Valorant is Riot Games’ attempt to break into the first-person shooter strategy market. Almost every Valorant review has compared it to CS:GO and Overwatch. While it may become redundant, it truly is a great comparison. Considering the massive success of those two games, it makes sense that Riot would attempt to take aspects from these titles for their own game. And you know what, it worked! Riot has made an enjoyable free-to-play game that should have legs for both regular players and the Esports community.
Valorant is only available on PC and is available for free from the official website.
Story – Or Lack Thereof
Riot kept the story for Valorant simple… by not having one. I have always loved games with an enjoyable story, but first-person strategy games don’t need it. So much of the game revolves around strategizing with your teammates that trying to play any semblance of a campaign wouldn’t make any sense.
They have released some short videos on YouTube as a way to give the characters more backstory, similar to what Overwatch has done. While I wouldn’t say it’s a must-have, it is a fun way of getting players attached to characters.
Gameplay – The Meat of the Game
The primary game mode is pretty straightforward, especially if you have played CS:GO. There are two 5 player teams, one on offense and one on defense. The offensive team has a bomb called a spike, which a player must plant in a designated area. If they plant the spike, a timer will start. If the timer for the bomb goes down to zero, it explodes and the offensive team wins. If the defensive team defuses the bomb before it explodes, the defensive team wins. Another way to win is to kill all the players on the opposing team. If there are still players on both sides once the round timer runs out, the defense takes the victory. Each team plays up to 12 rounds on both offense and defense, and the game ends when one team wins 13 rounds. It may not come across clearly on paper, but once you start playing, you pick it up quickly—which is great for players not used to strategy first-person shooters.
In terms of the combat, you learn right away that the fighting differs from games like Call of Duty. Valorant punishes you for trying to shoot while running. On defense, you must control certain points while it is the offense’s job is to take those points, often using abilities. Patience is key and takes getting used to for some players. But it offers a rewarding experience when you master the fundamentals.
Before the match, each player must select a character, or as Valorant calls them, Agents. All Agents have special abilities and different uses. For example, Sage can heal teammates and build walls, Sova can shoot darts that and drones that ping enemy locations, and Raze is all about blowing up enemies. To assemble the best team, players must try to balance Agents that are good at killing and those that provide support. This means that there is a role for players who prefer to be passive or aggressive. There can be only one specific agent per team, so it’s important to be comfortable playing at least three characters, especially if you tend to play with random people online. Valorant does a decent job of balancing the agents. You see some picked more than others, but there aren’t any that make you upset if your teammate chooses them.
Riot has pledged to create more Agents in the future. The 11 they have now is a bit small (they recently announced additional agents, among other features). As of right now, there is only one healer character, Sage. Riot also has stated they will add more maps, which is even more important than adding new Agents. Currently, there are only 4 maps in the game. To say it has grown tiresome to play the same few maps over and over would be an understatement.
It’s all about the money
Oftentimes, you can win a round before it even begins in the time called “the buying phase.” In Valorant, you receive a standard pistol and knife; everything else you must use in-game credits given to you throughout the game to purchase better weapons and abilities. If you survive the round, you get to keep the gun, but if you die, you lose it. You won’t always have enough to purchase the best weapons or shield. This is the part where strategy comes into play. There will be some rounds where you have to save called eco-rounds. In short, you need to communicate with your team about when to spend and how much. Players can do this over voice chat, messaging and even a couple buttons in the buy screen UI that alerts your teammates on what you’re doing. It adds another layer to the game and makes you appreciate a round win more than typical first-person shooters.
Speaking of money, Valorant is a free to play game, which means that they must make their money through microtransactions. They are avoiding making skins for characters and will focus on making gun skins along with minor things like sprays and cards. They made headlines when they released a dragon skin pack for $100, plus more to fully upgrade the skins. This may seem ridiculous — and it is — but it is still better than having to pay $60 for the game. Especially considering you can kill an opponent with a dragon skin and pick up their gun.
You can play the game mode in either ranked or unranked. Because Riot built and advertised Valorant to be an Esport, most players will spend the majority of their time in competitive mode. The system prevents newbies from getting stomped on by pro players. As it stands today, there are 8 tiers ranging from the lowest — Iron — to the highest — Radiant — (the highest rank name was originally ‘Valorant’, but they changed it for unknown reasons). For the most part, Valorant does a good job of matching you with people in your skill level. There are players that create ‘smurf’ accounts, which in essence is when a talented player makes another account so they can dominate players they are better than (not pathetic at all). But there really isn’t anything Riot can do about this.
There is also a game mode called spike rush, where every member on offense has a bomb and it only takes 4-round victories to win the game. There is no buying in spike rush — everyone gets the same gun at the beginning of the round. Another unique trait is there are power-ups you can pick up around the map that give advantages such as reducing your opponent’s field of vision or receiving a one-shot kill golden gun. This mode is perfect for warming up before you jump into competitive mode because of how quickly you complete them.
Graphics and Audio – Not its brightest moment
The art designers of Valorant went for a subtle approach with their game design. It’s not as bright and vibrant as Overwatch, but doesn’t have the realistic look of CS:GO. I compare it to how DreamWorks movies don’t look as good as their rival Pixar’s do. It’s not that the graphics are bad, they are just a little bland. It seemed like the prime focus was on the gameplay, but I can’t help but wonder if having a more fun style would attract more fans.
For the most part, the sound in the game is fine. The gunshots and abilities sound like you think they would. While the characters say little, the voice acting is distinct enough to give the Agents a bit of originality. My biggest gripe is that there are times where you will hear an opponent on your left when they are actually on your right or vice versa. My first thought was that there was something wrong with my headphones but many players have voiced their concern with this online. This issue can be annoying in any game, but in a competitive match, it is infuriating.