairly recent addition Ganesha, and I didn’t really get how he worked. I died. I died a lot.

I’d started the match by dying to Thanatos. It was appropriate — Thanatos is the Greek personification of death, after all — but my teammates apparently weren’t ones for dramatic irony. What they were ones for, and what Smite’s community seems to revel in, was the dishing out of constant abuse. It’s not just Ganesha (or just me) that they’re unhappy with, either. Smite might look different to its MOBA peers, with an over-the-shoulder third-person camera that makes it seem more like a shooter than a Dota clone, but it’s inherited the same community problems evident in League of Legends and friends. Even playing on the South East Asian servers, where English isn’t necessarily the default language, matches regularly devolved into full-on “fuck”-fests: slanging matches between team-mates who blamed each other for everything wrong in the match, the game, and the world.

Smite 2018-02-04 02-19-11-01

Smite has multiple modes, but its five-on-five Conquest mode is its most traditional MOBA-ish variant, and remains the easiest selection to secure a quick match. As is to be expected, the mode uses the same map every game, but the three-lane arena has been widened and rejigged for a fresh year of competition. Its jungle, in particular, feels more dense and dangerous from an over-the-shoulder view than it does from the genre’s traditional top-down camera angle, the tight vision cone meaning gankery can come from any corner.

As Ganesha, I was the victim to many of those ganks. I had more success with Hachiman — the Japanese god of war and archery. Where Ganesha needed to support his peers, to ward and rescue and flit around the map propping up his allies, Hachiman has a much simpler role: shoot the enemies. Kitted out with a bow, a snazzy war mask, and a horse he seems to keep in his pocket, Hachiman’s a fairly pure damage dealer, able to lay down a blanket of fire in his lane before melting weaker foes with a hail of flaming arrows. That’s if you can keep him alive, though: he’s just a man in a battle between ice trolls, mega-turtles, and thunder lords, and is subsequently squishy in team fights. Learning how to stay at the back of battles is key, as well as knowing when to tower dive, to commit to a kill, and how to escape if everything goes wrong.

Smite 2018-02-03 20-37-38-89

There’s is some more serious deviation here from other MOBAs, however. There’s less emphasis on last-hitting in order to get gold and experience: players get smaller payouts of both even if they just stand near AI creeps as they whack each other to death. This more streamlined system, plus the removal of DotA’s denial mechanic, hint at Smite’s status as a cross-platform game that finds its home on Xbox and PlayStation as well. This change, as well as an auto-buy system that lets you customise your planned item purchases before a game, makes Smite sound like a less fiddly option for people who want a DotA-like but whose APM won’t light up their keyboards.

Smite is resolutely not a simpler entryway into a complicated genre. Every god typically has at least one skill that requires careful aim: the kinds of skillshots that are rarer in competitors like League of Legends and Dota 2. Of the gods’ four active skills, the first two typically dish out damage, either in an arc or a straight line, while their third functions as a dash, used either to initiate fights or escape from them. This setup is evident in Ganesha — who was only added to the game last April — as well as fellow new deities like Cerberus, Artio, and Discordia. Some of the newer gods stray a little further from this template, though. Cernunnos, also added last year, is slightly different in that rather than acting as a straight-line projectile, his first skill changes the properties of his basic shuriken attack, imbuing the throwing star with extra damage, debuffs, lifesteal, or a slowing effect, depending on the season he’s selected. It’s a system that allows for some lovely combos, but shows how complex Smite’s teamfights can be, forcing Cernunnos players to cycle through and track four different attack options while juggling three other skills, their own mana and health bars, as well as keeping tabs on the actions of up to nine other players.

Hi-Rez has kept up a steady pace with their release of new gods, churning out new additions to the heavens every month or so since the game’s full launch. While Smite is free-to-play, its gods aren’t — at least, not for brand new players. A one-off payment of £20 will unlock all 93, but for people who don’t want to spend a penny, gods can also be made available with “Favor”: an in-game currency earned by playing matches. Most gods clock in at 5,500 favor if you want to buy them outright. That’s barring the newest release (Cerberus at the time of writing), which will set you back 11,000.

Smite 2018-02-05 00-46-35-20

It’s not quick to earn the favor you’ll need to get a new god — especially if you want heaven’s new hotness — but it’s not noticeably egregious, either. I got enough for greedy Norse dwarf Fafnir after a week of evening play, with quests, level gains, and match wins contributing to my total. Fafnir’s got some interesting skills

In other ways, sadly, it’s very much a typical MOBA. Part of this is a function of the genre itself. MOBAs are so dependent on the majority of your teammates operating like a gestalt entity: the best players look like they’re in their teammates’ heads; the worst players can seem like they’re actively sabotaging their actions, and the reaction to anything other than robotic perfection is often abuse. But Smite’s game flow in particular seems to compound this problem. Hi-Rez’s game emphasises god-on-god team fights, with a short laning phase in comparison with Dota 2 and League of Legends. Players who don’t get in on these fights early, and — crucially — win them can be left way behind in terms of levels. This leads to an abundance of steamroller victories: where the team that fell behind early has no hope of clawing their way back to a potential victory.

And those steamroller defeats in turn feed the cycle of abuse. Longtime players could just demand that neophytes suck it up and get good, but four years after Smite’s release, there’s still not much space for new players to actually do that — to get their head around these skills if they haven’t already committed significant time to a MOBA before. A basic tutorial explains the concepts of the game, but more advanced concepts like last hitting, jungling, and warding are only sketched in vague strokes. In Conquest and Joust modes, players are expected to be up-to-speed with these stock ideas, as well as understand the complex relationships between Smite’s 90-plus gods, despite having no safe space to practice their skills. Even with a thousand hours of other MOBA-ing under my belt, it felt like an (appropriately) Herculean task. For brand new players, it could be positively hellish.

12 Comments

  1. D3 says:

    Smite does have a share of nasty players, however conquest is where you’ll find the majority… It’s a terrible place to learn the game or a new character. I personally will play any mode but conquest. Also the community is more populated on weekends but also seems more toxic.

    My best game experience has been to play on weekdays only and avoid conquest. If anyone is nasty, mute them right away and report post match. Friending kind players is also a great idea, people who are actively the opposite of toxic, who show good sportsmanship and are having fun or offering good advice.

    Above all, if you enjoy the game (and this should apply to any multiplayer game) make sure you’re one of the courteous players! Don’t be toxic and then complain about the community, be part of the solution.

    • Chairman_Meow says:

      Seconded. The idea that Conquest is the easiest to find a match or a good place to experiment with a new god is ludicrous. (I have 2 years in near daily play on the PS4 version) Arena is where you’ll want to mess around with new gods, Joust for a quicker “lane based” game. Conquest is where folks tend to take things seriously and competitively, and if you aren’t playing the ADC in the correct lane or whatever, people get salty. Also: Ganesha (I’m Diamond with him) is unique in that he doesn’t get kills (except in very specific circumstances) but gives kills to allies. He’s the support’s support class. Smite definitely has it’s share of toxic/immature players (YOU ROCK! CANCEL THAT! spammed 100x) but as the above poster says, be the change you want to see in the world. Get friends to play, tip good or respectful allies after the match, friend people who play for fun etc. Smite is a good game and gets regular updates to keep things fresh, I’ve spent maybe $15 over 2 years (or so) and mastered 40+ gods. It handles its pay model pretty well (you don’t need money to get good or enjoy it) but I will say it prices it’s cosmetics etc fairly high. If you get daily log in bonuses you can get a decent amount of Gems (the premium currency) just by showing up over time.

  2. Viral Frog says:

    So, I dunno if I’m just tired or what, but one thing I didn’t get from the article… has Smite been improved by its updates? I see that they’ve added a lot, that the system for earning new characters to play isn’t exactly terrible, and the community is expectedly toxic because MOBA… but nothing to tell me one way or the other if it has improved at all.

    • Evan_ says:

      The article gives all the information we need to decide for ourselves.

      That was exactly my experience when I played Smite for about 8 months when there was only 20-30 gods available. So if tripling the number of characters to have the exact same experience with is an improvement, then Smite has definitely improved.

      • Chairman_Meow says:

        Other than balance tweaks, new gods, and various overhauls of the items it hasn’t changed too much. If you didn’t like it a year ago, you probably won’t now. That said, if you did like it before, there are compelling reasons to return.

      • Darloth says:

        Not if we never played it originally.

        As someone who hasn’t played Smite but is vaguely interested in it from a distance, I felt this article didn’t contain enough of the “back then” to make a useful comparison, even if it’s reasonably good at explaining the “now”.

        So, I can’t easily extrapolate as to whether it’s going to continue improving or getting worse or staying the same, because I’m not really sure which is occuring.

        The one relevant piece of information to this is that Hi-Rez keep releasing new gods, so it does at least point to a frequently updated game. A little more of that sort of thing next time so we can use it for the purpose the title suggests, please?

        Otherwise I thought the actual article was fine, it just didn’t really match the title.

  3. M0dusPwnens says:

    One thing that I think might bear some further discussion, especially in the context of MOBAs, is a certain kind of entitlement in new player expectations.

    I would be embarrassed to join the main, competitive game mode as a new player and let all my teammates down. I wouldn’t feel like a “fucking idiot” for playing poorly – after all, I’m new – but I might feel like one for knowingly wasting 9 other people’s time like that. For some games, it’s obviously a problem of not having other modes to try first at all, but I played a little Smite years ago, and I definitely remember other, less competitive modes and means of gaining some experience with a character.

    The expectation that you should be able to jump straight into a complicated team game and that people shouldn’t express anger when that decision ruins their game, seems extremely selfish to me.

    Clearly, other people feel strongly that this should not be the case, and believe these responses to be indicative of toxic communities (admittedly most MOBA communities have plenty of other toxicity too).

    I guess you could chalk it up as bad design – the game should warn you away from the mode or make it inaccessible – but I think that’s tougher than it seems (since it makes another problem worse: the existing difficulty of getting people who ARE ready for more competitive game modes and would enjoy them to get rid of their training wheels), and moreover I’m not sure if I want to live in a world where players act like sociopaths and then, when confronted, feel like it’s totally okay to shrug and say “well, they didn’t do anything to force me to behave as if I’m playing with other humans who have feelings”.

    • D3 says:

      Counterpoint: I think it’s selfish to lash out at strangers just because you’re angry. If you percieve a teammate is doing poorly offer help.

      You might not have complete control over your emotions but ultimately you bear complete responsibility for your reaction to them, and if that reaction is to take the time to flame or taunt another player then that is indeed a selfish action.

  4. grizzledgamer says:

    I enjoy Smite a lot. But play Assault almost exclusively. People tend to be way more forgiving (but not always) in that mode due to the random god selection. It’s good for learning late-game combat in other modes as well since it’s a full team fight from the start.

    • Hieronymusgoa says:

      Same for me. I only play Assault or Arena because I love mythologies and gods but I never had the energy again after LoL (and suck there except as a suppport) for getting properly into a MOBA.

  5. Hydrataur says:

    Please to any players who are maybe looking to get into Smite, DON’T PLAY CONQUEST WHEN YOU’RE NEW.
    Not only is it extremely toxic if you do bad, but you’re also wasting the time of 9 other players.
    Play in the less competitive modes in order to learn how to play the gods. That’s why they exist.

  6. VeggyZ says:

    Every single MOBA community with not even a tiny exception “revel in abuse” – they’re more abusive than any other communities and often by far.

    What’s funny then, is that you can do things like look at players of said game’s steam profiles and over half the time you find out things you never wanted to know, like they date their sister or are otherwise inbred. Or they’re just mentally stunted adult children.

    Either way, I’m left to surmise that berating people in games they’ve literally spent thousands of hours playing because they likely have not is one of the only ways in their lives that they can have a leg up on someone, and make themselves feel “good”. What attracts those types to MOBA’s the most? certainly, they exist in other genre’s but not nearly in the amount, and aren’t nearly as extreme most of the time – I don’t know why MOBA’s draw them in like they do.

    Maybe it’s just due to the addictive competetive nature of the games, and how they – as weak minded, self control-less “human beings” (lol) don’t have the power to control that addiction and get stuck. That’s my pet theory anyway – it’s undeniable though, that they do migrate towards MOBA’s and every MOBA community is plagued by something far worse than rats or the black death.