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Smite 2

Smite 2 Preview: More League of Legends, less Smite-like

After a second alpha weekend with the MOBA sequel, we have some thoughts about what we've experienced.

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Everyone has that one game that they've played a ridiculous amount. For me, while Destiny 2 is steadily creeping to the top of that list, surprisingly it's the MOBA Smite that I've clocked by far the most hours on. Over a decade, I've managed to put around 3,000 hours into a game that quite frankly you never would have convinced 13-year-old Ben to even check out. But thankfully I managed to shake the Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto allure that attracts most young lads early on into my teenage years and began trying out different types of games, one of which just so happened to be Smite when it made its debut on Xbox around nine years ago.

Since then, Smite has become the go-to game for me and my closest pals. Despite the distance that time puts between people, we've always managed to keep Smite as a way to reconnect, so you could say that I am in many ways emotionally invested in this third-person MOBA. This is also why I've become very intrigued about the idea of a sequel. The original and current game works well and continues to thrive, but developer Titan Forge is looking to future proof things by moving to a more powerful engine, and making various improvements and changes that will ensure this game can continue to thrive for the next decade. While we'll be able to play Smite 2 without limit come late July when the servers are turned on 24/7, for the time being, we've had to flock to alpha weekends to get a sniff of this sequel, and that's precisely what I did over the past few days.

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Now before I go on any further, let me just clarify something. Smite 2 is still early in development. This isn't a finished and polished product like Smite, it's an alpha, which means there are a lot of work-in-progress assets, more rugged and clunky mechanics and systems, and generally speaking fewer options and choices. I've played preview builds of unreleased games that feel infinitely more polished and tighter than Smite 2 does right now, but again, it's an early build, so I'll forgive some of the rough edges.

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What I can say is that from a few hours of gameplay, it's clear to me that Titan Forge is looking to take a step away from the almost action-MOBA-like combat from Smite and is instead turning more toward the strategic, impactful, and faster gameplay of League of Legends. Allies seem to die quicker, enemies die faster, structures are defeated more easily, stealth and jungle mechanics are prominent, and the gameplay itself feels more rigid, as though it's made for mouse and keyboard first and controller second. Again, it's a feeling that comes across as more League of Legends than Smite, and that also translates to the presentation and the way that the items are offered.

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Talking about the items and buildcrafting, Titan Forge has made some big changes that on paper massively boost team and build development, but seemingly at the cost of simplicity. There are no physical or magical gods any more, there are no god classes either, you simply pick a character and build them in the way that suits the role they are taking in said game. With this mindset, items have been overhauled so that every god can build every item, and items now offer statistics and attributes that boost not only damage, attack speed, health, and the regular stuff, but also intelligence and strength. The biggest enemy Titan Forge has to this system so far is itself, as there are basically no structures in place to explain how these work in practice, meaning buildcrafting as of now is a headache - one that no doubt will become easier with practice.

As for the presentation, this also builds on my last point. Smite had one of the best user interfaces and HUDs that I have ever seen in a console game. Titan Forge worked wonders here and made a setup that effortlessly displayed all the relevant information in an pleasing and efficient manner without it feeling as though it takes up too much of your screen. The item store, the menus, pretty much every interface you can think of fits this bill too, which is what upsets me a tad that none of this is making a return in Smite 2... at least not yet. The new UI/HUD is more complex than it needs to be and still feels as though it doesn't display the information that I need. Plus, the way the item store is designed makes me want to cry, because it is an absolute nightmare to navigate.

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The visuals of the game also have a few kinks in regard to how purification and crowd-control immunity is displayed, as it feels as though the super clear design of Smite has been lost in translation on the jump to Smite 2 so far. This is perhaps thanks to the better graphics, lighting and presentation everywhere else, as with more detailed abilities, map design, character models, and so forth, it does become much more challenging to distinguish what's happening in the chaos in front of you.

But again, this is an alpha build and I can see Titan Forge using any gathered feedback to make serious changes to the game before it ever sees its 1.0 'launch' release. There are a lot of very impressive improvements in this build already, be it the better animations, the more detailed gameplay systems and mechanics, the better netcode that means you load into games in a fraction of the time it takes to get into a Smite match. The core chassis of this game has a lot of promise, but I do still firmly believe that Titan Forge needs to spend more time looking at what makes Smite so excellent in the first place to ensure that this sequel continues and excels in the right ways. At the end of the day, if I wanted to play League of Legends, I'd play League of Legends. I came to Smite for its unique third-person action spin on a MOBA, and so far it feels like Smite 2 is losing some of that identity.

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