PAX East 2012: Hands-on with Hi-Rez's new MOBA, SMITE

SMITE
Move over, MOBAs -- there's a new kid in town. As PAX East 2012 rocks onward, Hi-Rez Studios is flaunting its newest upcoming title, the action-game-inspired MOBA SMITE. Today I got the opportunity to sit down with the game and get my face ground into the floor by the myriad more-experienced players with whom I played. But regardless of my utter incompetence, I still got some hands-on time with the title, so indulge me for a moment and let me tell you about it.

The basic layout of the game will be quite familiar to any MOBA player. It sticks to the tried-and-true formula set forth by Defense of the Ancients in almost every possible way. There are three lanes, each lined with a number of defensive towers, and the ultimate objective is to work in tandem with your teammates and allied NPC creeps with the goal of pushing through the towers and destroying the enemy's giant minotaur.

Wait, what?

Well, I did say almost every possible way, didn't I? The game puts its own spin on the status quo in a few small but impactful ways. For starters, the game is presented in third-person, making it much more reminiscent of an action title or traditional MMORPG than the genre's usual RTS roots. The devs were careful to emphasize that virtually every attack in the game is a skillshot that must be aimed and timed carefully for maximum impact. Oh, and did I mention that the final objective of each game is to kill a gargantuan enemy minotaur guarding the enemy base? Because it is.

SMITE
I really did enjoy my time with SMITE, on the whole. The action combat keeps games intense (and makes it a lot easier for sneaky-types like yours truly to go assassin-mode for the gank), and the graphics are crisp and clean, which I particularly appreciated because the character designs are actually quite interesting. I took control of Kali, a champion inspired by the Hindu goddess of the same name. Each of her four arms wields a blade, which comes in handy (ha ha ha) for her ultimate attack, which turns her into a whirling bladed cyclone of destruction. It's quite fitting for the Hindu goddess of death, I'd say. I had a blast running around the battlefield mincing my enemies, destroying towers, and inevitably getting turned into a crimson paste by the opposing team.

That being said, a couple of the gameplay mechanics are slightly worrying to me. My respawn times during the game ranged upward of 45 seconds, which is frankly just dull. I understand why the devs might decide higher-level characters should have a longer respawn time, but having to sit out and twiddle your thumbs for a minute is a bit much in my opinion (but I'm no MOBA expert, so take that with a grain of salt). Of course, you can circumvent the respawn timer if you have enough gold to buy an instant resurrection, but it does seem like a bit of an odd design choice to me. I suppose it could be useful if your team needs reinforcements desperately, but I suspect that if you're already losing, spending all of your money on a res is just going to put you further behind. Of course, so will waiting for the absurdly long respawn timer to count down, so you're kind of boned either way.

It's worth mentioning that the game is currently in alpha testing, so no doubt none of these mechanics or designs is close to its final version. Ultimately, I think the game is shaping up rather well. In an industry where MOBAs are dime-a-dozen, SMITE keeps the genre fresh while remaining familiar enough for MOBA players to jump right in. Fans of laning, creeping, and ganking would do well to keep their eyes on this rising title.

Massively's on the ground in Boston during the weekend of April 6-8, bringing you all the best news from PAX East 2012. Whether you're dying to know more about TERA or PlanetSide 2 or any MMO in between, we aim to have it covered!

This article was originally published on Massively.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.