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Wednesday, January 1

Smite and OMG: TD! - 2 Different Takes on Mythology

You no longer need to pay $20 to watch a movie or $60 to play a video game. You don't have to settle for generic because you're broke. Free quality options now populate services like Vimeo, YouTube, Google Play, and The Pirate Bay. Entertainment (considered a luxury) is now freely available to anyone with an internet connection - including movies, music, and video games.

Freeware and Shareware were once considered the redheaded stepchildren of software, but these days, independent and starving artists, programmers, and entrepreneurs of all disciplines are pushing the quality of open-sourced and ad-supported software by leaps and bounds. Where you once were forced to shell out hundreds to thousands of dollars to obtain the necessary equipment to produce professional-quality digital content, these days everything is freely available to those who know where to look. 

Smite Freemium Screenshot
Somehow the minotaur is more powerful than a handful of gods...

Indie developers have mined various religious mythology to develop video games based on these open-sourced  IPs. Previously, Microsoft's Age of Mythology (a Warcraft / Age of Empires clone) and God of War were the only deity-based games worth playing, but there are two freemium entries poised to make a big impact in the gaming world in 2014: Smite, a DotA mod from Hi-Rez Studios featuring more PVP options on the PC than Unreal Tournament, and OMG: TD!, a freemium tower defense game on Android and iOS.

Fact: Mythology Makes for a Great Game...


OMG: TD! Freemium Screenshot
Again, the minotaur is more powerful than gods...

Both Smite and OMG: TD feature classic Greek deities (along with human hero, Hercules), but Smite also mines the lore of the Egyptians, Norse, Chinese, Mayans, Hindu and other cultures for their deities. Other than the subject matter, however, the games aren't comparable; Smite is a hardcore game, meant to test the mettle of the best of the best, whereas OMG: TD! is a casual game that provides a short mobile interlude from the doldrum daily lives of human drones. Both are worth checking out, as they do a great job of adapting the gods to the control of man.

What makes Smite so good is the ability to control your favorite god in various combat scenarios. Fans of League of Legends, WoW arenas and battlegrounds, first-person shooters, and fighting games can all find something to love in here. The only downside to Smite is something OMG: TD! actually got right; elemental damage is one of the key elements that made Final Fantasy, Pokemon, and World of Warcraft such popular brands. Currently Smite only differentiates between physical and magical damage, while ignoring the effects of, say, fire vs ice or earth vs electricity. Integrating these mechanics would add layers of depth to an already great game.

OMG: TD! provides light entertainment in short bursts. Whereas Smite games last 12-20 minutes on average (with some matches lasting an hour or more), OMG levels take 2-5 minutes to play out. It's the game you play while waiting for a match in a real game. Just because it's casual doesn't mean OMG isn't a serious game, though; much like Pixeljunk Monsters and Bloons before it, the game has a great variety of towers (Zeus, Poseidon, etc) and enemies that take some serious strategy to master. The ability to earn power-ups, having a free-moving hero on the field, and tower upgrades round out this mobile experience.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a God...


Smite Freemium Screenshot Zeus Versability
Zeus rides a cloud like Pig Pen in Peanuts...

While both games are fun, being freemium offerings means they're bound to have glitches and other issues. As of this writing, Smite is still in the beta phase, with its full launch planned for March 2014. The matchmaking system has problems every now and again, and the graphics have been known to occasionally crash certain systems. With over 2.5 million registered users and a great support team being funded by Chinese backers, Hi-Rez has a chance to clean up the reputation they gained with Tribes: Ascend for creating great games with very little support. This summer, the team cancelled the official Tribes forum, referring gamers to fan-made sites and social media outlets, such as Reddit. Hopefully this means Hi-Rez is using these resources on to support Smite.

OMG: TD! currently only has one world, which is divided into 20 levels (including three boss levels). The solitary world is divided into three sections, and it looks as though more levels will be coming as soon as enough users download the app to motivate it. Chinese publisher Yodo1 has promised to reward its 1.5 million+ user base with updates in the coming year, and it'll be exciting to see this come to fruition. the game doesn't look set up to receive more deities (Smite is) or power-ups, but new heroes and levels can come at whatever pace business circumstances allow.

Intellectual Property for Intellectuals...


OMG: TD! Screenshot Versability
I can't wait for WTF: TD!...

Mythology is a great way to utilize known characters for a great gaming experience. As much as I love Mario, Peach, Yoshi, and the crew, Aphrodite, Hades, Mercury, and others have charisma and star power that is rare this side of Nintendo. Nerds have traditionally gravitated toward mythology - it's taught in schools worldwide, and the strengths, weaknesses, and abilities of each deity is generally regarded as common knowledge among civilized society. Using these characters in a video game is like an entertaining version of The League of Extraordinary Gentleman.

If you're a fan of mythology, you should check out either Smite or OMG: TD!. They're easily on the level of Mario, Battlefield, or any of the most popular video games on the market. The best part is they're free to download, require no money to play continuously and level (no paywall), and you don't need an expensive video game console to enjoy them. It's great seeing Indie game developers contributing freemium offerings that focus on making money by providing an enjoyable player experience, rather than using them as a thinly-veiled marketing avenue.


Freemium Freedom...



If you're broke and looking to kill a few hours, video games are a great way to do it. Smite and OMG: TD! are two of the best freemium games on the market today, assigning recognizable faces to solid gameplay mechanics. They're intuitive, fun to play, and have a strong community, helping them easily stand next to paid gaming options. Stay tuned for more information on free entertainment options available online and off.

Want more freemium gaming options? Check out my Freemium Review of Thor: The Dark World...

Brian Penny is a former business analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower, blogger, consultant, and troll.

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