SMITE Season 5: Can They Get This One Right?

Well, its a new year and with that comes another season of SMITE: Battleground of the Gods. Big changes are coming this year, including a starter items overhaul and a complete redesign of the Conquest Map. The last season the SMITE devs and designers had a reputation of making some very questionable choices about the game and its balance. Hopefully this doesn’t go the same way.

You can read the Update Notes here: SMITE 5.1 Update Notes

Watch my Analysis video here: SMITE 5.1 Analysis

So is SMITE 5.1 a good start to the season or a bad omen for the future?

THE MAP

This is the most obvious change with this new patch. First off, the map is bigger, 20% wider according to the designers. This change expanded the jungle and made it a bit more precarious for anyone wandering through it. They’ve added more landmarks that can lead to great ambush set ups and it makes it quite dangerous to be caught in the jungle alone. Jungle camps have also been changed, each one getting a design overhaul to better reflect the Greek lore. Centaurs, Manticores, Satyrs, and Chimeras now make the jungle their home. Camps have also been relocated to make things a little more efficient. There is also more room for fighting around the phoenixes and Titan room, it makes defending easier since its a good distance from the Titan. A slew of other changes like respawn timer decreases on camps and an enhanced Fire Giant lend themselves to quickening the pace of Conquest matches, which were previously quite long.

BLESSINGS

A new feature, these now replace the old starter items. You can only buy 1 blessing per match, and once you sell it its gone and you cannot buy a new one. This coupled with labeling each Blessing based on character class, make it clearer what blessing you should be getting. As such there is an Assassin’s, Guardian’s, Mage’s, Hunter’s, and Warrior’s blessing. There is also an additional 3 blessings available in other game modes. The 5 Conquest blessings listed above are only usable in Conquest. Each blessing has specific goals for getting stacks on the item and a unique passive once fully stacked. One thing to note, Mage’s blessing does bonus damage when you hit an ability. Unfortunately, its entirely broken since certain abilities will deal the bonus damage more than once. Thoth was actually removed from the public test server to fix the issue of his abilities dealing bonus damage on each tick of damage, up to 6. Apart from this, blessings seem like a good change and you can mix up which one you buy based on how you want to play.

THEY BROKE MAGES

Yes, its exactly what is sounds like. It seems that Hi-Rez did not like the spot mages were in against most other gods, so they got one of the largest buffs across a class I’ve ever seen. They added a slew of new magical items with massive stats. Existing items also got power buffs. It would be easier if I just showed you.

Typhon’s Fang:

  • 2800g
  • +100 Magical Power
  • +200 Mana
  • +15% Magical Lifesteal
  • PASSIVE – Your Magical Lifesteal From items is increased by 50%. Your Magical Power is increased by the 100% Amount of Magical Lifesteal you have.

Soul Gem

  • 2300g
  • +65 Magical Power
  • +150 Health
  • +12% Magical Lifesteal
  • +10% CDR
  • PASSIVE – Every time you hit an enemy with an ability or basic attack you gain 1 stack. At 5 Stacks your next ability will deal bonus damage equal to 25% of your Magical power, and will heal yourself and allies within 30 units of you for 25% of your Magical Power

Rod of Tahuti

  • Decreased Cost from 3300 to 3000
  • Increased Magical Power from 125 to 150
  • NEW PASSIVE – Gain 25% additional Magical Power against targets below 50% Health.

Telkhines Ring (Because Freya wasn’t broken enough)

  • Increased Cost from 2400 to 2800
  • Added +20% Attack Speed
  • NEW PASSIVE – Your basic attacks deal bonus damage of 10 + 5% of your magical power. This effect does not hit structures.

Do I really need to say anything else? So now mages do significantly more damage than they used to and they’re harder to kill. Oh, and a bunch of them got magical protection scaling of 0.9 per level too. Also some of the pen and items that deal bonus health percentage damage got buffed to do more against tanky targets as the game goes on. So tanks aren’t the problem anymore…

Oh, and some physical items got changed, but who cares? Mages are broken.

BALANCE

And quickly, some god balance changes.

Ah Muzen Cab had his movement and attack speed increase from his hives reduced.

Fafnir’s stun on his first ability in dwarf and dragon form was nerfed from 1.5s to 1.0s.

Ao Kuang’s ultimate only heals him once he takes his target up in the air and not on initial contact.

Cu Chulainn’s base HP5 was reduced from 9 to 7 and his ultimate got a 10s cooldown increase.

Loki’s Decoy got a cooldown reduction from 14s to 12s and a damage increase.

Nike’s Rend now makes her knockback immune and the damage was decreased.

Raijin’s Percussive Storm had its damage reduced, Raiju had damage to subsequent targets reduced, and his ultimate, Taiko Drums, got a cooldown increase from 90s to 100s.

Ratatoskr’s Dart got a cooldown increase from 12s to 14s and Acorn Blast had its mana costs increased as you level it.

Ravana’s base health was reduced from 470 to 450 and Mystic Rush has its damage mitigation reduced by half.

Thoth’s Hieroglyphic Assault had its damage increased.

Tyr’s heal on Power Cleave now has 20% physical power scaling.

And a bunch of assorted Guardians and Mages got movement speed increases.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The moral of this story is mages are broken and I hope they nerf some of these items before this thing goes live, otherwise we have a serious problem. Have they learned yet? No, sadly. This design team still tends to do too much to fix problems that aren’t really big issues and ignores fairly obvious ones. There were some good targeted god changes to balance things after SWC but beyond that, there were alot of crazy things in here. Of course it always takes time to adjust things in a new season, but this could be a bad sign…

Are Loot Boxes Gambling?

I’m sure many of you have seen these words recently in today’s gaming culture. Are loot boxes gambling and is it an unethical practice by game developers and companies who only want to get a quick buck off you. Before I attempt to answer this question, I think its important that everyone know what loot boxes and gambling are.

What Is a Loot Box?

In basic terms, a loot box is exactly what it sounds like, a digital box in your game that contains loot. The most prominent example of this is the Supply Drop from the Call of Duty series. Basically what happens here is you “call in” or redeem a supply drop, and it gives you 3 unique items, each of which go from common items, to “Heroic,” an ultra rare category of item. These items can be playercard emblems and calling cards, gun skins, character costumes, weapon mods, etc. It is completely random what exactly you get, you will always get at least a common item as well. Because of this, one box may give you great items, while another may give you generic and boring items. Other developers, most notably EA, have also followed suit with similar boxes promising players loot. You buy a box, you get random loot. This is where the problems that people see begin. Players purchase boxes with the intent of trying to get a rare item, only to find they’ve gotten mere crumbs. Many believe that paying for this chance at a good item is a form of gambling, but is that really true? To fully understand this we need to examine what gambling is.

Okay, So What’s Gambling?

Let’s pretend for a moment, you’ve gone to a casino to gamble. You spy an open roulette table and walk over, hoping to make a quick profit on some bets. You tell the roulette man “Put $25 on black.” The man spins the wheel and drops the ball, and it comes up on 12 red. You thought it would be quick and easy to bet it all on a color, and now your $25 is gone too. You walk away disappointed, and empty handed. This is an example that gives a little vision to the idea, but let’s talk specifics. For something to be gambling, it has to have risk. And by risk I mean there has to be a chance at a downside to your bet. Here the downside is you lose your bet. So with loot boxes, are you taking a risk? Technically no, because there isn’t a downside to opening a loot box. You do buy them with the intent of getting a good item, but even if you don’t get something you like, you still get something. This essentially removes any risk that would be involved with ordinary gambling. The items in loot boxes also have no real world monetary value, they are just digital add ons to improve your gaming experience. Gambling also has to have a chance for monetary gain, and you don’t get that with a loot box. To make a long story short, loot boxes are NOT gambling.

But are Loot Boxes Still Wrong?

Now you may be saying, “Well that’s true, but are they unethical?” I suppose that comes down to your own opinion on the practice of loot boxes but I’ll give you a take that hopefully gets you thinking about it. If we think about psychology, we know people like the rush they get from something going their way. You open a loot box and find a good item and it sends a shot of dopamine through your brain and you get a sense of enjoyment. You want to feel that again so you open another one, and another, and then pretty soon you’ve spent a lot of money and time. And that’s generally, what they want. Cash from the transaction and player retention. If you keep playing afterward with your new toys, it makes you more likely to get more loot boxes and to stay interested in the game for future content or a sequel. On some level it is wrong to take advantage of psychology to keep a person spending money or accomplish some other goal. No one wants something shiny put in their face and be manipulated. Of course, that happens with other things like businesses advertising on television or politicians saying they’ll so this one thing if you vote them in.

Game developers should probably focus more on improving a game’s content and features to sell the game and keep people playing rather than using these dreadful loot boxes. What’s worse is sometimes these items even impact gameplay and can give you an advantage while playing. Now you’re essentially giving lucky players and advantage over not so lucky players, and that’s just wrong. You should win by being better than the other guy, not because you have bigger toys than they do. And this also brings in less skilled players who want to use loot box items to do better. Its essentially a revolving door of people ever eager to open a box, and companies know it. But this may also speak to a bigger problem of self control and instant gratification. If you don’t like loot boxes, don’t buy them. Don’t be enticed by shiny new toys and play the game how you want. I personally don’t buy loot boxes, I take the free boxes you can get from just playing the game. But people want to get good items right away and just can’t wait. If you bought a game you enjoy enough to do that, then why not just play it longer to get items that way? Seems simple enough to me.

But the moral is this, game developers should stop including these loot boxes because it is manipulative for the purpose of getting cash and players. But they won’t, because people keep buying them. If you can easy revenue this way, why would you not include loot boxes? The solution begins with us resisting the urge of instantly getting an item. If we stop buying loot boxes, then they will go away.

 

SMITE World Championship Day 5 -FINAL MATCH

SMITE World Championship – Team Rival VS. eUnited

In an incredible turn of events, Rival would upset the great NRG and eUnited would come out of nowhere to run the table in North America. Both of these surprise teams would end up being in our epic final match today. I’ll keep the formalities brief, lets get into the action.

Game 1

Rival Picks: Raijin (Wlfy), Odin (iceicebaby), Sylvanus (KaLaS), Anhur (Vote), Amaterasu (Deathwalker) – Bans: Ravana, The Morrigan, Janus, Artio

eUnited Picks: Ullr (PandaCat), Cu Chulainn (Benji), Bastet (Screammmmm), Discordia (Venenu), Ganesha (PolarBearMike) – Bans: Fafnir, Athena, Osiris, Erlang Shen

Trying to take advantage of early middle lane pressure, iceicebaby uses his Odin to invade eUnited’s back harpies, but a good collapse by eUnited results in him being picked off by Screammmmm for a First Blood at 2:15. Action is slow with eUnited more interested and getting map pressure than big objectives, but do commit to a Gold Fury at 13:30 thanks to zoning from Benji with his Cu Chulainn. eUnited brings the hurt at 18:00 with Screammmmm’s Bastet doing unexpected damage, finding a double kill in mid which allows his team to secure a portal demon and Gold Fury. Rival would find a tower and portal demon at 23:00 after finally taking down Benji, but eUnited’s gold lead would still climb to 9k thanks to map pressure and objective prioritization. eUnited tries to force the Fire Giant at 27:00, but after a scare from Odin eUnited is able to secure it and then turns their sights on Rival and their phoenixes. A strong final siege by eUnited would give them a Game 1 victory. Screammmmm and Benji combined their great pressure and aggression to lead their team to a win, with Screammmmm netting a 5/0/7 KDA.

Game 2

Rival Picks: Raijin (Wlfy), Osiris (Deathwalker), Ullr (Vote), Susano (iceicebaby), Geb (KaLaS) – Bans: Ravana, Bastet, Ah Muzen Cab, Artio

eUnited Picks: Cu Chulainn (Benji), The Morrigan (Venenu), Fenrir (Screammmmm), Hou Yi (PandaCat), Terra (PolarBearMike) – Bans: Fafnir, Athena, Ares, Da Ji

This game would start with Rival applying great solo lane pressure, which eUnited would counter by attempting to gank Vote at 3:45. Rival would counter engage, saving Vote and getting a double first blood on Screammmmm and PandaCat. Wlfy would be a key player for Rival in this early game, getting a double kill at 8:00, who’s damage would net a 3/0/3 KDA by 12:00. In stark contrast to Game 1, Rival would have great map control and pressure in all lanes and a 7k gold lead at 19:00. This was mainly due to the adjustment by Rival of getting more solo lane pressure to stop Benji’s Cu Chulainn from getting ahead. That control would allow Rival to freely take a Fire Giant at 21:30 and a couple of eUnited towers. 3 eUnited players would fall at 23:45 thanks to a great blink engage by KaLaS on his Geb and damage from Wlfy, leaving an opening for Rival to take 2 phoenixes. Rival would secure a second Fire Giant at 26:30 and would begin what looks to be a final siege on eUnited’s base. Rival would storm the base and like a well oiled machine, take Game 2. Rival’s solo pressure in this game would open up the map, this would let Wlfy shine and be aggressive while applying his massive Raijin damage.

Game 3

Rival Picks: Osirs (Deathwalker), Ullr (Vote), Geb (KaLaS), Ra (Wlfy), Serqet (iceicebaby) – Bans: Bastet, Ravana, Artio, Sylvanus

eUnited Picks: Raijin (Venenu), Cu Chulainn (Benji), Ah Muzen Cab (PandaCat), Amaterasu (PolarBearMike), Nemesis (Screammmmm) – Bans: Fafnir, Athena, Odin, Isis

Early on iceicebaby gets caught behind his speed buff by a rotation from Venenu and after a wild goose by Screammmmm, the Rival jungler falls for a First Blood at 2:30. eUnited would start this game off by being highly aggressive to put the pressure back on in Game 3. With a nice double kill  at 10:00 by Venenu’s Raijin with set up from PBM, eUnited is able to take the first Gold Fury. After a lull in the action, good zoning an positioning from eUnited keeps Rival away long enough for eUnited to secure another Gold Fury at 17:30. eUnited would abuse their lead to keep Rival on the back foot, resulting in a Fire Giant secure at 22:40 and a 10k gold lead. A good team fight engage by Benji would allow Venenu to pump out the damage and 4 Rival members would fall, plus a mid tower and left phoenix. Rival would be able to steal away a Fire Giant at 28:30 from eUnited, but 2 minutes later eUnited would be able to counter with a good fight at the Gold Fury and take 2 of Rival’s phoenixes. eUnited would continue to pile the pressure on, taking all of Rival’s phoenixes by 35:00 thanks to Beji’s zoning and Venenu’s damage. Venenu would be a big factor in eUnited being able to be aggressive and take this Game 3, netting himself a 8/2/9 KDA and 27k player damage.

Game 4

Rival Picks: Athena (KaLaS), Poseidon (Wlfy), Erlang Shen (iceicebaby), Hachiman (Vote), Bellona (Deathwalker) – Bans: Ravana, Ah Muzen Cab, Discordia, The Morrigan

eUnited Picks: Osiris (Benji), Ullr (PandaCat), Bastet (Screammmmm), Sylvanus (PolarBearMike), Zeus (Venenu) – Bans: Fafnir, Raijin, Nemesis, Susano

The game opens with eUnited being aggressive once again, Deathwalker is able to respond in kind with his Bellona and finds a first blood on Benji under eUnited’s solo tower at 3:00. In a bold move after recognizing their superior positioning, Rival is able to sneak and early Gold Fury at 7:30. A small bloodbath would breakout soon after with both teams trading 4 player kills over the next 3 minutes. eUnited would start to turn the tide against Rival’s early pressure by abusing the duo lane, finding 2 kills due to a great rotation by Venenu’s Zeus and a Gold Fury at 15:30. After pushing away eUnited, Rival would go for a risky Fire Giant at 19:00, but eUnited would make a clutch steal of the key objective. Using the new momentum eUnited would find 3 key kills on Wlfy, iceicebaby, and Deathwalker, plus 3 towers and a right side phoenix. As the Fire Giant respawned PBM would force a fight a fight with an amazing blink ultimate engagement, allowing Venenu to pump out his massive Zeus damage and storm the Rival base for an epic Game 4 victory. Venenu’s damage and performance in the middle lane this set would be a major key for eUnited taking this set against the leading Europe team. No one played more consistent over this set, Venenu is your MVP.

And so, after 3 long years the SMITE World Champion title returns to North America. After bouncing from team to team, PolarBearMike would finally come into his own and assemble an incredible roster. His leadership was crucial to the success of eUnited over the season, and he finally broke his worlds curse. Congratulations to eUnited and its players PolarBearMike, Venenu, PandaCat, Benji, and Screammmmm.

SMITE World Championship Day 3 – Quarterfinal Round Part 2

Quarterfinal #3 eUnited VS. Black Dragons

eunitedvblackdragons

Game 1

eUnited Picks: Ravana (Screammmmm), Cu Chulainn (Benji), Raijin (Venenu), Ganesha (PolarBearMike), Hou Yi (PandaCat) – Bans: Sylvanus, Serqet, Rama, Ra

BD Picks: Osiris (Kliz), Fafnir (PIBE), Ratatoskr (oShip), Hachiman (MarcelZ) , Janus (Nann) – Bans: Ullr, Ah Muzen Cab, Athena, Xing Tian

After the usual slap fighting in solo, Benji on Cu Chulainn gets caught alone at 4:00, but turns the 2vs1 around by expertly using his cooldown timers and finds first blood. Things start looking rough for BD, but thanks to a turn around from oShip and Naan they find 3 return kills against eUnited at 8:20. A good engagement from Benji and eUnited at 11:00 though finds 3 kills and allows PandaCat’s Hou Yi to secure a Gold Fury, giving eUnited a 7k gold lead. eUnited would be in complete control of the map and game, earning an almost 10k gold lead by 17:00. A Fire Giant secure by eUnited at 18:20 leads to them taking 3 BD towers and 2 phoenixes over the next 3 minutes. eUnited initiates a final siege at 24:30 and kills all but MarcelZ for a Game 1 victory. eUnited controlled the pace and map in this entire game, quickly tearing apart BD by late game. Benji’s Cu Chulainn was great this game, fighting multiple players, engaging fights and being an all around nuisance for a 8/1/7 KDA.

Game 2

eUnited Picks: Hachiman (PandaCat), Fafnir (PolarBearMike), The Morrigan (Venenu), Bellona (Benji), Fenrir (Screammmmm) – Bans: Ah Muzen Cab, Ravana, Rama, Ra

BD Picks: Osiris (Kliz), Odin (oShip), Sylvanus (PIBE), Hou Yi (MarcelZ), Anubis (Naan) – Bans: Raijin, Ullr, Cu Chulainn, Serqet

The Anubis pick from Naan turns out to be effective early, the mummify and damage allows MarcelZ to take first blood on PolarBearMike’s Fafnir. Despite the slower pace, eUnited still maintains a gold and experience lead early due to superior map control. eUnited is able to take a Gold Fury at 11:30. With few kills by either team, eUnited continues to increase its lead with a Gold Fury at 17:00, pushing the gold lead to nearly 10k. Things heat up at 18:00 minutes, with eUnited finding 4 kills and both duo lane towers thanks mainly to Screammmmm and his Fenrir. eUnited would not let up, taking a Fire Giant at 20:00, getting 2 kills, 2 BD towers, and 2 phoenixes. eUnited begins a final siege at 23:00, finishing off 4 BD members and taking a huge Game 2 victory. Benji’s pressure and ability to farm was great again, PandaCat also made significant plays in this game. eUnited expertly out farmed BD, once eUnited’s characters came online there was nothing BD could do. Benji was the set MVP. eUnited advances to Semifinals.

Quarterfinal #4 Obey Alliance VS. Elevate

obeyvelevate

Game 1

Obey Picks: Sobek (Xaliea), Osiris (CaptainTwig), Discordia (PrettyPriMe), Amaterasu (EmilZy), Ullr (Ataraxia) – Bans: Cabrakan, Athena, Ares, Ymir

Elevate Picks: Xing Tian (N0Numbers), Geb (Cherryo), Hou Yi (DeathPanter), Sylvanus (Dardez), Ah Muzen Cab (Jermain) – Bans: Raijin, Hel, Odin, Ratatoskr

The pace of this game was a bit slow, very few kills throughout the early and mid game. Obey was able to establish early objective control and maintain a gold lead. Action picks up at 29:30, with Obey finding two kills thanks to Xaliea and Ataraxia and secure a Fire Giant. Despite the Fire Giant and a 10k gold lead, Elevate are able to defend with great damage application from DeathPanter’s Hou Yi. Obey would turn up the pressure again at 35:30 by finding 2 more picks and a second Fire Giant. Elevate would once again end Obey’s siege with great ultimates from N0Numbers’ Xing Tian and Cherryo’s Geb, at the cost of a right lane phoenix. A third Fire Giant at 42:20 would lead to another base siege and Obey would not be denied, Game 1 goes to Obey. CaptianTwig and Xaliea both with 100% kill participation with a 0/2/17 and 6/0/11 KDA respectively. Xaliea’s fight initiation, zoning, and Sobek pulls were particularly impressive in this Game and led to several objective secures for Obey.

Game 2

Obey Picks: Osiris (CaptainTwig), Raijin (PrettyPriMe), Fafnir (EmilZy), Jing Wei (Ataraxia), Cu Chulainn (Xaliea) – Bans: Ullr, Sylvanus, Hou Yi, Hachiman

Elevate Picks: Ah Muzen Cab (DeathPanter), Athena (Cherryo), Amaterasu (N0Numbers), Nox (Dardez), Rama (Jermain) – Bans: Hel, Discordia, Cabrakan, Xing Tian

This game would see a bit of a strange team composition for Elevate, with the Nox support and Athena jungle picks. They would also combine for a first blood on CaptainTwig’s Osiris at 3:30 contrasting the slow pace of Game 1. Recognizing their positional and vision advantage at 13:00, Obey is able to sneak the first Gold Fury of the game with no response from Elevate. Great zoning from Xaliea on Cu Chulainn leads to a Portal Demon for Obey at 16:00. Things heat up at 19:00 with Obey finding 4 kills and a Gold Fury thanks to a great blink engage from Xaliea. Obey gets the advantage again by splitting up Elevate and getting 3 pick offs plus a left tower. Very little action as the game transitions to the late stage. A teamfight engage at 32:00 and 2 kills leads to a Fire Giant secure for Obey at 33:30 and the siege begins with a big ultimate engage from Xaliea. This gives Obey 2 towers, 2 phoenixes, and a Gold Fury. Obey begins another siege at 38:50, starting with a second Fire Giant secure and would not be denied. Obey wins Game 2 against Elevate. EmilZy going almost perfect with a 0/0/17 KDA and Xaliea showed a strong performance, repeating his great zoning and teamfight initiation. Xaliea’s overall impact was incredible this set, definitely the MVP for this set. Obey moves on to Semifinals.

That’s it for today’s Quarterfinal coverage folks. We saw some great plays from new and old players and incredible, high level action. Get pumped for Semis tomorrow, we’re in for some incredible action.

 

SMITE World Championship Day 3 – Quarterfinal Round Part 1

Well, we’re back here once again for some more SMITE World Championship 2018 action. Its Quarterfinals today, and this decides who goes to Semifinals. Great action here as Nocturns Gaming and Rival begin their set. And then its The Rematch, the epic showdown of Luminosity Gaming and NRG eSports begins once again. Who shall be the ultimate champion?

Quarterfinal #1 Nocturns Gaming Vs. Team Rival

Nocturns vs Rival

Game 1

Nocturns Picks: Osiris (Beltway), Ah Muzen Cab (Zaionsix), Sobek (Noitulover), Da Ji (Sm1tero), Discordia (Nozq) – Bans: Odin, Ullr, Hachiman, Ratatoskr

Rival Picks: Raijin (Wlfy), Fafnir (KaLaS), Erlang Shen (Deathwalker), Ravana (iceicebaby), Medusa (Vote) – Bans: Artio, Sylvanus, Serqet, Isis

Action is slow for the first 5 minutes, however, after a busted gank by Nocturns on Deathwalker, Rival turns on Nocturns’ Sm1tero for first blood, another 3 kills, and a tower in a solo lane teamfight at 5:45. Rival would turn up the pressure and continue the slow bleed with objective takes and pick off kills. Rival would take all of Nocturns’ tier 1 towers by 13:10. Rival would then secure an early Fire Giant at 15:50 because their massive lead prevented Nocturns from stopping their pressure. Wlfy’s enormous damage would lead to a triple kill and a 8/0/6 KDA for his Raijin, this would secure a dominant victory for Team Rival in Game 1. Nocturns simply could not handle the constant pressure applied by Rival and sadly fell.

Game 2

Nocturns Picks: Erlang Shen (Beltway), Ravana (Sm1tero), Raijin (Nozq), Terra (Noitulover), Hou Yi (Zaionsix) – Bans: Odin, Ah Muzen Cab, Poseidon

Rival Picks: Osiris (Deathwalker), Artio (iceicebaby), Hachiman (Wlfy), Fafnir (KaLaS), Thoth (Vote) – Bans: Ullr, Sylvanus, Ganesha, Ares

Slow action for most of the game, most fights were even trades. Positioning was a key factor in this slow paced game. Clutch plays from Vote and Wlfy gave Rival great objective control. Rival consistently got more off of their kills than Nocturns. Superior control from Rival leads to an important Fire Giant at 47:15. Good defense led by Beltway keeps Nocturns in it for a bit longer. Rival takes second Fire Giant at 52:20. Rival’s incredible damage leads to a victory and they take Game 2, Vote was a crucial part of this win for Rival. Once again Wlfy’s damage and positioning was incredible, giving his Hachiman a Game 2 KDA of 8/6/4. Set MVP goes to Wlfy. Vote was almost perfect this game, but Wlfy’s overall impact was greater. Rival advances to Semifinals.

Quarterfinal #2  Luminosity Gaming VS. NRG eSports – The Rematch

LGvsNRG

Game 1

LG Picks: Cu Chulainn (Aquarius), Ne Zha (Mask), Hachiman (BaRRaCCuDDa), Ganesha (JeffHindla), Janus (Baskin) – Bans: Serqet, Ullr, Cabrakan, Hou Yi

NRG Picks: Sylvanus (iRaffer), Ravana (Adapting), Raijin (Yammyn), Artio (maniaKK), Rama (emilitoo) – Bans: Fafnir, Ah Muzen Cab, The Morrigan, Geb

It was the usual farming and counter invading for the early game, but Adapting of NRG found a crucial first blood on Aquarius, giving maniaKK’s Artio a lead. This wouldn’t slow down LG when Baskin of shows his skills as a hyper carry early with a huge triple kill at 11:00. NRG shows off their veteran skills at 14:30 by getting 2 picks on LG, plus a Gold Fury and Portal Demon. The slug fest would continue with LG and NRG trading blows and players, with both teams finding 6 kills from 16:30-18:30. An early Fire Giant is taken by NRG thanks to Adapting’s positioning and triple kill. NRG would maintain their objective control by taking all of LG’s towers, establishing a 10k gold lead. A great engage by NRG leads to 3 kills, a phoenix, and a Fire Giant at 25:00. A carefully planned siege afterward would secure a Game 1 victory for NRG eSports. Adapting showed his genius as usual and led his team for the win with a 7/2/9 KDA.

Game 2

LG Picks: Cabrakan (Aquarius), Cu Chulainn (Mask), Hachiman (BaRRaCCuDDa), Xing Tian (JeffHindla), Discordia (Baskin) – Bans: Ullr, Ah Muzen Cab, Hou Yi, Geb

NRG Picks: Ravana (Adapting), Erlang Shen (maniaKK), Raijin (Yammyn), Athena (iRaffer), Rama (emilitoo)  – Bans: Fafnir, Sylvanus, The Morrigan, Ganesha

Blood is spilled early in Game 2 at 1:00, emilitoo and BaRRa trade shots and Yammyn gets the finish for the first blood. Mask of LG quickly follows with Cu Chulainn’s transformation by killing maniaKK in solo. The game would have a slow pace after the early action, with NRG slowly controlling the game by way of consistent kills (1 kill per 2 minutes) and buff steals. Better positioning and awareness from NRG leads to a Fire Giant secure at 15:50, and a 12k gold lead. LG, however, was able to mount a base defense with a huge ultimate from JeffHindla’s Xing Tian at 20:00 despite the gold deficit. NRG prepares for another siege with a Fire Giant secure at 21:45, which leads to a Deicide and a resounding victory in Game 2 for NRG eSports. The Athena pick caught LG off guard and this allowed Yammyn to dominate the second game. The set MVP is of course Adapting, his high level play and team presence with Ravana was the most critical part of NRG’s strategy. NRG advances to Semifinals.

Those were some epic games so far. Stay tuned, two more quarterfinal matches are still to come, I’ll see you all again for EUnited vs. Black Dragons and Elevate vs. Obey.

Any thoughts or opinions expressed are mine alone. I am not affiliated with any SMITE organizations mentioned or Hi-Rez Studios. Images credited to SMITE eSports and Hi-Rez Studios.

SMITE World Championship Day 2: Knockout Round

Its that time of year once again, old man winter creeps on our doors and brings with him the SMITE World Championship at HRX. We have a great field of teams this year, including the dominant NRG and EUNITED, who could end up in the epic finale to this series of games. Before we get into that though, I’ll give you all some coverage on today’s knockout matches. International teams Entity Gaming and Black Dragons, and Scylla Esports and NocturnsGaming faced off today in two great best of three matches to determine which two teams will receive the remaining Quarterfinal spots.

Knockout Match #1: Entity Gaming VS. Black Dragons

EntityvBlackdragons

Game 1 – Entity Picks: Picks: Raijin (SirEclipse), Ravana (iApex), Hachiman (Kamiru), Ganesha (MashuPoi), Cabrakan (Parad1ddle) – Bans: Erlang Shen, Sylvanus, Ah Muzen Cab, Cu Chulainn

Black Dragons Picks: Fafnir (PIBE), Serqet (oShip), Rama (MarcelZ), Artio (Kliz), Ra (Nann) – Bans: Ullr, Osiris, Geb, Xing Tian

Our first game saw some great early action with Cabrakan and Ravana combining with great crowd control on Artio for a first blood by Entity. Early pressure from Cabrakan and Ravana would continue. Black Dragons were able to start a comeback beginning with sneaking the first Gold Fury. Later, thanks to great play from MarcelZ on his Rama, Black dragons finds a kill on Kamiru followed by a quick Gold Fury Secure. MarcelZ would continue his top notch play and bring Black Dragons back from its early deficit. Thanks to oShip and his incredible Serqet play, the team was able to steal a Fire Giant that Entity attempted to snatch from under Black Dragons. After some picks and posturing, Black Dragons would secure another Fire Giant and begin a final siege with MarcelZ at the helm with his massive hunter damage. Black Dragons was able to come back from Entity’s dominant early game and win Game 1. Huge props to oShip with his Serqet rotations and teamfight presence, which gave him 95% kill participation at 18 Kills+Assists.

Game 2 – Entity Picks: Erlang Shen(Parad1ddle), Anhur (Kamiru), Nox (SirEclipse), Xing Tian (MashuPoi), Awilix (iApex) – Bans: Ullr, Serqet, Ra, Artio  

Black Dragons Picks: Sylvanus (PIBE), Odin (oShip), Hachiman (MarcelZ), Amaterasu (Kliz), Vulcan (Nann) – Bans: Osiris, Ah Muzen Cab, Fafnir, Ravana 

Game 2 would have a similar starting pace, Entity would find a big first blood once players hit level 5 and focused their ultimates on Naan’s Vulcan at Black Dragon’s speed buff. Entity would get a few more kills and an early Gold Fury, getting great early pressure once again. Black Dragons once again starts to find cracks in the armor and finds two return kills and a Mid Tower after the Gold Fury. MarcelZ would once again keep the team afloat with a massive 3 level lead and full devourer’s gloves ahead of Kamiru. Black Dragons continued to show better objective control with oShip zoning with his Odin. That and the Odin, Vulcan combo allowed Black Dragons to get a Portal Demon and Gold Fury. This leads to a huge teamfight at the Fire Giant, which Black Dragons wins and secures the FG. At this point MarcelZ and Naan’s damage was simply too much and Black Dragons storms the gates for a Game 2 victory. oShip and MarcelZ both had 100% kill participation. oShip was incredible in this set, his great plays on both his Serqet and Odin along with his rotations and teamfight presence led the charge to Black Dragons moving to Quarterfinals.

Knockout Match #2: NocturnsGaming VS. Scylla Esports

NocturnsvScylla

Game 1 – Nocturns Picks: Osiris (Beltway), Sylvanus (Noitulover), Hachiman (Zaionsix), Erlang Shen (Sm1tero), Isis (Nozq) – Bans: Odin, Raijin, Fafnir, Geb

Scylla Picks: Xing Tian (Kayo), Ravana (Envisionise), Medusa (MingyuSeo), Vulcan (xShred), Sobek (Torreyskiez) – Bans: Ullr, AMC, Serqet, Cabrakan

This game would open up with epic action at the Fire Giant pit before minion spawns with Scylla finding a first blood on Noitulover. After a bit of lane phase, Scylla attempts to take their blue buff, but instead loses 3 team members because of a great engage by Osiris and rotation by Isis. Beltway would continue to control the pace of this game with his massive solo lane lead. Scylla responds later by sneaking a risky fire giant despite Nocturns’ lead and map control. Nocturns is able to prevent Scylla from utilizing its FG and thanks to Beltway’s presence and zoning, secures the FG on respawn. By this point Sm1tero and Zaionsix are massive and have high damage and pen, tearing through Scylla’s phoenixes and the Titan. This game was the Beltway show, his rotations and pressure along with the same from Sm1tero make it an easy win for Nocturns once they reached mid game.

Game 2 – Nocturns Picks: Fafnir (Noitulover), Erlang Shen (Beltway), Hachiman (Zaionsix), Thoth (Nozq), Serqet (Sm1tero) – Bans: Osiris, Ah Muzen Cab, Geb, Hou Yi

Scylla Picks: Raijin (xShred), Ravana (Envisionise), Artio (Kayo), Cernunnos (MingyuSeo), Odin (Torreyskiez) – Bans: Sylvanus, Ullr, Ra, Isis

The early game was slower in Game 2, eventually Scylla attempts a blue buff steal and is met with Beltway and Sm1tero and the latter finds first blood and another kill on Artio and Ravana. Much like Game 1, Beltway and Sm1tero continue their pressure and domination across the map. A great gank onto MingyuSeo and Torreyskiez leads to an easy Gold Fury for Nocturns. Nocturns continues to show great play and team chemistry, particularly between Beltway and Sm1tero, who’s Serqet ultimates proved critical to most fights. After a free Fire Giant, Nocturn’s superb synergy leads to a dominate Game 2 victory. This set was really a collective MVP between Beltway and Sm1tero who both played like seasoned veterans and controlled the set at all stages.

And with that I will see you all tomorrow for Quarterfinals. Get ready for epic action and incredible plays.

Any thoughts or opinions expressed are mine and mine alone. I am not affiliated with any SMITE organization mentioned or Hi-Rez Studios. Photos credited to SMITE eSports and Hi-Rez Studios.

 

Fallout 4 Review – Not Just a Wasteland

Developer: Bethesda Games Studios                                                                                 Publisher: Bethesda Softworks                                                                                         Platforms: PC, Xbox ONE, PlayStation 4                                                                           Reviewed On: Xbox ONE

Once again Bethesda has brought us another entry into the Fallout Series, Fallout 4. This game takes place in a wasteland known as the Commonwealth, formerly the Commonwealth of Massachusetts before the infamous war that led to a total nuclear fallout. The game uses a new engine as compared to the previous two games along with some new features such as construction and item customization. The famous VATS system also returns, this time with the ability to manually inflict crits. Has Bethesda delivered a rousing and groundbreaking experience once again or is this just another average sequel?

PLOT & STORY

Once the game begins we are immediately faced with something new, the game actually starts off in 2077 before the nuclear fallout! And at this time we find our character (male or female pending your preference) enjoying his leave from the military with their wife or husband, again depends on preference, and infant son, Shaun. The family also has a Mr. Handy robotic helper named Codsworth. Once you’ve created your customized character, a hallmark of modern Bethesda games, a Vault-Tec rep comes to the door asking, as their slogan says, “if you’re prepared for the future.” After some brief dialogue you accept his proposal of your family gaining a spot in Vault 111. Then, in a great bit of story writing, an alarm sounds, signifying that a nuclear weapon is coming. You and your family rush to the Vault, arriving just before the shockwave. In startling fashion, the player finds that the Vault is a cryogenics experiment, set to freeze the residents until it is deemed safe for them to be thawed.

Vault 111

You go along with it and after being locked inside an unknown amount of time, a stranger open the cryo pod containing your spouse and son. The stranger kidnaps your son and kills your spouse for resisting. As you watch in despair, the cryo pod slowly comes back online and you drift into hibernation. Sometime later there is a malfunction and your pod opens. You stagger out only to find you’re the Sole Survivor of Vault 111. You leave the Vault and find an irradiated wasteland outside. After locating the loyal Codsworth, you continue through the Commonwealth, searching for any clues about your son and his kidnapper. I must say, Bethesda outdid themselves on this story. Its emotional and feels real all the while. Its a much better story in terms of writing and execution than the previous Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. There’s also some great twists in store to keep it interesting.

You make your way to Diamond City, created out of what used to be Fenway Park, and locate a detective who promises to help. He is Nick Valentine, a defective prototype synth (android) created by the infamous and secretive scientist organization known as the Institute. Unlike other synths who have programmed brains, Nick has had the mind of a 2070’s police detective implanted into his brain.

Nick_Valentine

Using these skills he helps you locate the last known location of your son and his kidnapper, now known as the mercenary Kellogg. When you finally track him down, you find out that he was hired by the Institute to retrieve a baby from before the nuclear fallout. They required a clean, non-radiated child for some experiments. After a flurry of tasks, you find plans to build a device to teleport you to the Institute. Once there you discover that the kidnapping happened 60 years ago and your son, Shaun, is now the Institute’s Director, known to them as Father.

Fo4Shaun(Father)

This complicates things, the Institute is despised for kidnapping wastelanders and seizing scientific equipment by any means necessary, but your son is their leader… Once you find this out you can either choose to assist the Institute and destroy its threats, or, destroy them for their merciless actions against the Commonwealth.

Long story, isn’t it (and that’s a good thing!)? As I said before this story is much more well written than past Fallouts and well executed. It has great tension and emotion while feeling incredibly real to the player. I didn’t expect the story in a video game to tug at me like this one would. Now I actually did piece the direction of the story together long before finding the Institute, but it’s still fairly unpredictable. I’m clever like that. The plot is one thing, but what about the characters and the other factions in the game? Let’s break it down.

FACTIONS 

As with past Fallout games, the game has different factions that the player can be part of. These are the Minutemen, Brotherhood of Steel, Railroad, and Institute. The Minutemen are a militia organization whose mission is to protect the Commonwealth. Arriving in Concord, you find the Minutemen who are pinned down in the Revolutionary War museum by a group of raiders. Their current leader, Preston Garvey, explains that there is a suit of power armor and minigun on the roof from a crashed Vertibird. The player can use this to assist the Minutemen and kill the raiders. After that he should be available as a follower and you can move forward with the Minutemen questline. Their goal and purpose makes them my personal favorite faction. I just like the idea of helping people, as basic as that sounds.

Preston_Garvey_launch_trailer

The Brotherhood of Steel is the old standby of Fallout, present in every game. The Brotherhood of Steel is a quasi-religious organization whose mission is to find and preserve pre-war technology. In the Commonwealth, you locate a scouting party in the Cambridge Police Station. This is recon squad Gladius, led by Paladin Danse. After helping them clear out ghouls, you can advance the questline and help them get back to the Prydwen, the Brotherhood’s airship. Eventually, Danse will be available as a follower.

Fo4_Paladin_Danse

Finally, there’s the Railroad. They are a humanitarian organization whose mission is to protect and assist synths that escape from the Institute. While most synths are basic robots, some are androids with their own personalities. Thus some are capable of free thinking and deciding to leave the Institute, which the Institute obviously would not like to happen. They are led by Desdemona, a ginger haired woman. After locating their headquarters and joining you can advance the questline.

FO4_Desdemona

Finally, the Institute is a technological utopian organization that seeks to restore the Commonwealth to its former glory, by any means. After the fallout, Cambridge Institute of Technology students and faculty constructed an underground utopia with the technology they preserved.

FO4-institute-concourse

As I explained, you eventually find plans to build a teleporter to gain access to the Institute. You find this by helping an ex-Institute scientist named Virgil in the Glowing Sea area. Once inside you can advance the questline after speaking to Shaun/Father.

Now I have to complain. The other 3 factions have quests you can do to help end the Institute’s reign of terror. Once you reach a certain point, you cannot advance the quest lines any further for the remaining 2. If you do the quest to blow up the institute with the Minutemen, the Brotherhood and Railroad will not engage with you. You can talk to them, but you won’t get quests. I wasn’t even that far into the questlines for the Brotherhood and Railroad when this issue came up. I think this was a poor design choice and unfair to the player who may want to do more. I just don’t get it. Also, the Brotherhood will be hostile to you if you help the Railroad, something with them being worried about their helping synths I guess, but that seems arbitrary to me. At least if you destroy the Institute with the Minutemen the factions are neutral. It doesn’t make sense that the Desdemona won’t give you quests if you become Minutemen leader, though.

CHARACTER DESIGN

I need to talk about this because I think they executed this better than any Fallout to date. The unique designs of most major characters and story development with each is great in Fallout 4. You will like every follower in this game. Preston Garvey is a man with a troubled mind, before the Sole Survivor comes along he feels like a man without a country. His storyline consists of helping him overcome his past and current emotions and restoring the Minutemen to their former glory. Nick Valentine is one of my favorites. He struggles with fitting in because of what he is and with the personality of the real Nick Valentine in his mind, who has been dead for 210 years. Danse is pretty basic though, the usual righteous man who wants to be a beacon to the rest of the Brotherhood and seeks validation. Then there’s Piper, the clever and dogged reporter who seeks truth, Curie the Mrs. Handy who seeks to understand what it means to be human, Hancock the drug fiend of a ghoul who just wants to be a decent guy and lead the people of Goodneighbor the right way. My favorite is probably Old Longfellow. While he is in the Far Harbor DLC and not the base game, he’s exceptional. He’s mysterious and gruff at first, but you find out he’s not so hard as he seems. He’s just a good man who’s been through a lot. And he tells you like it is, which is a great character trait that fits him well.

Old_Longfellow

Each has a well written in moving story in some way, making the characters feel very dynamic. You will also find yourself actually caring about each one. Best character design in a Fallout, no question.

GAMEPLAY

Most of the core gameplay of Fallout 4 remains the same as the last two games. Thank God you can finally sprint in this game by pressing the right bumper! It’s still first person shooter style with a variety of melee weapons and firearms. VATS also returns, which is the famous system with which you can target specific body parts. Unlike past games, you now have a crit meter in VATS and by manually pressing a button you can fire a critical strike. Weapons can now be upgraded and have parts added to improve different stats. Now you can make your weapon the best it can be rather than having to find new, more superior weapons. You can also do the same for armor. You will need a weapon workbench to upgrade weapons and an armor workbench for armor.

FO4_VATS

Power armor has been overhauled, you no longer require training to wear it. Instead, you will now need Fusion Cores, small nuclear batteries, to power the armor. Without them the armor loses its enhanced capabilities. Each piece (helmet, arms, legs, torso) can be upgraded and have modifications added. These provide varied effects, from increasing strength to providing rad resistance. There is also a jet-pack mod for the torso piece, which makes for some interesting gameplay. But slow down there, rocket-man, parts can be damaged and will require materials for repairs. The materials you use for armor and weapons are collectively known as “junk”. Any mods or upgrades will tell you what material is needed in the menu of the workbench or power armor station.

Power_Armor_Station_in_FO4_Trailer

In quite a big change for the series, Bethesda expands on the idea of building construction from Skyrim and allows you to freely build structures and other objects through a workshop station. Simply hold down the menu button on the controller and boom, you can start building in the workshop radius. It’s not just walls and floors though, you can place lights, storage, furniture, stores and defenses for your settlement. Want some home decor to spice up the place? No problem, you can put up art and other decorations. Fallout 4 does all this through settlements, locations you can clear out and provide for settlers in the wastes. Note they will require food and water as well, and defenses like turrets, settlement doesn’t do much good if your settlers are dead. I think this was well executed and a good addition to make the gameplay interesting. Although, there can be some frustrations with obstacles keeping you from placing objects and structure parts snapping in place facing the wrong way. This was annoying but I was able to build complete houses from scratch.

Sanctuary_Workshop

If you have the Automatron DLC installed, you can also create a robot workshop. With this you can build diabolical machines with which to rule the world! But if you’re not into world domination, you can just play around with the different part combos. There’s a variety. You can have access to all assaultron, protectron, sentry bot, and robobrain parts. Each has a head, torso, legs, and arms. You can add parts that provide better stats, improve carrying capacity, provide damage, and even emit electric discharge that can damage enemies. There’s a variety of weapons too, from shishkebabs (a flaming sword) to Fat Man launchers.

FO4AUT_Robot_Workbench

You can even choose a voice. You can have them speak in simple beeps or give them full speech. There’s fully voiced male and female voices too, if you’re feeling lonely. My biggest enjoyment from this was building a huge sentry bot with a Fat Man launcher and gatling laser, then giving him a pleasant male voice and naming him Marvin. Great juxtaposition, am I right? That’s about it for the gameplay, lets talk about the world map as it’s an important part of the game.

WORLD DESIGN

Fallout 4 has a rather dynamic world map, from forests to cities, bogs to beaches, and a particularly deadly radiation filled hell-scape called the Glowing Sea. And it literally does glow. The world also feels alive in a way. Just wandering the wastes you can find interesting locations that all have their own stories. Some even contain notes you can read that give you an idea of what went on. This makes for some great immersion. The Automatron DLC did this well by explaining the experiments for creating robobrains. Turned out RobCo was using the brains of convicts set to be executed to power the processors. Something went horribly wrong and the robobrains were retaining their former consciousness and revolted. It was like a damn horror movie, I couldn’t believe what I read. Then there’s the Glowing Sea. What sounds like an ideal vacation spot turns out to be a monster filled death zone with all perils you could imagine.

Fallout4_E3_Wasteland

This is Fallout on steroids. It’s a fairly large area with ghouls, radscorpions, and the occasional Deathclaw and will try your patience. Don’t go there without power armor, you will most assuredly die otherwise. Thankfully, you only have to traverse the length of it for one quest. However, exploring will reward you here as you can find some great loot. I found a Gauss Rifle and an almost complete set of X0-1 power armor just by wandering around the Glowing Sea. That is one thing the game does well, rewarding you for exploration. You can find some great things just by picking a direction and walking.

There is one drawback to the game world, the size. It’s smaller than the Capital Wasteland and New California which is disappointing. While there are quite a few locales, I was actually running out of things to do in the game, much quicker than I did in Fallout 3 or New Vegas. Okay, so I’ve put 160 hours into this game, but still, the game world is just lacking.

SOUND & GRAPHICS

Lastly, I want to discuss the sound design and graphics in the game. The sound in this game is great. The music has more variety than previous games and creates a great atmosphere. Weapon and movement sounds are quite realistic, adding to the immersion. The voice acting is very good, Bethesda usually does a great job finding actors. The voice actor for the male Sole Survivor (Yes, your character can talk in this game) isn’t quite where it needs to be. Some emotional bits leave a lot to be desired from him. Now we get to a big pet peeve I had with the sound, reusing assets from Skyrim. The game is built on the same engine, but recycling sounds? I would have thought Bethesda was better than this. Most of them are miscellaneous sounds that I can’t recall specifically, but they add up and you will notice if you played Skyrim. I swear the super mutants will Shout at me next time I see them.

The graphics are slightly improved from Skyrim. Its built on the same engine, animations are better, lighting is improved. The colors are also one of the great things about Fallout 4’s graphics. They are vibrant and dynamic making for a realistic atmosphere. However, textures look about the same as Skyrim, which is a little disappointing for a game that was released 4 years later. More should have been done to improve the existing engine so they don’t look the same.

THE FINAL VERDICT: 8/10

Fallout 4 is extremely underrated by the Fallout fan base in my opinion. The game has the best character design and story writing of any Fallout I’ve seen. The game feels very real, which for my play style is entertaining. Gameplay changes were needed and executed quite well in this Fallout entry. Item mods and construction are great features and a few quality of life changes improve the series’ gameplay. Some graphical updates, improved animations, and new features really make this feel like a next-gen Fallout game. Ordinarily, this game is a 9/10, but the small issues I listed like the inability to continue the questlines of certain factions with little explanation, the sound recycling, and the construction glitches bring it down just slightly. Something about being told I can’t continue a story gets under my skin, since the story is incredible. I don’t mention glitches in the review since I really didn’t experience any worth noting, and that’s great considering its a Bethesda title. Overall, Fallout 4 is a fun, immersive game worth playing. Yeah, there’s a couple of flaws but all the good features of this game outweigh them immensely.

Photos attributed to the Fallout Wiki Nukapedia http://www.fallout.wikia.com. I have no affiliation to Bethesda Softworks™ or Bethesda Games Studios. Any thoughts or opinions expressed are mine alone.