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SMITE Brings MOBA Action to Xbox One – Interview and Hands-On Preview from PAX East 2015

by Kyle Hanson

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SMITE is currently the third largest MOBA in the world, but that could easily change as it becomes the first major game in the genre to hit consoles. SMITE is coming to the Xbox One, bringing with it some classic MOBA action that is tailor-made for consoles. At last week’s PAX East 2015 I got to go hands-on with the game, and talk to the president of Hi-Rez Studios, Stewart Chisam. You can see what he had to say about this massive game coming to the Xbox One in the interview below, and keep reading to get our hands-on impressions.

I have to admit something before really diving into this preview. I’m not a big MOBA player. In fact, I’ve never really played a full game of either League of Legends or DOTA 2. They just seemed too daunting, and the community always felt too toxic. It seemed like a genre that required me to already know how to play to even have a chance at a good time. This was my mindset going into SMITE on the Xbox One, and I walked away feeling totally wrong.

SMITE is a bit different from the other huge MOBA games. It puts you closer to the action, placing the camera right behind your character like a third-person shooter. The actions you perform are all pretty much the same, you still attack, and use special abilities, but it somehow feels more comfortable in SMITE. Of course, fans of the genre will likely question how the complexities of a MOBA can be paired down to a controller, which is something that Hi-Rez Studios has already asked themselves.

A good portion of my time setting up for SMITE on Xbox One was taken up simply discussing the controls. How could SMITE work with a controller? Apparently, it already has. One of the inspirations behind bringing the game to consoles was that many PC players were already using a controller with the game. Hi-Rez Studios took this and ran with it. So far there are five controller setups, and the developer is always testing out more, with the possibility of custom key binding if it doesn’t cause any balance issues.

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That balance is one of the keys to getting SMITE working on Xbox One. The number one goal, as explained by the developer, is that the game is fun. Without functional controls and balanced gameplay that simply isn’t possible. Of course, SMITE is already fun on the PC, so that is really the template for the game on Xbox One. This isn’t some remake, or a dumbing down, SMITE on Xbox One is the same game, but with some control and UI changes to make it work while using a controller and a TV.

The mode I tried out was Arena Deathmatch, which is probably the least MOBA -like mode in the game. This actually helped as the gameplay fit more naturally on the console, featuring fast action that wasn’t reliant on my own knowledge of the game’s mechanics. I ran around, as my ‘Merica-themed Eagle god, hurling fireworks and other explosives at enemies. There was still a bit of strategy, but thanks to SMITE’s auto-buy and auto-level features I could simply relax and enjoy the mayhem without worrying about getting the right items, or leveling the right abilities.

Once you become more familiar with the game SMITE still offers that deep, rewarding MOBA experience that players crave. There are multiple game modes, including the standard three lane mode that fans obsess over. The entire game is built around eSports and competitive play, it just also accommodates players like me who haven’t devoted hundreds of hours to the genre. Of course, now that I’ve had a taste I can easily see myself dumping that kind of time into this game, probably on my Xbox One.

SMITE is in early access on the Xbox One at the moment, with a beta coming next month. Keep an eye out for more on the game as it moves closer to release.

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