I remembered the time back in around 2014 where Morello of Riot Games quietly stepped down as Lead Balance guy for League of Legends without much talk in the community. While there were rumours about the potential new games that Riot has been planning to do, it wasn’t until 2 years later where there would be rumours of what it could be – a brand new FPS game with Morello at the helm.
Now, 6 years later, we take a look at that game: Valorant.
Has Morello learnt anything from his time spent as lead balance? Or will he continue his legacy of nerf-batting healing and sustain? I think you already know.
What is Valorant?
Valorant is a new competitive multiplayer shooter by Riot Games released earlier this month. You take control of one of 5 agents in a Standard Death Match style area where one team is in charge of attacking and the other in defending a control site where the defending team has to stop the attacking team from planting the spike. Basically, Riot’s take on a CS: GO style FPS.
It is currently available on the PC.
Gameplay – CS:GO in the post-Overwatch world
The gameplay can be considered to be forklifted entirely from Counter Strike: Global Offensive but with a twist; you now control Agents much like Overwatch which has their own abilities to use apart from just shooting their guns and they all have “ultimates” which needs contributions to be charged.
The biggest switch up to the formula is perhaps the most controversial: consumables such as smokes, grenades and flashes are now tied to the Agent’s abilities which means that they won’t be available for all.
Personally, I dislike this change as it made the game a bit too reliant on your team doing a niche part in what their Agents can do which isn’t ideal when you’re not playing with a coordinated team. This extends to some abilities too as they’ll often have a delay or degree of vulnerability when used which can be easily exploited if you don’t have a teammate defending your position.
If you played CS: GO, you’d know what to expect here with the weapons: Each weapon has its own gameplay “style” with their spread, accuracy and recoil. Most guns are satisfying here in terms of shooting and the guns sound appropriately powerful depending on the kind of firearm it is. You’ll get your normal cheese spread of weapons here consisting of rifles, MGs, pistols and such; nothing too much out of the ordinary.
I quite like the way the weapons feel and shoot but some fine tuning still needs to be done with regards to weapon accuracy while on the move; something which isn’t up to CS: GO standards yet.
Guns in this game have retained the “penetration” mechanic from CS: GO where you’ll at times be able to shoot through a wall if you do it long enough. It’s interesting to see that Riot has chosen to keep this in the game, given that it was a leftover legacy bug from the source engine that was never meant to be a proper “feature” within Counter Strike.
Still, I get that those players are who they want to attract so it makes sense to try not to shake up the formula too much.
The duration of my experience with the game for the past week hasn’t really given me the seniority to comment on balance with guns or agents, but here’s my anecdotal 2 cents anyway:
Machine guns are still generally useless as a gun much like in Counter Strike. I’ve only seen only but the newest of players buy it and the results weren’t that great to say the least. The spread while moving is horrendously inaccurate and only makes the weapon worthwhile while standing still; which, obviously, makes you very vulnerable to enemy abilities or snipers.
Some secondary fire modes are simply not worth using. A blatant example of this would be the secondary fire modes on the default pistol weapon; your primary fire is a regular semi-automatic single-fire shot while its secondary fire fires 3 shots.
The catch? Not only is the spread wider to compensate, but there is this weird delay in between shots meaning you won’t be able to click in rapid succession making it really clunky to use practically.
Much like the CS: GO, you’d also have to spend money to acquire consumables, items and armor in between rounds of Valorant. Based on just playing the game, it seems that this aspect has been toned down somewhat and it’s not easy to be able to ‘starve’ losing teams from at least purchasing their primary weapon of choice.
While this may make for more competitive games to prevent either side from snowballing, the current system is probably too generous as you’d have to lose quite a large amount of games in a row (around 4 or 5) to get to that stage.
Certain things like purchasing additional ammo has also been stripped as well for a more streamlined experience. Though to this note, those playing Agents with a more supportive role (think of the frag/smoke position in CS: GO) will have to buy consumables to use some of their supportive abilities, like Sova’s drone scout.
As with Riot’s other titles, you’re going to spend a good deal of time collecting the experience required to unlock Agents, the characters that you’re going to play on a per-match basis. Each game you’ll get a fairly decent amount of experience and if these experience gains are consistent, I’d expect players to be able to unlock new agents with about 6 hours of playtime.
Like any respectable competitive game, you won’t be able to buy any advantages with money or points that you can earn in-game. The entire store is currently cosmetic-only and features neat gun skins for your character if that’s your thing. It’s quite a bit barren right now though, but I’m sure they’ll add more doodads and customization options in the time to come.
Performance, Graphics & Design
Before we get to it, I’m running this on a relatively good PC with the following specs so your experience may vary:
- Ryzen 1700x @ 3.8Ghz
- 32Gb 2400Mhz memory
- Nvidia GTX 1070ti
- WD Black 1Tb Nvme SSD
Performance with the above setup will run pretty fast – you’ll average well above 100fps in all instances (everything turned up to max) which makes the game quite smooth to look at. There is a problem though, I’ll sometimes experience a freeze where it’ll tank my fps down to the 40s for a couple seconds as though it may be loading something heavy from memory.
It happens quite frequent for me (about once in a couple rounds) and I hope Riot will be able to iron these things down further down the road.
Apart from that, Riot’s anti-cheating system is also a notable mention here: It’s a pain and can, for no particular reason, boot you out of a round in a match, forcing a client restart. At times, it won’t even let you in the game without rebooting your PC! I know cheating is a big concern for FPS games but the current anti-cheat system is really degrading the player experience in my opinion.
Graphics & Design
Graphics, for the most part, is plain and does its job. There isn’t much in terms of detailed lighting and effects but they’re made to be simple enough to be played on PCs made in the last 8 to 10 years. Upon closer inspection on doodads and miscellaneous objects that were more out the way, they seem to be quite low in terms of poly and texture count which brings down the presentation a little – if you look hard enough.
For the Design, I simply love what they had to offer in terms of the UI/UX. It’s simple, gets its job done and there is a ton of customization available within the menu; showing detailed information such as the ping, server tick rate is all up to the player and I’m glad they made these stats togglable individually.
Post-game and even post-death stats are also incredibly detailed which will help competitive players narrow down their strategy and see what went wrong in each round of the game.
Conclusion – Maybe too esports
All that said, Valorant is an esport game through and though; although that is not necessarily a positive connotation in this instance. I think Valorant’s design will tend to alienate players and it’s not difficult to see why:
For those players coming in from team-based FPS games like Team Fortress 2 or Overwatch, they’ll find supporting classes to be skewed towards those with combat utilities rather than healing; which is also diminished due to the high damage, low time-to-kill style of game. The abilities are rather cookie cutter compared to Overwatch and the Agent’s ultimate abilities will feel underwhelming in comparison.
For the lone wolf CS:GO players that like the solo experience of pub matches, they’ll find frustration in the more team-oriented gameplay style that Valorant has to offer. They’ll find less strategy in not having combat utilities like smokes and grenades being available for all; where games may come down only to the haves and the have-nots in abilities rather than pure, undiluted skill in decision-making and gunplay.
For the hardcore competitive player, you’ll definitely find yourself at home with the large per-game analytics, customizable everything and the coordinated strikes of rotationally using your abilities to be pretty fun and engrossing for you, your friends and like-minded solo players in the highest levels.
Honestly, Riot is trying to fill a niche that I think just isn’t there. I’ve heard and agree with the sentiment in the beta that it’s basically CS: GO in an Overwatch skin. It’s hard to think that these playerbases intercept much, if at all and the amalgamation of design choices is definitely going to alienate players in either camp.
For competitive FPS players only. May not be too casual-friendly in terms of the teamwork requirement to win games and you’ll probably have less fun in general if you don’t play with friends.
|The Good||The bad|
|+ Great UI design and customization||– Questionable design choices|
|+ Good performance||– High teamwork requirement/ Less fun to play solo|
|+ Competitive and esports ready||– Anti-cheat is a pain|