For the longest time, Riot Games was known as a one-hit wonder, with League of Legends being the studio's main title for more than a decade. But this situation has changed in the beginning of 2020, and the company has shown its aim to produce a surprising array of new games. The latest such newcomer was the Valorant shooter, which we will discuss in this article.
To start our review, let's mention one important point: the game was immediately dubbed the new "killer of CS:GO and many other games" – which is, however, fundamentally wrong. Riot Games does not position its shooter as a replacement for other representatives of the genre, therefore it will be more correct to compare it to rival products rather than calling it the killer of anything.
The article itself shall be divided in several parts. We will be talking about the gameplay features of the new title from Riot Games, as well as touching upon its popularity on the streaming platforms. It is too early to talk about its esports aspect so far, as the official competitions weren't announced yet and the developers are not making any comments regarding this either.
The combination of economics and a selection of unique agents provides the basis for the game
Judging by the standards of the modern game industry, this shooter is a classic team-based representative of the genre. But in case of Valorant, the team interaction is centered around the skills of standalone characters, known as "agents."
Each of them has a selection of unique skills – unique only effect-wise, as the skills are still grouped based on their type. Some of these skills act similarly to the smoke-screen grenades, others fulfill the role of flashbangs from CS:GO and so on.
It should be noted that the largest difference can be spotted between the ultimate skills of the characters. For example, Viper's one is a large-scale smoke screen which reduces not only the scope of opponents' vision but also their maximum health. Meanwhile. Sova's ultimate skill is a wall-piercing beam with a rather large area of effect. It is only after putting a couple of hours into the game that one can really understand the intent of the developers.
On the other side, this does not work like Rainbow Six Siege, given that there are no devices fixed to the particular agents. In this aspect of the game, the creators were clearly inspired by the CS:GO economy. Anyone can buy anything from the available selection of weapons as long as they have sufficient funds. And more, two abilities of each character can be bought only for the money earned. Therefore, it would be more correct to say that Valorant is more of a symbiosis between the two aforementioned titles.
The game economy requirements are not as big as in CS:GO. The abilities which were purchased are not lost upon death; the ultimates allow to turn the game around even during the eco rounds; and that's not even the end for the interesting features the game has to offer. In other words, it will be quite difficult to truly leave your enemies without money for several rounds in a row. It is likely that this was the cause for decreasing the number of rounds (as compared to the CS:GO system). The win requirement in Valorant involves scoring 13 points.
The structure of each map is unique
Riot Games have attempted to stand out in terms of the available maps as well. Each of these has an individual special feature. For example, Haven features a rather interesting idea of having three spots for installing the Spike (the local counterpart of the bomb from CS:GO) at once; Bind features portals used to transport the player between different parts of the map; while Split is a classic "point A – point B" map.
All of this results in a quite diverse experience. Each map should be played in its own way – not only because the locations of their spots for installing the Spike differ, but also due to these special features. Add the unique agents each having different skills to this formula and the result of hundreds of hours played is pretty much guaranteed.
The near-perfect statistics collection system
For us, the statistics provided by the game were its most distinctive feature. After each match, the game provides the player with opportunity to review own actions during each round. The statistics is so detailed that it makes it possible to inspect the round based on each possible key aspect. This is really well done, as it provides the players with the means of developing own skills without the need of leaving the shooter's client itself. In case of other games, the players were usually forced to rely on the paid third-party services in order to access such capabilities.
Is the CIS finally in business?
It is widely known that the products of Riot Games are facing quite big problems within the CIS – being outclassed far and wide by their rivals from Valve. This is something that can be changed by the release of this shooter. This is what we have learned from the Riot Games Moscow office regarding their plans of shifting the balance in own favor:
We are looking at our rivals in a calm and respectful fashion. The key difference in our approach lies in the attention we dedicate to this region, our presence in it (on the level of maintaining a dedicated team and office), as well as the additional publishing efforts undertaken by us. In case of the League of Legends, these measures have allowed us to decrease the size of the gap by several times; as for the other games, their journey is only starting – so only time will tell.
In Russia, the absence of the voice chat in the shooter due to local laws is going to be problematic. The shooters are largely affected by the split-second reaction of the players. This means that the players will simply have no time to read the chat during the critical moments of the match – which is when the timely voiced information may make or break the outcome of the round.
We have asked the studio whether this omission will become a large problem:
We believe that the cornerstone of the game – the gameplay – will sort things out. Obviously, the absence of chat is definitely not an advantage (although to those mindful of the general voice chats in online games it wasn't bad news either) the players are free to use the third-party means of communication. We are ready to activate the voice chat functionality should the legal environment change.
The new game sets a new record
The closed beta test of Valorant has managed to set a couple of new records. On April 3rd, the Twitch-hosted exhibition of the game's content with the participation of streamers has yielded a total of one million viewers. This was already surprising to everyone – but it was only the beginning.
On April 7th, which marked the beginning of the closed beta test, a figure of one million viewers was reached in the course of first few hours – and by the evening the category has set a new record of 1.7 million peak viewers.
While we were already expecting something big, the result has pleasantly surprised us nevertheless – especially given that this is first and foremost a result of transparent partnership established with the media, youtubers and streamers – all of whom took interested in the project and are thus largely responsible for attracting the high levels of interest reflected by the achieved result.
As of today, this is nearly the best result among the ones shown by all the products of Riot Games – eclipsed only by the LoL World Championship 2019. However, at that time the record amounts of hype were attracted by the legendary battle between the three-time world champions SK Telecom T1 and G2 Esports, the winners of MSI 2019.
In case of this result, we are dealing with quite a common gameplay, for a shooter. It should be noted that the significant part of this record was achieved by the efforts of the platform's most popular streamers, the first among them being the Summit1G with a result of 317 thousand viewers. Following him was TimTheTatman with 115 thousand peak viewers. Closing the top 3 was xQcOW with a result of 103 thousand peak viewers achieved during the first day. By the way, Felix has managed to surprise everyone on the second day of the beta test by exceeding the mark of 200 thousand viewers.