VALORANT First Impressions


Sean Crumpacker, Reporter Emeritus

   Most gamers know of the MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) monolith, League of Legends, one of the world’s largest multiplayer video games with a staggering 120 million monthly players. But Riot Games, the company behind one of the greatest free-to-play successes in the gaming world, have recently opened up testing for their latest entry into the industry: VALORANT, an FPS (first-person shooter) which has often been touted by fans as a cross between Overwatch and CS:GO, though VALORANT stands strongly on its own.

   VALORANT is currently in closed beta, meaning that entry into the pool of testers is limited. But players interested in participating in the game’s testing need only look to the streaming website Twitch for a ticket to play. Individuals who watch more than 2 hours of any VALORANT stream are added to the “lottery” of viewers for a small chance to receive a beta key drop via email, provided their Riot Games and Twitch accounts are linked.

   Since VALORANT has not yet been fully released, we cannot yet know how great the game will be when it opens to the public. However, so far, the game seems fairly decent. It’s almost certain, however, that if you’re a fan of strategic shooters, VALORANT will be fun.

   Initially, the first things which stood out (though not quite in a good way) were the agents, or characters, available to play. Some have described the agent designs as “generic” and “uninspired,” though they are certainly distinguishable from one another and not necessarily bad, just lacking the individuality fans coming from a game like Overwatch may expect. However, they still feature more visual uniqueness than the cast of, say, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege.

   Besides, the design choices make considerably more sense when one considers Riot Games’s goal for VALORANT. After achieving massive success with the competitive League of Legends scene and the focus on making VALORANT an above-all-else fair competitive experience, it’s practically a given that Riot Games intends to profit off of VALORANT esports in the same way, given that they are both free-to-play. To ensure fairness in an FPS, the dimensions of the player models need to be extremely similar, but the agents themselves need to be easily visually distinguishable all the same. The agents, in their current state, meet both requirements.

   The varying abilities each agent possesses are what breathes some life into the game and provides reason to pick one or the other. Keeping in line with VALORANT’s focus on strategy and tactics, most of the agents’ abilities have something to do with repositioning, tracking opponents, obscuring vision, or cutting off methods of approaching an area. In this way, agent selection does matter; teams need a mix of agents that can control areas, track the enemy, and, of course, take them out. It really does make for an immensely fun experience when a team’s agent roster synergizes perfectly.

   The major issue with agent abilities thus far is that it seems rather obvious the same assets are being reused over and over. There are so many vision-obscuring abilities which are just a sphere blocking an area, albeit recolored so that you can tell which agent placed it. Riot Games has stated they want VALORANT to run smoothly on even lower-end PCs, so perhaps that explains the frequent re-using of assets, but hopefully by the game’s full release there will be some more visual distinction.

   Finally, it’s worth noting that VALORANT matches are long, especially when they’re close. VALORANT games are won on a best of 24 rounds basis, pushing to 25 on a perfect stalemate, meaning players have to win or lose a minimum of 13 rounds before they are able to move on. There are no faster-paced lobbies to queue in as of now, meaning players must set aside a good hour, at least, before booting up the game.

   All-in-all, the VALORANT closed beta looks very promising. The matches are fun, intense, and games are won or lost based upon a mix of player skill, strategy, team composition and communication between teams. Gameplay-wise, it caters more towards fans of more serious, methodical shooters like CS:GO than faster-paced, exciting gameplay like Overwatch, but fans of both sides of the coin can likely find something about VALORANT to appreciate. And since the game will be free-to-play, there’s no reason not to try it.