As part of its annual Hi-Rez Expo event this week, Smite developer Hi-Rez Studios has announced the game’s next character, the first from the Celtic pantheon.
Smite’s new character is named The Morrigan, and she’s a Mage with a particularly interesting Ultimate. Changeling allows her to transform into any other character in the current game session, be it an ally or an enemy. This copies their stats and items, and it allows her to use all of their abilities–including their Ultimate–for the duration of the effect. Not everything is carried over; The Morrigan still has her own Relics, and the rank of her own abilities determines the rank of the copied ones.
Her other abilities are less radical but have the makings of an interesting character all the same. Deadly Aspects summons allies to her side and then allows her to damage and stun enemies in front of her. Dark Omen shoots an attack in a line, dealing damage and applying an omen to them for a “short time.” This causes them to take additional damage when hit by an ally’s ability. Finally, Confusion causes The Morrigan to stealth and gain movement speed, and it creates a clone that runs toward a target location. It doesn’t deal any damage and disappears with a single hit.
While the need to team up to best use Dark Omen is noteworthy, it’s not unprecedented; Aphrodite operates in a similar way. The Morrigan’s Ultimate is what truly sets her apart. The concept had come up before, according to Hi-Rez, only for it to be dismissed.
“It was immediately shot down by our lead programmers we’ve had before, because the game is really not built to do something like this,” Smite lead designer AJ Walker told GameSpot in an interview. “Our core architecture fights this in a lot of ways. So, we brought it up again, we had some new staff on the team, and I started talking about it really early with my lead programmer, and he was like, ‘Yeah, we can probably look into it.’
“Every time, I was like, ‘Just start working on it, let’s see how it goes. We can always have a backup plan; we can pick a different Ult; we have some other ideas. But let me know how it’s going.’ And he was making big steps every time I checked in with him! He was like, ‘It’s actually working really well! There are a few UI things and other things that are a bit strange…’ He’s just amazing. He finished it off actually with an all-nighter on Tuesday, to really get down the last few of her difficult bugs. It’s one of those things that’s been around for a really long time, initially shot down, but we gave ourselves a really big amount of planning time, and we surprised ourselves.”
As for the challenge of balancing such a character, Hi-Rez isn’t under the delusion that she’ll be perfect coming out of the gate.
“That challenge is just beginning,” Walker explained. “We rely a lot on our players–people play the game and we get a lot more information. I would not assert that she is perfectly balanced yet. I would say that we’ve tried our best. We’ve made a lot of tweaks to how the Ultimate works–its cooldown and things–to make it more fair, but we’re really going to see how powerful it really is once the players get it in their hands.
“I anticipate that she’s going to have a big difference in her potential based on skill level, so at competitive she’ll probably be really overpowered–at first, until we get some things worked out. But in the average player’s hands, I don’t think she’s going to be too scarily powerful. So that challenge is still on the way.”
The Morrigan doesn’t have a release date yet, but she’ll arrive “soon” as part of the 3.25 update. Hi-Rez has also announced other upcoming additions and changes or Smite, including a new Clash map. Meanwhile, the company revealed a new game and launched the closed beta for spinoff Smite Tactics.