Along with all the new game announcements/closed beta phases and whatnot, Hi-Rez's god-themed MOBA, Smite [official site] is getting its annual overhaul. The Season 4 changes include a Celtic-focused event to mark the first character from that pantheon (The Morrigan), an Egyptian-themed Clash map, item updates, changes to ranked play, integrated voice chat, multi-queueing and the addition of Rituals to name just a few.
Here's a rundown of the main points.
Let's look at the Celtic event first. That's called the Path of the Phantom Queen and marks the addition of the Celtic pantheon to the game. It's being led by the announcement of The Morrigan (hence Path of the Phantom Queen) who they have described as "one of the game's most ambitiously designed gods yet, this deceptive mage can take the form of any god on the battleground, turning the enemy's strength into a weakness." The latter is her ultimate and only lasts a certain amount of time before she reverts to her usual form but she temporarily has all of that other character's abilities.
Here's the reveal trailer which introduces Morrigan:
I'm really interested in her ability set to see how it actually plays, but in terms of her art design she looks like so many other Smite goddesses. In the default splash art which I've included below it's pretty much Neith crossed with the older version of Freya which doesn't reflect uniqueness of character.
The event looks to be a path which involves a simple roll and move board game and challenges you need to complete in-game like getting a particular number of first wins of the day.
The Clash map is getting a makeover for Season 4 and the developers have gone with the Egyptian theme this time around. Clash is the casual 5v5 game mode, in case you were wondering. Aside from all the pyramids and sculptures, the biggest change I can see is that the bigger map objectives (the Gold Fury and Fire Giant) have been booted out in favour of a single big bad monster - Apophis, a cobra-type purple snake which looks pretty cool but is also a touch reminiscent of the Baron from League of Legends. It looks like he gets tougher as the game progresses, but the reward for killing him also improves.
What else? Rituals. These are consumable items which offer potentially game-changing effects upon use but they're not super cheap so you need to think a little about when to use them. The effects are things like being able to teleport to an ally or reveal enemies to your team or offer particular buffs which might turn a fight.
There are also Containers which function like the Bottle item in Dota 2 so they're health and mana potion charges which refill when you go back to your base. Relics have been rejigged a bit too so you'll want to peek at what's been removed and how you can upgrade the basic forms of those Relics.
The starter items and tier 1 items are also being adjusted. I think the thinking is that if you encourage players to customise their starting builds in the game that will carry through to more diverse/customised builds throughout the game. It's that MOBA thing of trying to move people away from solved problems where you pretty much have to build certain ways on certain characters and towards making meaningful choices for the actual match you're playing.
As with prior seasons (and, indeed, other MOBAs) the jungle is still a work-in-progress so jungle camps are getting reworked in the main competitive mode, Conquest. That means changes to the neutral minions you can find there, but there are also some new objectives. One is the Gold Fury Oracles which grant vision in the form of a ward in the Gold Fury area if you kill both Oracles. There's also a Fire Elemental creature thing which you can kill to place a temporary one-way portal from your base to the Fire Giant pit. The video I've seen of that makes it look like he's pooping out said portal. No word on whether that's part of the official game lore. Essentially these two things add vision and mobility options which help you guard/access pivotal areas and surrounding bits of the map for a while.
Ranked play is getting a bunch of changes. One is that it's being rejigged a bit to mirror the cycles of competitive play so there will be a Spring, Summer and Fall split. The start of the season will see a total reset of player divisions and hidden MMR and each of the new splits within that season will see players rewarded for what they achieve and then getting a soft reset so they get a new chance at the ladder. There is also a more granular element in that there are additional leaderboards to rank you by god so top players for each god will get rewards.
There's also a pause option for ranked which works a bit like the surrender option, tweaks to the qualifying process, UI updates and so on and so forth.
A UI update should also be coming to Smite as a whole. I'm still very much getting used to/chafing against the Dota UI changes so I'll be interested to see whether what Smite comes up with takes some getting used to or is quick for players to adopt even if it is smaller in scope.
What else? Fully integrated voice chat on PC, Smite Adventures which are episodic events with rewards, multi-queueing which lets you queue for multiple types of match at once and a collaboration with Face-It which is part of an effort to bridge the gap between amateur play and professional play. Details on these last few things are thin on the ground right now so when there's more out there I'll take a look.
I pretty much only play Joust nowadays, but I like multi-queue systems in general. I used to prefer selecting multiple modes in Dota just so it mixed up the experience a bit or it would take away some of the pressure on a group to reach a compromise as we'd add a bunch of modes to the queue and whichever one we got was the one we played and no-one could feel outvoted or anything.
Season 3 will wind down once the Smite World Championships conclude the competitive year but a lot of the stuff mentioned here will come into the game in stages rather than one big megapatch. In business speak you'd say: "Season 4 content will roll out incrementally over several patches in the first part of the year."
The same event also brought announcement of a new Smite-related game called Smite Rivals and the release of card game Smite Tactics into closed beta.