Smite [official site] developers, Hi-Rez, have been teasing their Japanese pantheon for a while now but they've been keeping tight-lipped over which deities they were working on. All president, Stew Chisam, would tell me a few months back was that we could expect a goddess.
Amaterasu, a sun (and universe) deity from the Shinto religion, was a common guess and today's announcement officially confirmed her as the seventy-second addition to the Smite roster. Reading an article in the official Smite magazine, it also seems like the Japanese pantheon in general will be mostly Shinto deities but with scope for some other figures from Japanese mythology. But who is Amaterasu for a Smite player, how does she work and what the heck does Guan Yu have to do with her ultimate?
"When you look at Amaterasu she's this warm light that has this feeling of inspiration and protection," says lead designer, Scott Zier. We're talking about the goddess's kit and why it's so focused on auras which buff or debuff in an area of effect around her or her target.
"In her lore she had three gifts that she gave to the emperor and we really wrapped a lot of that into the fact that she's a warrior but she plays a lot as a support warrior. Her first ability is a stance-switching* aura which can buff teammates. That was a big part of it. We have a lot of sun deities in the game but with her it's definitely more warmth, not brightness that we wanted to bring into the character. Instead of just saying 'goddess of the sun' it's more of a 'shining light of the heavens' feel to it."
*It's not exactly a stance-switch (Scott made that point during the prior presentation) as it doesn't change her kit, just the aura so it's more of a toggle, but if you know Smite - particularly the Norse pantheon - you'll get the slip of the tongue.
I'll get onto her abilities in a sec but I wanted to say I really like the direction they've gone with Amaterasu's look and the accompanying artwork. She gets some ace fiddly sword and sword-sheathing animations too, although I couldn't gif them at the event.
Right, so. Amaterasu is a melee warrior. She can hold her own in the solo lane but - as you might expect given those auras - she shines in team-fights. This is her skillset as per the build I played at the preview event just prior to the Smite World Championships, although I'm not 100% certain these are the exact versions that will be present at character launch.
Passive: Illuminating Strike
If you stack up three hits on an enemy you'll apply a debuff to them which increases the damage they take from all sources. It's an aura effect though so if they stand near teammates the teammates will also take increased damage.
Ability 1: Divine Presence
This one's a buff aura. It heals Amaterasu every second for four seconds but it also offers an always-active benefit to your nearby colleagues (shut up, I call them colleagues). What Scott meant by this being like a stance-switching aura is that each time you activate it the buff switches between Valor and Benevolence. The former applies bonus power and the latter is a percentage move speed increase.
Ability 2: Heavenly Reflection
This one's all about charging one of the three gifts associated with Amaterasu: her mirror. It's what Hi-Rez call a two-tier ability. You activate it to give you a defensive buff and then at the end (either at the end of 5 seconds or when you reactivate, I think) it fires a shot based on how much damage she's taken during the charge time. I believe you can also charge the shot by dealing damage to enemies. If you get it to full charge you'll deal bonus damage with that shot.
"Two-tier abilities are very exciting to us from a design standpoint because 1, it has a delayed effect so it's interesting to see how players play with it but 2, there's counter-play to it and ways you can address it or interrupt it or take action against it."
Ability 3: Glorious Charge
She silences enemies in front of her then dashes forward dealing damage. It's one of those dashes which pierces through minions but you'll stop at the first god you hit along its range.
Ability 4: Dazzling Offensive
So this is the part where Guan Yu comes in. Dazzling Offensive - Amaterasu's ultimate - is basically a character called Guan Yu's old ultimate. "There's a lot of fans who have always been like 'bring back the old Guan Yu ultimate!' People will definitely see the parallels. This is very similar to that. We were exited to bring that back, we did think that was missing from the game."
I didn't get to take her out in a real game, but I did go for a little test drive on the new Joust map against some bots and I'd forgotten how much of a jerk you can be with that ultimate. The cooldown felt super-low as well, although perhaps I was just rampaging because bots. The dash came in super useful when I was chasing down a couple of low-health enemies (although I also did accidentally use it to dash into range of the enemy phoenix). Oh, and being able to dash out of harm's way saved my life after I spectacularly misjudged whether I was powerful enough to solo kill the new Joust mini-boss.
Amaterasu should be coming to the PC version of Smite on 12 January.