Valorant: Does Riot's latest game match the hype?
Riot Games' newest game, Valorant, has made a massive impact on the competitive gaming community, even before its official release.
Much publicity and hype came from Twitch, where viewers had to watch hours of gameplay for a chance of getting a beta key. Now that the general public is experiencing Valorant for the first time, however, how does the hype translate into the game?
People looking to Valorant to be the driving force that renders Overwatch or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive obsolete are going to be disappointed. However, playerbases across other FPS games could see a dip in population with Valorant's release.
The game functions as a mixture of CS:GO's gameplay/game rules, R6's operator design and utility, and part of Overwatch's character design along with some cartoon approachability. It has been described as having a lower barrier to entry than CS:GO with a similarly high ceiling. None of these games will "die" as a result of Valorant stealing the entire fanbase, as Valorant feels unique enough to attract its own niche audience.
The beta itself is fine, apart from a few glitches and unpolished areas that are to be expected with a multiplayer game's launch. The game feels smooth, your bullets generally go where you put your crosshairs (provided you know how to control your gun's accuracy), and the visuals are clear.
From a spectator's point of view, it's easy to identify what's going on in-game. The sound design is something to keep an eye on, as it's occasionally difficult to determine where noises are coming from. If the sound isn't polished, it might hold Valorant back on launch.
The guns in Valorant feel good to use, though some are over-performing for their price (looking at the Guardian). One thing Valorant does well is allowing teams enough resources (player abilities and decent pistol options) to win an economy round (a round where you look to save money until you can fully buy everything you need) by outplaying the enemy team while not making pistols powerful enough to beat a team with guns.
That being said, some of the operators deserve consideration for a potential nerf hammer. Sure, the game is very new, so the general consensus might change in a week or a month, but for now, there are two operators that feel particularly annoying to play against. These operators, Sage and Raze, are particularly strong for entirely different reasons.
Sage is problematic because of her immense utility. Having a Healing Orb every 30 seconds -- that doesn't have to be purchased -- is annoying to go up against. If your team doesn't have a Sage, and the enemy team does, it can completely invalidate any stray damage landed on someone out of position, or even help someone survive long enough to trade 1-for-2. Her ultimate, Resurrect, takes seven ultimate points to charge (which is on the pricier end of ultimates in Valorant), so it's not a constant problem, but it can still be frustrating.
Sage's Barrier Orb, though, draws a majority of the community's ire, and for good reason. The wall it creates takes a lot of resources to break, meaning it's damn-near unbreakable in pistol rounds. Combine that with her Slow Orbs and you have a character who is extremely oppressive in preventing enemies from playing the game. Some have suggested nerfs to every part of Sage's kit, save her Slow Orbs. Things like nerfing the Barrier Orb's wall health and duration, the Healing Orb's healing amount, cooldown and price, and making the Resurrection even more expensive have been thrown around among gamers.
Over time, Sage might inspire other "healer" style characters in Valorant, which would potentially throw the game balance into a whack state of being forced to run two healers or else lose the war of attrition against a team running the double healer. But as there's no sign that Valorant is taking that path, the community can breathe a sigh of (temporary) relief.
In contrast, Raze doesn't beleaguer you with utility so much as raw killing potential. Her Boom Bot feels fine to use and play against -- it's easy to see and hear coming, giving you time to destroy it, and watching what is essentially a C4-laden Roomba bump into walls is cathartically amusing. The rest of Raze's kit, though, is problematic. Her Paint Shells ability is a cluster grenade that does massive damage. Some pros and developers have said that Paint Shells won't be a problem once the playerbase learns how to play around it, relegating it to a zoning tool.
With the plethora of abilities that can slow players down, though, it sometimes becomes impossible to avoid taking a lethal hit. Frag grenades in CS:GO are infinitely less frustrating to die from, because the grenades have to practically hit you in the chest to kill, and there are a set amount of them. With Paint Shells, though, Raze gets a recharging ability that, at its worst, is an S-tier zoning tool, and at its best, will get Raze players a highlight of them throwing something into a room and killing a couple of enemies without ever setting eyes on them.
The big problem with Raze is her ultimate, Showstopper. After getting six ultimate points, Raze pulls out a rocket launcher that deals massive damage. Since all characters have a global voice line when they activate their ultimates, it's not an issue of not seeing the Showstopper coming. When Raze uses her entire kit, using her Blast Packs to propel herself around corners and into your face before blasting you and your team and wiping everything out, it becomes obnoxious, to say the least.
Now, again, since the game is still in beta and very new, these kinds of characters -- which can wipe out your entire team unless you all work together -- have historically been described as broken (see Bastion in Overwatch's beta). Valorant players might get to a level of understanding where Raze feels less oppressive to play against. Until such a day comes, though, we will remain salty when we die from a cross map explosive.
The biggest question when it comes to Valorant: Is this game the next big esport?
The answer: maybe, why not?
The gameplay is fun and rewarding to master, the game's free-to-play model makes it easier for the next potential breakout star to pick the game up, and Riot Games have run one of the flagship, Tier One esports, League of Legends, pretty well since the early 2010s.
Time will tell if Valorant's launch is smooth, or if it's waylaid by myriad controversy and broken mechanics. If Riot can get Valorant up and running, though, there's no reason why Valorant couldn't be the next breakout game to hit the FPS genre.
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