Full Disclosure: Review Code provided by Hi-Rez Studios.
Hi-Rez have made a real push to get their library of Free-To-Play titles on Switch. Last year we got the superb Hero-Shooter Paladins – a game that managed to squeeze an amazing 60FPS experience onto Nintendo’s hybrid. They are going for the home-run this year with SMITE: Battleground of the Gods. SMITE has been knocking around since 2012 and has managed to keep up with the tag-team behemoths that are League of Legends and DOTA 2. But can this ‘Titan’ (see what I did there?) of a game be condensed onto our teeny-tiny Switch?
I am happy to report that yes, yes it can. SMITE gives you 100 beautifully detailed Gods from Norse, Egyptian, Chinese, Japanese, Hindu. Mayan, Roman, Celtic and Greek Mythology – with a sprinkling of Arthurian Legend for good measure. Each God has been given an incredible amount of care to keep them true to their roots, with many being instantly recognisable if you have a passing interest in the worlds ancient Pantheons. Whilst SMITE omits certain religions – likely to avoid upsetting large swathes of the world – if you feel that smacking Ganesha in the face with Mjolnir is a bit distasteful, then SMITE might not be the game for you. For everyone else, lets dig a bit deeper.
Like the God of the Sun himself, SMITE is a shining beacon as to what online experiences can be on the Switch. The game runs spectacularly – sporting a rock solid 60FPS in Docked and Handheld mode. Whats more, the graphical downgrade is minor at best, and I was hard pressed to pick out more than a handful of noticeably worse flares. SMITE is a resounding success technically – beta or not. Just to add a big, delicious cherry to the top of SMITES velvety cake, we even have Cross-Platform and Cross-Progression. Now you can play SMITE anyway, with any account, against anyone, on any platform – apart from PS4 – because Sony doesn’t like you to have friends.
So what exactly is a MOBA? Well simply put you and a band of 4 other rag-tag Gods duke it out in a 5v5 brawl on a fairly sizeable map. Your end goal is to destroy your enemies various defences before taking your Divine fervour into their base and destroying their Titan. A simple concept made much more complicated when you consider there are 100 Gods to pick from, items to buy, 3 Lanes in which battles will be fought, a sizeable jungle full of monsters, and hordes of hostile minions running down each lane. The term simple to learn, hard to master springs to mind here.
MOBA’s are typically played from Top-Down perspective, however one of SMITE’s biggest selling points is that the camera has been dragged down to a Third-Person perspective. This change fundamentally alters how you play SMITE, making it truly unique in the genre. Map awareness and communication are now pivotal to your success, as you can no longer peer across to another lane. Despite this change of view, SMITE is still very much a MOBA, so attacks and abilities all have ranges and different areas of influence. So even if you have a bow, you can’t exactly shoot more than a few feet in front of you. As with all MOBA’s positioning is the name of the game.
SMITE’s 100 God Roster is nicely split into broad archetypes which give you a very rough idea of what to expect. Guardians soak up damage, apply strong crowd control effects and generally let your team do the killing. Warriors are similar to Guardians in that they are fairly tanky, but have a much bigger focus on damage. These guys are your bruisers. Assassins are highly mobile Gods who get in, murder key targets and get out before they get wasted. Mages use their skills to deal huge damage to the enemy team, often in a large area. Finally we have Hunters. Hunters use basic ranged attacks to deal considerable, consistent damage to single targets. Positioning and accuracy are key.
SMITE slowly drip feeds you new modes in which to take your Gods. Six modes in fact. You start off with Arena and Joust. Arena gives you a coliseum-esque map that lets you get to grips with the basics of combat. Joust takes the 3 lane MOBA formula and distills it into a single lane for 3 players – basically giving you a taste of the full game and teaching you team work. From here you unlock Conquest, the core MOBA experience before eventually getting your hands on Siege, Assault and Domination – a series of modes that veer wildly from the base formula in a way that brilliantly breaks up any monotony you might experience.
As I mentioned earlier, SMITE is a technical marvel on the Switch. But this is still a Beta, and as a result it still has its flaws. The biggest issue SMITE faces is its poor matchmaking. It can take upwards of 10 minutes to get into a match because the game simply fails to place you into a party. Considering the Switch is portable machine and playing on my lunch break is a thing that I do daily, it was endlessly frustrating watching my time being wasted. Just to add a bit more salt to the wounds, the game also crashed a handful of times, although these were fairly infrequent.
Now SMITE is going to be Free-to-Play game in the future, however that is not currently the case. To access SMITE’s Closed Beta you have to fork over a fairly substantial sum. You do get some very nice perks, such as all current and future Gods, some cool skins and some in-game currency, but this entry fee seriously limits the Switch’s player-base. This is somewhat alleviated by Cross-Platform, but being a newbie in a world of experienced PC/Xbox players is not the greatest first impression.
Speaking of skins and currency, SMITE also comes with a premium store. This is typical of F2P titles and Hi-Rez have a habit of giving us a really solid model. The only thing you can buy are cosmetics, or Gods – and considering you already have every God ever, the shop is a nice place to visit when you want to add some style to your favourite God. My only gripe is the inclusion of Loot Boxes. This makes getting the Skin you want much more difficult since you have to roll a dice and hope for the best. Not all skins are locked away like this, but its still a blemish on an otherwise solid model.
Overall SMITE is a brilliant addition to Switch eShop. Whilst there are some issues with the game, these issues are heavily overshadowed by a fantastic game that truly shines on the Switch. If you are a fan of MOBA’s, I highly recommend you give SMITE a shot, even at its current price. If you are still on the fence, then just wait it out and play it when it becomes F2P. For me, this game will be sitting snugly on my Home Screen for quite some time.
I give SMITE a 4 on the Toaster Scale. You grab yourself a crusty bloomer, pop that bad boy in and get blessed with a crispy piece heaven. Slap on some quality butter, maybe some cheese and you have a slice of toast you won’t soon forget.
Follow me on Twitter @gameswithtoasty, or join the Games With Toasty Facebook page here for exclusive updates on the future of the blog, as well as notifications for when the latest articles drop. Happy gaming.