SMITE is one of the largest MOBAs on the planet and has been for years now. In fact, it’s currently celebrating its 10th anniversary! Quite the achievement. Honestly for several years I’ve seen gameplay and thought about how much I would like to really get into it. It’s pure, tactical PvP after all, right? There are other juggernauts in the space like League of Legends, but the isometric/top down camera doesn’t really immerse me in the gameplay enough. I’m a third-person, over-the-shoulder kind of fella when in comes to gaming.
Now, after having played a few different versions of Epic Games’ Paragon MOBA, I figured it was high time I gave SMITE the what-for. But holy cow it’s not what I wanted. It’s not what I wanted at all! It was a brutal experience, and I am shocked. I couldn’t end those matches and log off quickly enough. This is not a game for me.
I really thought this was going to be an awesome experience. I know how to play a MOBA, but apparently I don’t know how to play SMITE. There are even several members of the MOP team that have played it before; MJ used to stream it pretty regularly too. So I was really, really looking forward to it. Maybe I should know myself and what I like enough by now to know that there’s a reason I haven’t played a MOBA as a mainstay before. But I still fell for it and paid the price in frustration and some salty words with the screen.
Probably the best way to convey this whole experience is to walk you through my evening in SMITE beginning with installation. On the first launch of the game, it prompts a choice between the 32- or 64-bit client. Well, typically 64-bit is the future, so I went with that, and the game failed to load because of some missing .dll error. A few web searches later and I found that using the 32-bit client would fix me up – and it did.
Now, I’m a fan of tutorials. I actually am. I don’t mind if they are simple and hold my hand. If you can walk me through 15 minutes of gameplay for a solid base understanding of how to play your game, then I’m on board. SMITE kind of does that. It sets you up with an archer character and walks you though some info about how to use it. It gives you some tips on killing NPCs before going for the heroes too. However, the map didn’t feel like a typical three-lane map. It was more like an arena with everyone fighting in the middle until… something happened that triggered the end of the tutorial match. I’m not really sure.
But then after the match, prior to loading the lobby fully, SMITE commits one of the most cardinal of gamer sins. One of those that I usually only see out of pure, cash-grab mobile games: it immediately directed me to the store for showing off their fancy stuff. Like, come on! I’m here to play some PvP and see if your game is worth my time. After you’ve got me hooked, sure shove your shinies in my face. But at this stage, I barely even know what I’m looking at. It’s annoying and started me off with a bad taste in my mouth.
After a few different pop-ups tried to explain the interface I was able to check out the actual game modes. Once again, since I didn’t really get a tutorial on the typical MOBA mode I wanted to see if there was a better introduction here. Then the second major sin hit me: a video tutorial. An honest to goodness, 3- or 5-minute video explaining the map, mode, and typical load outs. I’m stunned. Really stunned. I expect that from a small outfit, but I couldn’t believe that’s the best they could offer me. Well, whatever I basically know how to play MOBAs. I just needed to figure out which heroes go to which lanes and I can at least be comfortable I’m not picking something completely dumb.
SMITE couldn’t do that for me, though. What the hell? After Paragon: The Overprime laid it out so simply for me, I figured it’d be a no-brainer that SMITE would do it as well. But no, I guess there’s a base level of knowledge you just need to have to know what heroes play where. Which I thought I had. But then I see the classes are hunter, guardian, and mage and the timer is ticking and players are waiting on me and I hate it.
Now, in my second match I realized you can select your role by clicking under your name during character selection to filter down the heroes that fill that role. This would’ve been useful to see during that tutorial earlier. I’d have liked if it also had this listed in the hero details where it shows them as warrior or whatever. It’s obviously something only a complete noob like me has issues with, so once you’ve played a bit, you just know. But it was enough friction that I was already getting annoyed.
And then, just as my match was about to pop – crash, straight to desktop. That’s pretty weird considering I haven’t really had any hard crashes like that in a while. I queued up again, and just as the match was about to begin, it crashed again. Rinse and repeat about two or three more times. This is a big game, not some random indie. Why is this happening?
Well, I didn’t have any issues with the tutorial so maybe something is up with the Conquest mode. It’s bizarre, but that’s what it is beginning to look like. I didn’t have any issues playing the Arena mode, and Slash worked… mostly. Slash did crash to desktop once, but the other two times were no problem.
Finally came the actual matches. Oh boy, what a slog. I’m a short-and-sweet-match kind of gamer. I’ve waxed indignant dozens of times about how much I loathe long matches. I’ve known this for years now, but so many games lean for that 20- to 30-minute mark, so I’m trying to find one that changes me for the better. This was not it. To be fair, SMITE gets some points for noting the average match time for each mode right at selection time, so I wasn’t surprised at all. I knew how long it would take. But I guess I didn’t expect to be so bummed about the experience.
I had hopes that I’d have fun and the matches would fly by. Instead, time ground to a halt. I could feel my every breath flow in and out. Each beat echoed in my skull as the blood pulsed through my veins – a maddening sound that only I was privy to. I wanted for anything to make it end. The suffering was true and near unbearable. But then I yelled a few choice phrases and broke the curse as the match finally ended.
The gameplay itself was fine. Except, as with Paragon: The Overprime, combat just moves too slowly for me. Except for the moments when you’re getting burst down. Those kill you basically instantly. I didn’t love that.
The animations and vibes that SMITE puts out are top notch. But that just couldn’t make it work for me. For the 40 million gamers out there who do like SMITE (including on our own staff!), I’m genuinely glad for you. However, this one is going to be a hard pass for me.