Smite Open Beta Review

Ye gods!

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GameSpot's open beta reviews evaluate unfinished games that are nonetheless available to the public. While the games in question are not considered finished by their creators, you may still devote time and bandwidth for the privilege of playing them before they are complete. The review below critiques a work in progress, and represents a snapshot of the game at the time of the review's publication.

Ever wanted to feel like a god? Omnipotence is a lovely thing, after all. Even lesser deities like Dionysus seem to make life a party. Hi-Rez Studios' Smite, currently in open beta, offers you the opportunity to control a god in an online battle arena to which you've added your own twists.

Although more known for its work on Global Agenda and Tribes: Ascend, Hi-Rez has brought the high skill cap competitive focus to the multiplayer online battle arena genre, shifting out of the top-down real-time strategy view that birthed the genre and giving you more personalized direct control over your character with an over-the-shoulder camera. Smite's gameplay is robust enough to stand on its own already, despite still being in beta. Its game modes mimic the titans of the genre, including a Conquest mode that's reliant on farming minions for items in order to destroy the enemy base, and a single-lane Assault variant where all five players per team are assigned a random god to control. Various other flavorful game modes cycle through on a daily basis, whether it be "all death god" teams or an Egyptian-only Domination mode.

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Regardless of which pantheon of gods most appeals to you, you'll find a deity that best captures your imagination: Smite offers divinities both common, like the Greek god Zeus and the Norse god Odin, and obscure, like the Mayan god of bees, Ah Muzen Cab. Hindu and Chinese gods find their place among the roster as well. If you come just to sate your competitive hunger, Smite will satisfy you, while occasionally leading to familiar frustration over teammates' less-than-stellar performances costing the win.

Of course, MOBA critics who denounce the lack of mechanical skill requirements in the game can put their uber-elite skill claims to the test, since even the basic attacks of heroes must be aimed in Smite. This lone change to the nigh-formulaic production of the games treading in Dota's wake shakes up the gameplay enough to feel substantially different. The purchased items and their in-game effects read almost as direct rip-offs of those created for League of Legends (which weren't wholly original themselves), but still spice up the action, and the game's WASD control system leaves open the ability for items to affect your movements in specific directions, such as the fatalis, to make ranged carries kiting feel all the more fluid in practice.

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The UI, both in and out of matches, is Smite's Achilles' heel; it's unintuitive at its best and cumbersome at its worst. Clicking on the "Store" button in the main menu doesn't take you to a list of every item available for purchase, but rather to a point to buy the in-game gems currency to spend elsewhere. Learning new characters involves either attempting to read the intrusive skill window, which covers up your entire screen, or holding Alt to gain a cursor to hover over your skill bar at the bottom of the screen, which limits your ability to control your character. If you're going to learn new characters, it's best to read their abilities on a website or in the main menu before deciding to play them in-game.

The game itself is and will remain free-to-play, so if you enjoy competitive games, there's little reason not to at least give the game a try, and the single-character locked style may suit your tastes better than the more isometric games that saturate the genre. Smite knows what it is, and it goes all out to make sure you know it, too.

What's There?

An enjoyable online arena with a roster of 48 gods to choose from and a well-established core set of multiplayer game variants.

What's to Come?The pantheon is ever expanding to include new gods roughly once a month.
What Does it Cost?

Smite is free-to-play, although you can increase your personal unlocked pantheon or give your gods a makeover by purchasing gems to unlock the gods or skins for them.

When Will it be Finished?

Smite's official release date is currently set to be March 25, 2014.

What's the Verdict?

Smite already feels like a complete game, with features and gameplay that can rival the big brothers of the genre. Grab some friends and try it.

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