In the earlier seasons of Smite, we had lots of class diversity within the roles. I personally think it made for a more interesting meta and game overall. It did this through genuinely allowing for different approaches to winning, instead of different brands of similar styles. It also made the game more fun to play. Most people will main a role or a couple of roles, so getting to play different classes and play styles stopped your favoured roles from becoming stale. In recent times though this diversity has died off and left Smite worse off as far as I am concerned.
Solo lane is a prime example of a narrowing of Smite, particularly in the roles. Over the history of Smite we have seen every class be viable in the solo lane. We have seen certain players make their names from non-warrior picks in the solo lane. The best examples of this are Jarod ‘CycloneSpin’ Nguyen and Jeron ‘Xaliea’ Klaver, players who dominated at times in the SPL with Assassins. When CycloneSpin was the best player on the best team in the world, it was through playing Assassins in the solo lane.
We saw high-octane, high-impact Gods like the Hun Batz being played by Cyclone. It created great games to watch, with early rotations and a pseudo-jungle in the solo lane. It also made solo lane a far more interesting place to watch as there was genuine kill potential between laners instead of the solo slap-fight we have become accustomed to.
Jungle is the other major role where diversity has all but disappeared. Jungle used to be a varied role; being a jungle main, it was that aspect which drew me to it in the early days of Smite. However, now it is just Assassins and not even a particularly large pool of Assassins at that. To newer players it must seem extremely odd that I have a diamond Freya who has been played ADC a max of about 10 times. Ymir used to be a common sight hulking through the Jungle. Tyr used to be a jungler more than a solo laner. All these Gods have in their day been great junglers. At the very least, this made the role more interesting to play and far more flexible.
The reason I focus on these two roles as the epitome of role diversity is two fold. Firstly, these are the roles which lend themselves to role diversity the most. Secondly, these are the roles which allow diversity elsewhere in the team. For example, the Ymir jungle allows your solo laner to worry less about front line, or perhaps your support to consider a better laner than a CC bot.
Where We Are Now
Right now, the classes for roles are very much set in stone. The height of our role diversity is a possible Amaterasu support, a Hunter mid or a Guardian solo.
Even that though seems formulaic. We know which Hunters we are most likely to see in the mid lane, which are basically the more mage-esque Hunters. They are also not always easy to pick as it can hinder your team’s magic damage capabilities. With the lack of magic damage available in the jungle and from solo at the moment, this is a genuine concern.
The Guardian solo at the moment as well is formulaic. The only exception to this is the recent Geb pulled out by Adrian ‘Deathwalker’ Benko. This surprise pick is the exception, not the rule at the moment. It is also worth noting that Deathwalker is someone who is particularly interesting in his picks; think of his recent solo Ah Puch. Also the Guardian is played very much like the Warrior, except for favouring CC over the damage a Warrior provides.
What Created the Issue?
One of the big changes that got us here was the change in Power Pot. Being able to purchase a Power Pot at start made a lot of things more viable, especially in the jungle. It allowed weaker early game characters to improve their clear and impact, meaning they didn’t just fall too far behind to be impactful late game. A prime example of this was the Freya, who with some help from teammates and a Power Pot had manageable clear. It also allowed early game hyper-carries like the Ymir to really utilise that powerful early game. The old Ymir jungle was an example of something I saw as great game design. It was interesting having a hyper carry in the early game who could use it to get his team an advantage and then fall back into a tanky CC bot with very average damage in the late game.
Blink nerfs also reduced diversity in the jungle. Adding mobility to characters who didn’t particularly have it was huge for their viability. The two best examples of how the Blink nerfs reduced the jungle pool are Tyr and Ymir. Ymir obviously has no mobility, so that re-positioning tool for ganks was huge. However, it was just as important for Tyr because while he has his ult for engage, it is his Fearless combo that provides the gank potential.
It was these Gods who had CC and early game damage on their primary abilities, which had their jungle viability completely nerfed with the Blink nerf. Especially as they transition into tankier roles, meaning they need to take as much advantage of the early game as possible.
Hi-Rez is also partly at fault for this homogenisation of the roles. They have a history of when a new class finds a footing or takes over a role, not buffing the traditional class but over-nerfing the invasive class. When we had Warrior support as the only support, the answer was a whole-sale nerf to the Warrior class. While Warrior’s did need a nerf, it nearly removed them from the role, and did not focus on making supports better while Warrior’s slightly weaker.
We recently started to see AD-Mages taking over the Hunter Role; again it was a group nerf to those mages. Sol has been made into pretty much a pure Mage. While it is great she has not been nerfed into oblivion, it would have been better to see her have some presence still in the Hunter role. It would be nice to see more of a meeting in the middle of buffing the weaker and nerfing the overpowered when it comes to these sorts of situations.
We have seen a lot of work on Starter Items in recent times. What I think may be missing are starter items which particularly enable multi-role lanes. The easiest example of this is that we could have multiple Bumba’s Mask’s each offering different things.
It would be interesting if Hi-Rez tried a few God releases where they specifically designed characters with role-diversity in mind. I think the community would be very interested in an Assassin designed for the solo lane, or a Guardian designed for the jungle. We have enough Gods in Smite now that they could really start to experiment, not as much hangs on every release.
Another way in which Hi-Rez could facilitate this will have to wait for Season 5. One reason the situation is how it is, comes down to the map. This is a map which has favoured the early game meta heavily. One of the reasons solo has gotten so stale and Warrior heavy is how much that lane effects jungle camps. Losing solo lane normally also means you have lost that side of your jungle. This takes XP and gold from three members of the team. In a meta about getting an early lead and holding it, that is just unacceptable.
Hi-Rez do not seem to have it as a priority at the moment. That may be a mistake, as it is something which I think improves the game from SPL to Casuals.
Top image courtesy of forums.2p.com