Valorant is a valuable look at not only what makes hero shooters fun, but why realistic shooters still carve out a large chunk of the market.
If you have not heard of it, Valorant is a new online FPS from Riot Games. Yes, Riot has taken a short break from their infinite salt factory League of Legends to give us a new shooter. It combines elements of Hero Shooters, like Overwatch and Paladins, with economy based shooters like CS:GO… and like a hundred other ones.
Honestly though, and this is for those of you who like to skim, this game is very fun. It combines the hero shooter elements with the realistic shooter elements to a near flawless degree. You will win with teamwork and strategy. None of the heroes feel particularly overpowered, which is a plus, but it can be a minus if you want a distinctive feel to your characters. It’s not that they don’t feel different, just not different enough.
Alrighty then, let’s get into it!
I remember reading an article on Valorant’s story that said something along the lines of, “unlike most online shooters Valorant aims to tell a story!” We may have played different games however, because I did not know Valorant had a story let alone plans to tell one. The most story available in game, as far I could see, was a small paragraph telling you where each agent comes from on their selection screen.
I’ve heard that they plan to tell a story like Fortnite (yes apparently that also has a story) and change the game visuals to reflect it. Finally, I found out that they plan to do a separate comic for the game, which is at least fun if entirely unnecessary. It takes place on future Earth after a worldwide event gave people superpowers, you know, like 80% of hero shooters and anime.
Besides the fact that I love separate game comics, like the TF2 comic that is adorable, it is as vestigial as pinkie toes on a dolphin. I had a ton of fun playing Valorant before I found out anything about the story. Hell, I only found out that Sova was Brazilian in my fourth game, then resumed just having fun.
Multiplayer games like this don’t really need a story, just some context will do. So feel free to add stuff Riot, if you really want to, just make sure it doesn’t get in the way of the fun. Story here should be sprinkles, not another cake. Don’t pull an Overwatch here please, you’ll spend forever making really good and really meaningless cinematics. It isn’t worth it.
Here we go, the big one. I briefly even wondered if I should have paragraphs, which is probably hard to believe after the last four. This is a multiplayer game, this is the grand motivator of the whole enterprise. The do or die starts here and now baby. So, is Valorant a fun game to play?
Look, don’t get me wrong. Valorant is fun to play with friends, offers a lot more variety and interesting visuals than CS:GO does, but that’s all it is. It’s CS:GO with hero powers. I mean, that is the best way to improve Counter Strike, but it’s also been done before.
So it isn’t very original, but it is fun. Each character has a unique set of four powers; one signature power that is free and recharges, two single use powers you must buy from the most eclectic gun shop in the universe and an ultimate you have to charge up to use. The comparison to Overwatch is obvious, but it feels more focused than Overwatch is. This game rewards you for team work and tactics.
The problems for me come in with the “roles” as it were. Each agent is split into one of four “roles” for convenience; Sentinel, Duelist, Initiator and Controller. This is meant to give you an idea on what their abilities do beforehand, but as a friend pointed out after my first game, don’t seem to mean anything.
Several characters seem to fulfil different roles simultaneously, and the fulfilment of a role is basically dependant on how you play the character. That is good and bad, as it means you can win any match as anyone, so you don’t have to quit if you last picked a healer and your whole team died.
It removes some of the uniqueness the characters have though. Besides this, the shooting is solid, and the powers add a nice twist. It’s always fun to turn a game around with an ultimate or set up an interesting defence with complementary skills.
Audio and Visuals
Audio is the sound of bullets, then the sound of your heartbeat while you try and find the last person on their team, yelling at yours to keep quiet so you can hear footsteps. I joke, but in actual fact Audio plays quite a role. So much so that holding shift will make you walk slower and mask your footsteps.
Again, not a very original concept, but it does spread a nice creamy layer of tension over the whole thing. You can also hear a character scream their ultimate related voice line, giving you an idea of their position and what’s waiting for you. This is a tactical game, and using sound to your advantage is a good tactic.
Visually, this game is gorgeous. Everything is very clear and crisp, the UI is simple enough to deliver information without becoming cluttered and each agent looks unique. I quite like the particle effects too, the smoke bombs forming spherical clouds look awesome. All in all, a wonderfully artistic game, as expected from Riot.
Which is why the level design is kind of boring. Not in anyway bad, the levels are actually quite nicely designed with many entry points to areas of interest. Just the visuals of each level seem kind of bland. I briefly mistook one map for another because their walls looked the same. Then again, it isn’t cluttered, so perhaps setting it something other than a small collection of buildings would be nice.
I don’t have a lot of suggestions for Valorant, at least not many that would change it significantly. It’s quite well balanced, where no agent feels over or underpowered. I suppose the only things I would personally ask for is different movement mechanics. It would be cool to have arenas where you can move around in a different way, just to shake things up occasionally.
Otherwise, we live in a time where seeing friends is something we can’t really do. Everyone needs to keep busy to stave off the lockdown crazies, so download this free game, grab some friends and hop in. Not a very original, but quite a fun experience. I wholeheartedly recommend this online shooter!
Release date: June 2nd, 2020
Publisher: Riot Games
Developer: Riot Games
MSRP: Free To Play