On a competitive level, nothing beats the conquest map. The entire game is balanced around this MOBA staple of a three lane map with jungle in between the lanes. But the game mode that attracts the greatest number of (casual) players is Arena, and this map has recently received a major visual overhaul. But do the changes that this update brought with it affect play, and if so, how?
The first thing you’ll notice when the map loads is the abundance of daylight streaming into the Colosseum. In the old map, the battles were fought under a nighttime sky and the stands, spectators and battlefield all had a muted color scheme to further enforce this theme. Now, with the brightness of day, the color schemes have been changed to look more vibrant. The sunlight hitting the sand almost glares back at you as the spectators cheer you on dressed in a myriad of colors. All this makes the match feel a little bit more frantic, and a little bit more alive.
The actual layout of the map hasn’t been changed. It’s still a circular arena with a walled in fountain at either end, four pillars in the center of the map and a set of three walls sheltering the buff camps. The towers that were guarding the entrances to the fountain have been replaced by gargoyles on the wall. Functionally they’re the same, though the area itself has opened up a little bit with the removal of the towers. This doesn’t affect play too much, though ‘towerdiving’ for a kill is a little riskier, as you can no longer force a player behind the tower to prevent them from getting into the fountain. Luckily, this was rarely a factor, but some players liked this tactic and it’s no longer available.
The Minions also no longer spawn from a spawning circle in the fountain, but from doors under the gargoyles. This has slightly changed the pathing of the minions as they no longer turn but walk in almost a straight line towards the middle of the arena. The effect on gameplay is barely worth mentioning. The only difference being that the minions will stay less long in a perfectly placed AoE effect like Poseidon’s ‘Whirlpool’ or Kukulkan’s ‘Tornadoes’. But the frequency of this happening was down to once in a lifetime, so nobody’s really going to notice this change.
The minions, siege towers, buff camps and portals have all received major visual updates. There’s now a clear distinction in the design of the opposing minions and you can now tell them apart by more than just the red or green health bar over their heads. The portals have been changed to take a more prominent role in the design, and minions entering it are visually sucked inside. As the tickets count down, the structure holding the portal deteriorates as well, showing cracks and pieces falling off at set totals.
The biggest visual changes belong to the siege tower and buff camps. It is actually incorrect to refer to the minion that spawns every ten kills as the siege tower after the update. It is now a hulking giant carrying a massive bomb on his shoulders. It’s effect on the ticket counter when reaching the enemy portal is still the same (deducting ten tickets from the enemy ticket counter), but the animation is completely different. Instead of just vanishing into the portal, the ‘siege giant’ throws the bomb into the portal before being sucked in himself. It is important to note that the moment the animation starts, the siege giant is invulnerable and the ten tickets are deducted then.
The buff camps are no longer the cyclopes we all know and love from the conquest map. Instead, they’re replaced by buff beasts. A basilisk, a boar and a lion to be more precise. Each camp only has one beast carrying the buff in it and while the change from three cyclopes to one beast might seem insignificant, it does affect some aspects of the game. Most notably, clearing the camps is a lot easier now. While the total health of the big cyclops and beast don’t differ too much, players take a lot less damage with the small cyclopes removed. It also makes it easier for one player to quickly clear all the buffs, so spawn management has become more important with this change. It also affects gods like Tyr or Ratatoskr with the Emerald Acorn, as their heals are based on the number of targets hit with the respective ability. While they can still heal a bit when they’re on low health and running past the camps, the amount will be significantly lower and can be the difference between living or dieing.
Overall, the visual update is mostly just that: visual. But as you can see in the previous paragraphs, the changes do affect a small group of players and they will need to adjust their tactics a little bit. But it still gives players exactly what it offered before: a hectic all-out team brawl. Just prettier than before.
Written by Kris Stutter & Jorg van der Velden
This article, along with a cacophony of others, appeared in Issue #16 of The Official SMITE Magazine which launched July 23rd. Be sure to check it out!