It is safe to say that the current gaming industry is filled with highly-competitive FPSs, MOBAs, and Battle Royales. The market is crowded and only a few notable titles with a solid foundation and a core following can stand up against the test of time. Riot Games have decided that they can take a share of the pie by launching their take on the FPS genre with Valorant. This new take on the 5v5 team play aims to provide gamers with a distinct and unique way of playing the working formula. But will it succeed and does it have the chops to do so?
Valorant is free-to-play. Meaning that players don’t even have to pay a single cent to play it. It can be installed for free and without any strings attached. It relies on microtransactions to fund itself (more about this later).
All it needs is a Riot account (you can use your League of Legends account if you’re playing internationally). You can download the game here.
Maps & Game Modes
The game launched with 4 maps and 2 game modes: Spike Rush and Unranked. The 4 maps are designed with balance in mind and with each having their own unique look. There are only 2 game modes as of the writing of this review and we expect more to arrive in the near future.
How Valorant Plays
The standard game mode plays similar to CS:GO’s Bomb Defusal mode but instead of a “Bomb” the offensive team has a “Spike”. The Spike must be planted in designated areas and the defending team must either prevent the opposing team or defuse the Spike to win. Each match is composed of 24 rounds and the first team to win 13 rounds wins the match. A round starts with 30 seconds of the buying phase and 1 minute 45 secs for the main phase. The unranked standard play usually lasts for 30~50 minutes.
The other mode is Spike Rush, basically a short mode or turbo mode of the standard match. In this game mode, there is no need to buy weapons and skill charges as each player starts with the same loadout. The premise remains the same: the attacking team must plant the Spike. But the twist here is that there are several power-ups that players can pick-up and everyone carries a Spike. Matches are shorter as there are only 6 rounds with only 4 rounds needed to win. Spike Rush matches typically last for 10~15 minutes. A good game mode for those with only a short time for playing video games.
Choosing An Agent
Every match in Valorant starts with the whole team picking their agent for the whole duration of play. Agents are like heroes or operatives that have special abilities that have significant effect on how the matches are played. There are several jobs or specialties to choose from with each one having their own unique set of skills.
So is this like Overwatch? Well, no. Is this like Rainbow Six: Siege? Well, kinda. While your Agent can have a notable impact on the game, it’s only different due to its skill set and appearance. Some Agents are good at covering flanks and offering intel on enemy positions, while some are built to be continuously be on the offensive. All Agents move and play depending on their loadout, making it a very balanced and equal ground in terms of shooting and economics.
Each Agent also has an “ultimate” special skill that they can use. Charges for this one are not bought but are accumulated by killing enemy players. Players can also use pick-me-ups at certain points of the map to get charges.
Buying & Setting Up
After choosing an Agent, each round in a match starts with players buying their loadout. The initial round starts with all players using only handguns. The cash handout in the subsequent rounds is dependent on how well you and the team did in the last round.
Aside from weapons, players have to also buy charges for their Agent’s skills. Careful balancing between having a decent weapon and buying skills is key to winning a match.
Players can buy from anywhere during the Buy phase and can quickly sell or replace their weapons, skills, and armor on the fly.
The Weapons Of Valorant
Valorant’s weapons are similar to that of CS:GO’s with weapons ranging from Handguns, SMGs, ARs, Sniper Rifles, and LMGs. Weapons can have secondary-fires which can vary from having increased range to dealing more damage at a cost of accuracy. You can even have ones that alternates the firing mode of the gun. Considering the layout, the team’s composition, strategies, and your Agent’s skill is crucial when choosing a weapon. Oh, and also consider your personal preference.
Weapons are fluid and there’s no unnecessary movement or jitters when firing them. Yes, there is recoil, but there are no tremendous screen shaking or anything of the sorts. Everything feels fluid and you can easily see where your shots land.
Gun weight is also present with bigger guns slowing your movement speed. Switching to your melee weapon or to your secondary while moving helps alleviate the speed penalty.
All About Data
Valorant pulls no punches when offering important data of any sort to the player. You can check how you died, how much damage you did, where you were hit, and other useful information that you can use to improve your play. The good thing is that even after the match, all these info are available for you to peruse and learn from.
The game is also transparent with how its guns work like giving you damage outputs that vary from range, and how it damages certain body parts.
Probably the best of these is the in-game map. The map shows everything: from visual cones of your teammates, the noise radius of your steps, enemy sightings, and more. It makes it possible to get the gist of the situation even without communicating or talking to your teammates.
Aside from all the useful features mentioned above, Valorant also has a pinging system in place. This allows you to communicate to your team where or what you’ve seen if they missed it on the mini-map.
Microtransactions: All Cosmetics
Microtransactions are present in Valorant. Players can buy skins and Battle Passes to earn cosmetic items for guns. This is no pay to play game. Players can only buy stuff that can make their weapons and loadouts very different from the rest.
Aside from skins, you can also buy improvements for your weapons. This grants them special visual effects when used in the field.
For those not willing to dish out the moolah, the game still has a system employed that rewards you for completing certain objectives. Think of it as the daily quests just with each agent and for a specific month. This incentivizes playing and getting into the game more without the cost of doling out real-life dough.
About Valorant’s Anti-Cheat System
Searching for Valorant online can net you some articles talking about the game’s anti-cheat system, Riot Vanguard. It has been a point of contention as it embeds itself into your system’s depths. One good point is that it can root out cheats, minimizing or somewhat eliminating the majority of cheaters. If you’re tired of battling against cheaters in a competitive game, this is an obvious plus.
On the otherhand, people are worried about how Riot Games can use the anti-cheat system to access your hardware’s deepest depths and personal information. If not them, probably a person with ill-intentions can use the system itself to dig deep into your system.
I personally have no problems with this one as you can quickly and easily uninstall it using the guide provided by Riot Games themselves. Also, you can shutdown the anti-cheat system if you initially don’t plan on playing the game. However, you would need to restart your system if you change your mind.
It’s worth checking out Engadget’s article about the matter as they talked to the game’s anti-cheat lead and how the system works.
To summarize, Valorant is a pretty enjoyable game. It takes good points of popular games, refines them, and packages it into something easily consumable while offering a bit of complexity. It’s a very competent hero shooter that is not too reliant on its character mechanics. Both skill and teamplay are without a doubt important and having a good team composition can win you matches.
It’s mind-boggling how Valorant can help you see info all at the same time. The map system can show you visual cones. It also gives you data automatically as it updates about noteworthy items or enemies that your teammates have seen. I personally like this one as you can get valuable information without consulting or waiting for your team to report.
It’s also worth noting that the game runs well and without trouble with most systems. It can be expected to run with even modest hardware from 5 years ago.
Also need to mention that the game is rated at 128-ticks. This means that data on the server is updated 128 times per second. In layman’s terms, the server reads data so fast that it won’t have any problems registering hits or player positions. I also like this aspect of the game as I remember playing Battlefield 4 with its low tick-rate servers and being frustrated because my shots weren’t registering and my enemy’s were. Good that Valorant has this as this hugely improves player satisfaction (and reduces the occurrence of broken keyboards).
There are some things that can be improved though. One of which is how the game handles disconnects and quitters. Valorant locks the whole team from the get-go and there are no ways for other players to fill-in the gap once a quitter decides to leave the team. While it is optimistic to think of them as simply having disconnected, some people do deliberately quit. So if your team loses a member or two from the start, there’s no way but to soldier on until your eventual defeat.
(*Apparently, a recent update has just implemented an option to forfeit a match. You can read the update here.)
What About Valorant’s Microtransactions?
In terms of microtransactions, I’m a bit lenient to games that are Free-to-play as this is their only means of getting profit. It’s purely cosmetic and I’m hopeful that it would remain the same in the near future.
Valorant offers a lot of options to players. It’s basic from the start and offers a gentle learning curve for new players. The game doesn’t hold back in giving you data that you can learn from and use to make yourself better. While it is still in its infancy, it’s not hard to say that Valorant may be here to stay in the long run. If you’re looking for a robust hero shooter in the veins of CS:GO with a mix of Overwatch, that’s heavy handed against cheaters, and can be played in a single sitting, then we recommend that you try and play Valorant.
You can download the game here.