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Smite 2 preview: Same Smite taste, zero Surtr

We were able to get our hands on Smite 2 the day it was announced. Here's what we think.

Smite 2 fire giant fight
Image credit: Hi-Rez Studios

It's not often you get a sequel to a decade old MOBA. I think DOTA 2 is the only time it has ever happened. Lightning can strike twice it seems. This time thanks to Hi-Rez and Titan Forge Games' very own Pantheonic party kicking off once again with Smite 2. Having just been revealed today, it's still a far way out for you good folks at home. However, I was able to check it out in-person.

If you've watched the reveal, you'll know that the mission statement expressed by the devs is to take the old Smite clunker and trade it in for a new model Smite 2 with a fresh coat of paint and current gen consoles under the hood. All while retaining that same style, gameplay, and feel from the ever popular Smite 1. The result is a very familiar gaming experience, with ample exciting bells and whistles attached.

In our preview we played Conquest - the standard 5v5 MOBA mode - with a small selection of gods available to play. For the MOBA novie, it'll play pretty much the exact same as Smite 1. Push towers, kill camps, kill a phoenix or two, etc. However even in the two brief games I played, the impact of Smite 2's gameplay changes are obvious.

For starters the relics are gone, replaced with a crowd-control break and vision ward that spots enemy players nearby. This takes away a bit of the complexity and standardizes the early game which'll be a boon for new players - an audience Titan Forge Games are clearly targeting with Smite 2. Those relic abilities have been shifted into a vastly changed store and item system, which when paired with a sixth item slot means these valuable activatable options are still available later in the game.

A real star of the show though goes to the new map objectives - like the War Horn and Gold pile. These are contestable objectives right next to specific lanes that draw in fights due to the sheer value they have for your entire team. A player stomping their opponent can buff his team's minions or increase the gold lead significantly, rewarding those who perform well beyond just throwing them kills and early towers. It also adds some more pressure for junglers, who now need to worry about these powerful boons on top of a fed Anhur.

Speaking of, I played the furry fury Anhur in one of my games, and Chaac in another. Both look very sexy in Unreal Engine 5. Maybe at a glance you may not care too much about looks - but when put side to side Smite 1 does really show it's age. The gods move with grace or thunderous weight. Their abilities shatter enemies they strike. Team fights in Smite 2 are violent technicolour affairs - like two firework technicians trying to take each other out.

Smite 2 gods from Pre-Alpha
There was a small selection of gods available, with no word on whatthe release roster will be. | Image credit: Hi-Rez

The game feels like Smite but newer. It's simpler to understand, but still retains that Smite juice that people have been sipping happily for a decade. Smite 2 may as well have a big neon sign over it that says, "hey new players, check this sh*t out". It's a clean slate without a lot of the baggage from a 10-year-old attached - which means those who've been holding off (or more likely, forgotten that Smite existed) can take notice and hop on board.

I did run into bugs, as is expected from a game this early in development. I got locked in place for a few seconds mid-fight, and you couldn't knock players back who were airborne which made Anhur a tad frustrating at times. But honestly for a super early build it played surprisingly well! It's the sort of game I could see myself sinking a night into, which is what you kinda need from MOBAs. The urge to "go again" is king.

I left feeling positive about Smite 2 from a gameplay perspective. If it launches with all the additional game modes that Smite 1 has, a healthy 50 god launch roster, and no disastrous launch problems I can foresee people having a grand time with Smite 2. It'll be an easier version of Smite to digest, with less in it. Like Sprite Zero - same Sprite taste, zero sugar. Or should I say, zero Surtr... For now!

As a live service game, the struggles only start at launch. The game will need to maintain momentum and keep things coming post-launch. Hi-Rez and Titan Forge Games will also have to wrestle with the community perception of Legacy gems and Divine Legacy - which isn't going down particularly well among some of the more aged and established players. Smite 2 may be great for newer players jumping over, but as a company who recently released Bake Kujira they should know well the perils of harming Whales.

Smite 2 pre-alpha preview leaderboard screenshot
I sadly wasn't able to capture gameplay, but I did snap a photo of the end-of-game scoreboard. Report my team! | Image credit: VG247

And then of course, it's worth noting that it isn't 2014 anymore! When Smite launched we were still in the early years of Gaas supremacy. People couldn't get enough, and the hunger for free games with interesting twists was substantial. Smite, with a distinct gameplay style, was able to tear itself an audience away from League and Dota, leaping over the spike pit that Heroes of Newerth's skeleton can still be found in. But we're in 2024 now. Live service games are dying left, right, and centre.

Whether or not an updated version of Smite will capture the hearts of minds of a newer audience - clearly a goal for the devs working on Smite 2 - is not a surefire thing. While I did enjoy Smite 2 and respect the decision to keep the game faithful to the original, I do worry that the hesitation to go wilder won't draw in the crowds. That being said, CS2 didn't exactly reinvent the Counter Strike wheel, and it broke Steam player count records, so maybe I'm terra-fied Thor nothing.

If you'd like to make your own mind up, you'll have to wait a while I'm afraid. Smite 2 has no release date yet, and closed beta testing won't start until Spring this year. You can sign up for that now if you're keen. Gods only know if you'll get in.

(This preview was written following a preview session at the Smite World Tour. Travel and accommodation for this event was covered by Hi-Rez).

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