The new hotness from Riot Games, developer of League of Legends and Teamfight Tactics, delivers twitchy, intense FPS action in Valorant. The game has been described as a Counter-Strike clone blended with the unique heroes style found in Overwatch. Honestly, it’s like a vanilla ice cream cone dipped in chocolate. It’s mostly CS:GO, but the touch of fantasy powers from Overwatch adds just the right amount of extra sweetness to merge the flavors brilliantly. Is the whole greater than the sum of its parts? Maybe, maybe not – but it certainly is different enough to be recognized on its own.
For someone interested in PvP, it’s almost impossible to go anywhere online right now where gamers aren’t talking about Valorant. From reviews to guides to streams – and oh my glob the streams – there’s no escape.
I’ve never been a huge fan of FPS games, but there’s so much hype and positivity around Valorant that I really wanted to try it out. Besides, MMO players need to know where and whether this can fit into their gaming rotation. So, I queued up to watch a random streamer’s game to gain access and – 48+ grueling hours later – I got in. Yes, over two days of watching streamers. I did it for you… and a little for me. But mostly you!
Easy and accessible game to play
As MMO players, we’re familiar with just about every type of monetization strategy on the planet: subscriptions, buy-to-play, and every form of free-to-play developers have glued and thrown at a wall to see if it sticks. Valorant is a free-to-play game with cosmetics available for purchase, the absolute best business model for this type of game. I can guarantee that if this game even had a low box price, you wouldn’t find me in it.
Let’s be serious. Riot isn’t going to get MMO gamers sucked into its FPS on features alone. There’s no character creation, housing, open world, raids, crafting, or any kind of keep or fort siege. The primary thing it has that I’d be interested in is solid, intense PvP combat. That’s why it’s so important that the studio chose to basically eliminate the barrier to entry by making this a free-to-play title. Admittedly, getting access to the beta was less than ideal, but we can’t argue with results. Everyone’s talking about the game – even me.
You want team coordination? Valorant’s got plenty
One of the primary features we love in our PvP is the ability to outwit or outplay our opponents. That sort of gameplay is important to us in our solo fights, but oftentimes even more so in team fights. While Valorant teams are made up of only five players, strong coordination is critical to victory. As important as your execution is in a fight, the team’s performance is even more so.
Every map gives players several options for engaging the enemy team. Does the team go all out to one of the target sides? Which route do you take? Who takes point and who’s watching the back? When a single encounter can end after only a few seconds, quick signals and adjustments can mean the difference between a win and a wipe.
Just as important as your strategy is on each encounter; your team composition is just as critical. The heroes each have unique abilities that allow them to stand out on their own. There is a lot of room for determining which heroes you bring into the match and how each of them will be utilized. I won’t go into specifics here on each hero, but no two are the same.
Class skills add depth to the CS:GO formula
Riot has somewhat given each hero a class: initiator, controller, sentinel, and duelist. It defines each of them from a high level but ultimately is meaningless. Every character has four unique skills, boiled down into a few different categories. You have your smoke screens and blinding skills, which break line of sight and make it difficult to engage the enemy. There are radar or sensor skills that show you either exactly where your opponent is or generally where he or she is on the map. There’s a handful of direct damage skills, although these tend to be more useful for flushing opponents out of hiding than actually killing them. And up last is a mix of area control and even a couple of healing skills.
While the skills themselves are useful and add a bit of flair to an otherwise simple CS:GO clone, it’s the team coordination and use of these skills that really gives you that hit of team dynamics that anyone looking for good team PvP would enjoy.
Combat is fast-paced and intense
Taking a huge step away from the gameplay styling of my current obsession, Starborne, is the speed and action in Valorant’s combat. I mentioned at the top that I’ve never really been an FPS type of gamer, but I have been having a lot of fun (and frustration) here.
I really love fast-paced, twitchy combat. While something like Guild Wars 2’s combat isn’t necessarily twitchy, one could argue that it has its moments. If you aren’t prepared to dodge or pop your defensive cooldowns, you could be spiked down almost instantly. In an FPS this is common place, poking your head around a corner without preparing some sort of defensive maneuver means a one-shot to the head. This has been the source of a high level of my frustration while playing Valorant. And it isn’t the game’s fault, but my own.
I am so unbearably bad at the game. I likely spend more of my time in a match watching my teammates play than playing myself. And yet I keep queuing up, to my fellow random teammates’ dismay. (Sorry.)
At the same time, it’s that frustration that results in elation when I actually do miraculously manage a kill. It keeps me coming back for more.
One bit of annoyance I do have with the match setup is that there isn’t a quick match or something similar. I really do not like long matches, yet that’s all Valorant currently offers. Best of 24 rounds can be a real drag. The upside is that each individual round goes by really quickly, so you do get resets and regrouping time. But I’d really prefer something of a shorter mode – best of 12 maybe.
Customize your skins to maintain your fashion wars
The last bit of the game I want to mention that is always near and dear to my MMO senses is the customization options. Since we can’t create our own characters and the game is free-to-play, where am I spending money and how can I shine?
Valorant offers various gun skins for purchase; I think we all saw that coming. It’s straight out of the CS:GO playbook: You can see how fancy weapons will be a revenue stream for Riot. On top of that however – and something I’m much more interested in – are the levels of unlocks on these weapons. Apparently this Reaver set currently for sale includes a unique kill animation at level 4. Nice.
That’s my take on Valorant and where I think it hits the right notes for me as a MMO player. I don’t think I’ll ever call it my game, but I can definitely see it being a regular in my gaming rotation. It certainly fills the role of a combat game for nights when I just want to hop on and battle for an hour or two.
How about all of you? Have you been able to get beta access to the game yet? Do you think it has the right mix of CS:GO and Overwatch or does it miss the mark? Do you plan on playing it more or did it just not fit your playstyle?