New MOBA Smite 2 is “strictly better” than the original, and it shows

As we got hands-on with a Smite 2 pre-alpha, developer Titan Forge Games told us about the considerations behind making a new Smite.

Smite 2 preview: New Smite 2 God Hecate.

Smite is the colorful, third-person MOBA in which you wield the powers of any one of over 100 mythological Gods. I was lucky enough to be among the first to play a pre-alpha build of its sequel, Smite 2, announced during the tenth Smite World Championships. It’s hard to call Smite 2 a remake or a sequel as it fits somewhere between the two, and developer Titan Forge insists every change must be “strictly better.” So, is it?

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In a talk with some of the Titan Forge Games team, I found out that we have Unreal Engine 5 to thank for Smite 2, which allowed the developer to make otherwise impossible changes. It’s no secret that the ten-year-old Smite is starting to feel its age, not least due to the Flash-driven UI, but Smite 2 combines everything that works about the original MOBA with updated graphics, more complex character models, and flashier animations and effects.

A lot of Smite 2 will be familiar to players of the first game, from the selection of available Gods to the roles, maps, and abilities at your disposal. However, the sequel introduces a lot of new mechanics as well. Among the most significant, perhaps, is the auto build feature. For anyone who might be coming to the series for the first time with Smite 2, auto build is the perfect mechanic for buying and upgrading items without knowing what they are or even what they do – just let the system do it for you. Given that MOBA tutorials often aren’t that intuitive, especially when you’re dealing with over 100 playable characters, a feature like auto build gives you the chance to learn the systems bit by bit, only entering into full customization when you’re ready.

The Smite 2 auto build feature as seen during our hands-on Smite 2 preview.

Once you’ve locked in your God, you’re given three options related to that character; for example, Full Tank, Hybrid Tank, and Disable Auto Build. Choosing one of the first two options auto-purchases items for you when you return to base, while disabling auto build allows you to take the lead on purchasing whichever items you require. That said, you have more choice than ever in Smite 2, as Gods are no longer categorized by magical and physical power, and all items can now be applied to any God.

From the ten available Gods in the preview build, I first chose Ymir. This stocky Guardian has all the same abilities as his Smite 1 counterpart, but some simple changes to how his wall power works make a huge difference to his overall feel. Speaking with Smite general manager and executive producer Travis Brown, I got some insight into these changes. In Smite 1, “there’s times where you could place the wall behind you, and it’s only if you’re moving fast enough. If you were slowed for any reason, that wall might pop up in front of you, right?” Travis continues, “In Smite 2, we know that players want to put it behind, so let him put it behind, you know? So we’re looking for those types of improvements.”

Bacchus, seen from the God select screen during our Smite 2 preview, with all new UI.

While Ymir demonstrates how Smite 2 feels better, playing Bacchus, my second God choice, is a great example of how the animation and effects in Smite 2 look better. The God of Wine already has some of the best animations in Smite, from his unsteady, drunken run to his projectile burp attack, but seeing these moves in Smite 2 is the perfect demonstration of the sequel’s new visual flourishes. Not only is the game simply more stunning, but given how much brighter the display is, it’s clear precisely where your attack is going to land, even in the midst of a chaotic battle.

The core gameplay itself remains mostly unchanged. Coming from Smite, or any MOBA for that matter, Smite 2 retains the same style maps, lane design, and areas. Smite’s Fire Giants, Totems, and other map mechanics are all back for Smite 2 – just looking a whole lot better. Again, Titan Forge Games is only making the changes that are necessary. Travis also told me that any changes they make are “primarily around quality-of-life first, making sure that you feel better when you play Smite 2.” From my experience, this is very much the case so far.

If you want to be among the first to try out Smite 2, then make sure you sign up for the Smite 2 alpha playtest, coming in Spring 2024. For more on the upcoming PC game, keep an eye out for our coverage of the alpha-version Smite 2 Gods and how Titan Forge is handling changes to your favorites.