SAN FRANCISCO -- PC gamers have long enjoyed plenty of battle arena games, such as League of Legends and DOTA 2. But console fans have been left out in the cold, until now. Smite developer Hi-Rez is bringing its third-person MOBA to Xbox One, giving players who prefer a controller over a mouse and keyboard the ability to battle it out with more than 60 different gods.
The third person view with simple and direct controls could offer a distinct advantage over other top-down MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arena) like League of Legends when it comes to controller play.
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In a brief hands-on session, I played an alpha build of Smite running on the Xbox One. I picked Ymir, a hulking Norse god covered in frost. Despite it being my first time playing Smite with a controller, I felt right at home attacking opposing gods and minions with a combination of melee attacks and ice-based spells.
Like its PC counterpart, the Xbox version will be free-to-play, and users can support the game through the purchase of cosmetic upgrades to avatars, such as alternate costumes and skins.
The real challenge for Hi-Rez was converting a PC-centric user interface to one that works on a TV, where players often sit much further away from the screen. To this end, Hi-Rez has increased font sizes, streamlined menus and re-arranged the heads up display to better convey information at a glance.
The graphics don't disappoint either. It takes an up-close, side-by-side comparison to see where textures and animations changed to make the game run better on console hardware.
There are even a few features in the Xbox One version not found in the original, such as controller rumble, which alerts you when your god is low on health. There's also built-in voice chat via Xbox Live. This makes it easier for new players to learn about the game, by not needing to install a third-party voice chat program to communicate with team members and experienced players.
While content will be the same across PC and console versions, the player bases won't intermingle. PC players will not be able to play against Xbox Users, and vice versa. This make organizing esports tournaments for competitive play a little more difficult, but Hi-Rez hasn't ruled out a possible mega tournament, where both PC and console champions could be crowned at a single event. The 2015 Smite World Championship featured a $2.6 million prize-pool.
Xbox One owners interested in joining the alpha testing can get game codes from Hi-Rez employees from March 6 to 8 at PAX East. Or you can get picked from alpha sign up that will go live on the Smite website on March 10. This will be followed by a larger closed beta schedule sometime in April, and a full public release later this year.