Thoughts on the SMITE Tactics Beta

Hi-Rez studios got its start over a decade ago. Many of you will recall a game called Global Agenda, and might even remember their reboot of the Tribes game, Tribes Ascend. It’s doubtful any of you played or cared about the above titles, neither did I. But along came the game that changed my mind about this company and their product: SMITE. Those who have followed my history with the MOBA genre in particular will know that I try most but only really dug into a couple. My obsession with League of Legends has given way to a love for SMITE, and I’ve played it seriously for about a year now. Hi-Rez hooked me with this game, but suddenly they started announcing new titles, and my interest was piqued again. Soon I was playing Paladins, and looking forward to the company’s expansion of the SMITE universe with their Tactics and Rivals games. The latter sounded like it was going to be a mobile title (of which they have one already called Jetpack Fighter), but it seems that development of that particular game has been put on hold. Tactics however, has been advanced to the closed beta stage, and I happened to receive an invite.

SMITE Tactics is a title that will appeal to those of you who like CCGs and strategy RPGs. If you’ve ever played the game Duelyst, you’ll understand the concept quite well. I didn’t think about it til right this instant, but it is also identical to Shardbound, which I wrote about last week. It’s card based. You have a deck, you have a leader the deck is based around. It’s true to SMITE and its own particular brand of lore, and many of the iconic Gods are present. The cash shop seems fair, the currencies are familiar. It’s something you’ll completely understand if you’ve played any of these types of games, but will appeal to you on another level if you already happen to enjoy the SMITE world. If you are unfamiliar with SMITE or this style of game, here’s a video of a couple rounds of my gameplay:

Overall I enjoy this game and Shardbound more than I did Duelyst, but to be fair I didn’t give the latter much of a chance. I enjoyed what I saw but I like the art direction and feel of the other two titles. If you’re interested, I’m sure open beta is around the corner, and it will likely be a Free to Play title upon release. It’s only available on PC, but if their track record is any indicator, it will likely end up on consoles as well.

Impressions: Paladins PS4 Beta

We heard about the newest title released by Hi-Rez Studios a while back. It was announced somewhere around the time that Overwatch and Battleborn were garnering headlines and instantly all three were compared to each other. People said a new genre was being born. Hero-Shooter was tossed around, and comparisons were drawn to MOBAs and team based shooters like Team Fortress or insert-title-of-one-similar-design-feature-that-can-compare-to-this-game-here. Having played all three titles, and not being able to think of any others that really compare, I’d still say that this game differentiates itself from the other two, just as they differentiate themselves from other titles they have been compared to.

Paladins is a team based shooter with Champions that have differing abilities and obvious strengths and weaknesses. It’s basically a MOBA. It’s basically Counter-Strike. It’s basically Team Fortress. It’s basically none of these. Depending on the game mode, objectives change. This is similar to all of the above. Each Champion has a different role. Flankers are like Assassins. Front Line are tanks. Damage is… hmm.. yep. Damage. And Support is, yeah you guessed it. This means team play is emphasized, and this is similar to all of the above as well. When it comes down to it, you can easily describe all of the games I’ve talked about so far, and you’d find similarities between them all. This doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy them all, and doesn’t mean they really need to be compared or that one is better than the other. But of all the games I’ve played that fall into this FPSMOBALITEWTFBBQ category, this is my favorite.

I’m not sure if it’s the art direction, because it’s cartoonish just like Overwatch, TF2, and Battleborn, but I’m attracted to it. The game play between them all is very similar, down to having plays of the game and shit like that, but I feel like the characters are cooler and have better abilities than Overwatch. Honestly being a buy to play title killed Overwatch for me. It just wasn’t worth the asking price. Nor was Battleborn, despite loving the shit out of Gearbox and their work, I couldn’t justify the cost when it really wasn’t all that fun to play. Paladins hits a sweet spot though, having a UI and systems that I’m already familiar with having played SMITE for a year now. The systems work just like they do in SMITE — Mastery is there, chests, the store currencies, it’s all so familiar that it clicked right away. Where things are different, is in the customization options. Not only can you make builds for your Champions, but there are skins for everything so you can really deck yourself out without having to use pre-made outfits. Builds are made with cards, which you can craft or earn via chests. Chest unlocks have come at a fairly rapid clip as well, so it feels more rewarding than SMITE did initially. These cards affect your Champions abilities in various ways, so you can really tweak your experience. At the end of the day though, this is still a shooter at heart — though it still touches on all the things I love about competitive PvP games from over the years. It’s different enough from SMITE or LoL for me to play it on the regular as well.

Paladins will be a Free to Play title, and judging by the already established business model it is very fair. Buying stuff with in-game currency is still possible, and if you feel like throwing some money at them you’ll be handsomely rewarded. Currently the game is in beta on PS4, but is also available on PC in full release, and Founder Packs are on sale for $15 on both platforms ($12 if you have PSPlus). You can only play in the beta on PS4 if you’ve bought in, but that also comes with all of the available characters forever. A new one has already been added since the beta went live, and if SMITE is an indicator, there will be new Champions added regularly. So far I’ve only played a little bit but I already feel right at home. I recorded my first PvP match to share with y’all, take a look:

I’m sure I’ll have more to report about the game as time goes on. If you happen to join in the fray on PS4, throw me a friend request: Built4Sin82.

Thoughts on the Uncharted 4 Beta


There was a “stress test” this weekend for Uncharted 4 on Playstation 4’s around the country. There had been a beta test a couple of months ago where I was first able to try the game, but that was on my friend’s PS4 so my play time was rather limited. Go figure that this beta weekend would happen at a time when I had already planned an out of town trip, but thankfully I was hanging with friends who also have PS4’s so I was able to play quite a bit during the stress test.

First of all, the game is fucking gorgeous. Naughty Dog has had a reputation for making games that look a hell of a lot better than you’d expect from the hardware, and this game is no exception. I love the Uncharted series, as it is action packed, has some fun mechanics and is rather cinematic. We don’t have cinematic examples from this title just yet, as it was all multiplayer death matches all weekend, but based on the graphics I’ve seen so far, I know the single player campaign is going to look fantastic.

One of my concerns going into multiplayer in UC4 was whether it would be more similar to to UC2, or UC3. Personally, my favorite Uncharted game to this point was number 2. I absolutely loved the multiplayer and it was probably one of my most played games on the Playstation 3. When UC3 released I thought I would love it even more, but I found that I enjoyed the story less and didn’t really care for the multiplayer as much either. The good news is that UC4’s multiplayer has managed to blend features from both predecessors, and added enough to differentiate itself from them as well.

For example, UC2 was mostly about the climbing/rolling/cover system, and though there were perks, it was mostly an afterthought. This ended up feeling pretty good though, as skill > build. In UC3, they added in systems much like most lobby shooters have these days, so there were perks and builds and some builds would end up being superior to others, etc.

Uncharted 4 has custom builds, and there are multiple ways you can set up your character, though it still feels like there’s more of an emphasis on player skill > builds. It’s the best of both worlds. Some of the added features that you can put in your loadout are pretty cool, and add some depth to the standard shooter. The addition of a grappling hook brings some different acrobatics to an already parkourish type of game, along with plenty of opportunities to make some awesome plays (one of my favorites from the weekend involved swinging from a hook while dropping a satchel charge on a group of enemies, then swinging from another tree as the charge took out three of them). There is also a new way to impact the game while you play: cash.

You earn cash from getting downs (all enemies will go down after some hits, but can be revived), KO’s (actual kills after downs), assists, and picking up treasure that randomly spawns around the map. You can use this cash at seemingly any point in time, and it can be used to summon NPC’s that will aid you, gear upgrades, or “mysticals.” The NPCs come in a few varieties, but can be pretty helpful in mowing down enemies or reviving you. Gear upgrades will affect your grenades and such, and mysticals are various “super abilities,” which make them cost the most money. Still, you should be buying multiple items per match, so there are a number of ways in which you can utilize the tools. It feels like a successful blend of previous iterations of the game, and I am really looking forward to the full release.

There was only deathmatch to play for the beta, but I assume there will be other game modes as there have been in the past. The game is set to release in May, so it’s likely there will be more beta testing before then. I’m ready for more, that’s for sure.