Valorant Review: A Hero Shooter That’s Here to Stay
Don’t let its colourful exterior and wisecracking characters fool you, this game is focused on tactical and intense bursts of fast paced gunplay that can either leave you completely enthralled, or wanting to delete the game as quickly as you installed.
Valorant, at a glance, is a game of two halves: its growing roster of diverse characters each with their own strong personalities, complimentary design and unique abilities akin to Overwatch is its first half. The second being gunplay based on a somewhat realistic recoil system, an economy that revolves around winning rounds and getting kills to determine the best team in a 5v5 format. Drawing comparisons to CS:GO.
A typical match can last approximately 25 to 40 minutes with a first to 13 round structure. Each round lasts anywhere between a minute to two minutes plus depending on if the spike (Valorant’s version of the typical bomb we see in other competitive shooters) has been planted. The aim of the game is for an attacking team to plant the spike, while breaking the defender team in the process, or just buy kill all of the enemy team. Defenders must stop this attack from occurring and defuse the spike when necessary. The defending team has the ability to defuse a spike halfway, leading to interesting and tense gameplay choices when the seconds matter most.
The economy is well balanced, forcing the player to sometimes make tough decisions when on the backfoot, is it worth spending the last of my money now in order to take this much needed round? Or, do we take the loss this round, save and try again in the next?
These questions encourage team play and communication with your team, figuring out what the best play is together, is most definitely the key to success. For a game that relies so much on tactical team-based gameplay, its community in game can be a little too toxic at times making playing solo an exercise in muting teammates, destroying the ability to properly coordinate, the ping system helps although it is difficult to use in the moment.
Hopefully, this is something Riot focuses on, especially with how popular the game is on Twitch. If you are looking for a welcoming community the Valorant subreddit (r/valorant) is a good place to start, many people are looking to play with others and have links to their own discords on there.
Valorant’s art team should be lauded for their work in designing such an eclectic cast of characters or Agents as they’re called in game. Each Agent was built to be enjoyable to look at and aesthetically coherent in explaining what their strengths are. Take Viper for example:
Clad in an onyx and jade coloured battle garb, the jade marking like a python’s underbelly. The angular and fang like nature of her shoulder pads and boots give her a demanding presence. The mask covering half of her face brings both mystery and practicality, she knows her toxin is dangerous and she’s ready to fight you within it, that’s her world not yours. Her titular gloves from which toxic vapour spews forth is intimidating, and, if not for the wires winding up her arms you would think Viper was made of this poison. The vials of toxin displayed with pride around her waist showcase her love of this violent chemical while also eluding to another one of her abilities used in game.
While their characters are a marvel to take in, Valorant’s gun design also does a great job at showcasing how the aesthetic of a weapon portrays its deadliness. Take the Marshal and the Operator, the two snipers in the game:
The Marshal is sleek in its design, the lever action reload system harkening back to the old west, hence the name. The all black colour scheme gives it a professional look, however that is the default colour scheme for all guns in the game, acting as a sort of blank canvas for which skins then come in, something we will be getting to later on. The reload, an incredibly satisfying and surprisingly fast loading of a bullet into the back of the gun, pulling the lever back, inserting the cartridge and ending with a satisfying click shows off a major strength of the gun. Fast reloads accompanying a fast fire rate. The sound of the gun is akin to a whip crack as the bullet leaves the chamber, it sounds like it will do major damage but unless you aim for the head, it’ll take two shots to kill.
The Operator is a bulky, angular gun, it looks heavy. The scope is much bigger than the Marshal’s, it was built for long range encounters, that’s where this weapon thrives. The magazine poking out the bottom of the gun indicates you’re not going to be firing many shots before you need to reload however, the thunder clap that emanates form this gun when firing more than makes up for that loss of magazine space. It demands your attention, hear this gun being fired in a match and you immediately look to see if you’re team is down a player, or, you’re running as far away from it as possible. This weapon wants to take lives, and it’ll do it in one shot. It is intimidating and brutal, making it such a big deal whenever an enemy is wielding one. The reload speed and rate of fire is the sacrifice you make for the Operator’s power, choosing to reload is dealing with the fact that you will not be able to do any damage for an extended period of time. Miss your shot? You better change position or be incredibly accurate next time because everyone will know where you are.
The biggest selling point isn’t the guns however, it is Agent abilities, and I think currently, there’s an over reliance on big vision blocking spheres. Their importance is paramount as these smokes can allow your team to push into a site, stall the team that is trying to push, allow you to hide within them and create one-ways for easy kills.
I just wish there were more interesting effects for them, take Jett’s smoke for instance, it bounces once and looks like a swirling cloud. Jett players tend to use these selfishly in order to quickly move in and out of a contested area, what if these smokes gave her a small movement speed bonus? This incentivises team play as Jett can dash into one within a contested area, another member of her team can call out where enemies are, or, Sova can fire a tracking bolt in, allowing Jett to dance around her cloud firing out of it and into enemies. The trade off being the smoke not lasting as long and every shot through it can create little openings, as if ripping through the cloud itself exposing the characters inside.
Apart from this lack of depth with the vision blocking smokes Agents have, abilities seem well balanced across the board, they tend to focus on denying areas, gaining vision/information or damaging characters. Earning ultimate abilities feels like an important achievement, they build through getting kills, collecting ultimate orbs scattered throughout highly contestable areas of every map or planting and defusing the spike. Each ultimate is unique and ties together wonderfully with their Agents abilities, take Raze’s rocket launcher esque ultimate, it perfectly coalesces with her other abilities, for better or for worse.
Raze is a contentious character due to her utility revolving around damage, I think she is the first big learning curve of the game. Learning to play around a Raze’s damage is very difficult but she can be overcome, it just takes patience and unfortunately, trial and error due to the lacking training mode.
Valorant’s training mode is great for testing your aim with every gun, getting used to recoil in an FPS that demands quick reflexes and precision aiming in order to come out on top in a fight is important and the training mode accomplishes in teaching the player all about those aspects. My issue stems from not being able to play in the maps unless you set up a custom game and while you can turn on helpful cheats allowing you to freely explore every map, it’s not enough. This game has abilities that can hit you from across the map, especially so with Sova’s shock arrows. Learning from where these abilities could be coming from is integral in deepening the players knowledge and giving them an upper hand over the enemy.
I want to be able to implement bots throughout the map, I want to have handy trails that follow the arc of my abilities so I can see exactly where they land and mark it on the map indefinitely until I choose to clear it. I want to be able to turn on a visible vision cone so I can test one-ways and gauge when and where a player would be able to see me. This is vital due to how angular every map is.
While map decoration is fantastic, each telling their own encapsulated story, simultaneously feeling familiar and fantastical, I take issue with the design.
Every area of these maps is in one way or another, a corridor, while each one has a specific interesting gimmick (Bind’s teleporters for example), they all blend over each other very easily. There are no interesting gameplay situations you find yourself in, it is always pushing an angle and while that is tense, its effect was found to waver on me. I want to see curvature in maps, I want elevated positions for both attacker and defender sides, I want to play in a map that’s got an oval shaped area littered with boxes and tables that you may or may be able to shoot through, weaving between those gives more gameplay options, especially when abilities come into play. The hallways and corridors Valorant make heavy use of are typically baron which I understand is so that abilities can be used with greater ease and be more effective, it just feels like a sacrifice that could’ve been worked around.
Due to Valorant being free to play, much like Riot’s other game, League of Legends, premium currency is used to purchase Agents and skins for weapons. Also like League of Legends, extortionate pricing of these skins and the predatory pricing method of this premium currency is an insult to the player base. £50 for a set of five skins is far too expensive in my opinion but I understand that it is subjective and if you think that is fair pricing, who am I to judge? What I am willing to judge, is how Riot made sure to have awkward amounts of premium currency ensuring that if you buy a bundle, you’ll be left with an amount of currency you can’t do anything with, and while this is by no means a new practice, it is definitely predatory and should be condemned.
For gamers with disabilities, this game is not inclusive, you can fully remap the keyboard controls and customise your crosshair however, that’s all you got. With future updates I hope that more options become available, colour blind offerings would be a good start. The game runs incredibly well, with in depth statistics available for both the servers as well as the GPU usage. That being said the servers have seemed to take a beating recently, its player base is growing every day and I think they may be under a lot of strain, hopefully this is an issue that gets addressed asap.
Finally, with an eSports scene in its infancy but with big names attaching themselves to it, Valorant seems to be poised to take the gaming world by storm and with news of Riot wanting to add 6 new Agents every year, the commitment to the game seems evident. I personally enjoy the game quite a lot, its gameplay loop is fast paced and addictive, I want to see this game do well and I hope that they innovate further with each new update. It has flaws but they are fixable.
Valorant is a game built for our current gaming ecosystem and one that intends to stick around for a long, long time.