For years, many gaming fans across the globe made fun of Riot Games implying that the studio has only one game – League of Legends. However, during 2020, the company expanded its portfolio and released a few new titles including Legends of Runeterra and Valorant. While Legends of Runeterra is a slow and tactical game and didn’t manage to capture a lot of attention in the competitive circles, Riot Games’ new game Valorant showed far better results bringing in millions of players in its first few months. Now, as the game closed out its initial testing stage and the launch hype is starting to wear off, we decided to take a closer look at it and flush out some of the most important elements that make Valorant a hot topic in discussions about the future of esports.
Learning from the best
There’s no denying that Valorant rips-off some of the most popular team-based shooter games. Riot Games’ new game features elements from Counter Strike, Overwatch, and even Rainbow Six Siege. It does this in a very smart way by combining everything that worked in these games and applying its own design philosophy.
The end result is stunning. Valorant gameplay is somewhat similar to Counter Strike, enabling truly skilled players to shine in each match. However, traditional tactical shooter gameplay is expanded with unique character (in Valorant characters are called Agents) skills which allow players and teams to set up some truly spectacular moments.
Additionally, it’s worth mentioning the technical side of the game. Right from the get-go Riot Games stated that they want to tackle some of the most prominent shooter game problems and prioritize competitive integrity.
This came in a form of better server tick rates and a new anti-cheat system called Riot Vanguard. While the latter addition received its fair share of criticism, there’s no denying that it works. During its beta testing, Valorant banned over 8800 cheaters. That’s some dedication!
The design of Valorant Agents
Above, we’ve mentioned that Valorant Agents and their abilities expand tactical shooter gameplay but we’d like to dive upon this topic a bit deeper since it’s an interesting design aspect.
Riot Games’ new game currently features a roster of 12 Agents – each with its own abilities and role in the team composition. We got Duelists – Jett, Raze, Phoenix, and Reyna; Initiators – Breach and Sova; Controllers – Omen, Brimstone, and Viper; Sentinels – Sage, Cypher, and the latest addition to the game – Killjoy. Duelists are best in various trade-off situations and can pick off kills by themselves, Initiators can create advantages for the team, Sentinels can support their teammates, while Controllers can manipulate the battlefield, creating blind spots for the enemy team.
While you can technically have a team of 4 Duelists and 1 Initiator, this composition won’t be optimal since the game is not just about picking off kills. While Duelists and Initiators can have an easier time deleting enemies, they’re not very good when you need to create some space for your teammates or defend the objective. This means that in each match you’ll want to have a roster with various Agent types, thus teams can pick up characters that suit their game plan.
This segmentation in Valorant also creates certain rules for new Agent design and helps developers to avoid the power-creep phenomenon. You can’t create a Sentinel that’s superb on the attack or a controller that can initiate fights with the use of his single skill. Agent abilities are just complementary utility for the gunplay that makes things interesting and fresh each time around. That’s a great way to do a hero-shooter!
Being a free-to-play game comes with its own set of challenges. You wouldn’t want the game to become pay-to-win, would you? Riot Games’ new game is monetized via weapon skins that are truly unique and cannot be compared to any other tactical shooter. These cosmetic-only skins feature unique animations, sound effects, and so on making the gunplay that much more awesome. Just take a look at Elderflame:
However, most hero shooters are known to monetize character skins but Riot Games decided against it. For example, in Overwatch, certain hero skins can make the game harder to read and understand and Valorant devs want to avoid it as much as possible. Instead, the game features a paid battle pass – rewarding players with weapon skins, sprays, player cards, and titles, and premium skins such as Elderflame. For now, it’s enough for Riot Games since, as we mentioned, competitive integrity is their priority.
Potential for a massive esports scene
Let’s be honest – Overwatch is fun to play but its esports competitions are not an easy watch. We’re sure that Valorant’s clean visual design was created with esports in mind. Riot Games are not new in this industry and know that there won’t be any esports stars if fans can’t follow the action. In fact, back in the day, League of Legends visual design was also changed in order to clean up the screen and help players to easily understand what’s going on in the battlefield. Valorant developers did this right from the start – game maps are clean, Agent abilities have clear animations and effects and the spectator mode is simple enough for any newbie to understand. And that’s just in-game details supporting this potential.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, Riot Games’ new game is very similar to the other esports behemoth Counter Strike but features expanded gameplay options giving way to make even more insane plays. Just take a look at this:
Now combine all of this with Riot Games experience in making League of Legends the biggest esport in the world. They have a huge game distribution network (Riot Games already announced their plans to create a new Riot Games launcher combining all of the titles under one roof), they have the experience to make the best possible esports production and a huge fan base across the globe. The company is already making their first steps towards making Valorant esports the next big thing with the first round of tournaments called the Ignition Series. Combining it all, we believe that Valorant’s future will be truly special.
And we suggest you not to miss out on any of the action. The game is free and it would be weird to skip it just because you’re an avid fan of Counter Strike or Overwatch… Also, we hope that Valorant Cinematics team is hard at work and will give us more of this.