Before we start the very serious peer-reviewed case study of Valorant, A Small Announcement, Despite the questionable attempt at advertising the company last month,
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To the PC gaming community, Valorant will need no introduction. Made by the same developers who brought us the juggernaut that is League of Legends Valorant is an obvious attempt of breaking into the counter-strike market, which has gone largely uncontested for the past two decades. I’d like to preface this entire video, by saying that I’ve never been a fan of Counter-strike.
My vision for an ideal shooter would include A fast-paced and interesting movement system, Interactivity between friendly players, Unique and Creative abilities, Frequent and significant content updates, and Giant mechs that fall from the sky.
Counter-strike is a title that appeals to so many dedicated players around the world But it clearly wasn’t made with me in mind.
Valorant on the other hand, although looking to cast a net for those already Invested in the counter-strike community, is unmistakably looking to convert people like myself into its player count. Valiant is a Team-Based Hero Shooter, And for those who are new around here:
That’s all they needed to say. The first thing a player will notice about Valorant is that this game is first and foremost about guns.
The wealth of abilities available to players will very rarely lead to any direct eliminations, and it quickly becomes apparent that they are designed to be used as tools, to solve the challenges presented to you by enemy players.
If the other team tends to frequently flank- Using a tripwire can undo their efforts, and if a sniper has your team pinned down at a choke point- You can simply obscure their sightlines with smoke.
The developers went out of their way to design the abilities to very rarely feel frustrating, and winning or losing a fight almost always comes down to who has the faster draw.
The way the abilities work is that each agent has a signature ability that they’ll get for free, two others which can be bought for a low amount of money, earned between rounds, and one ultimate ability that you’ll likely only use a few times a match.
The ability economy seemed to be balanced quite well, as it never felt like you were disincentivized to use them but at the same time, Forgoing them entirely would often allow a player access to a powerful weapon around earlier.
Ultimate abilities on the other hand need to be earned by getting charges, which can be done by Getting kills, Planting or Defusing, dying like a bitch, or by Collecting them at contested parts of each map.
Ultimate abilities usually aren’t as powerful as one might assume and use them far from guarantees even a single elimination. As previously mentioned the abilities in Valorant are just tools and just like in real life, Tools will only ever kill people if they are not given the proper respect.
The rocket launcher is the exception to this rule. The guns on the other hand all have their own niche within the game. And as much as it sounds like a backhanded compliment, Each weapon seems to have more character than the agents themselves.
This is in large part to the recoil pattern, that high-level players will be expected to master, But also because of the audio design, which stands to be one of Valiant’s crowning flourishes. Just listen to the crack of this sniper, and tell me it doesn’t have more charisma than any character from The Division 2.
The level of style and polish this game was able to demonstrate on the first day of launch, Is very rarely seen in the modern world of video games. This can in part be attributed to the blank cheque that the developers were able to write from their League of Legends money printer.
But also because of how narrow the game truly is. At the time of writing, Valorant has 18 weapons, 11 agents, and only 4 maps. As previously mentioned, one of my biggest criticisms of Counter-Strike, Was that, although the game has been played for over two decades, the rate of development- seems to be comparatively much slower than other games on the market.
The Valiant developers have already made it clear that they want this game to last for the next 10 years. However, there’s currently no clear roadmap of when players can expect new content to keep them returning. Considering the company behind the game and their reputation for blisteringly fast updates, This shouldn’t present a problem.
However, in a genre that lives and dies by its replayability, this still remains its biggest concern. A significant feature that the game borrows from counter-strike, is its big focus on your team’s economy. Apart from a few exceptions, every Gun, Ability, and Scrap of Armor will cost a set amount of money,
Which will be allocated after every round for either a win or loss. Surviving around will allow a player to keep all of their bought equipment, and killing an enemy with something more enticing, means that you’re often able to snowball a budget round with a few lucky shots.
Aggressively saving for around only to set your team up with a decked out kit later, is often much better than buying mediocre weapons, only to lose them anyway with a team wipe. Valiant has also streamlined the process of buying things for other players.
Meaning if you’re having a bad match, You might be able to more effectively contribute by buying a premium gun for your top Fragger who has an un-specific European accent.
On the topic of money- It’s probably worth discussing the business model for Valorant as a whole, The game can be played entirely free of cost for anyone who has a PC, and no advantages given to players who never pay a single cent to Riot Games. Players will have five agents available to them at the start, with the rest able to be earned slowly by grinding enough experience.
The first two agents a player unlocks will only take around five hours to earn, While everyone after looks to be closer to ten or fifteen, depending on your win rate.
The system feels fair in that it drip-feeds new content but still allows you to pick agents that suit your play-style. Those who want to speed up the process can pay around ten US dollars for each agent.
However I never once felt compelled to do so. The other two ways to give Riot your money include Directly purchasing cosmetics, or Buying the premium battle pass, which will allow players to earn new cosmetics over a two-month period.
The cosmetics themselves are down to your personal tastes, With the most premium Prime offerings looking to set a player back at around $14 each or $70 for an entire set.
These weapons are also able to be upgraded further to have different: Fire sounds, Color schemes, and even Reload and Death animations.
However, this will take continued grinding by the player. The battle pass on the other hand has proven to be more contentious with the community, As not only does the experience requirement increase for each tier, but the pass has been criticized for needing too much time in order to complete.
People much smarter than myself have determined that even with optimizing daily and weekly challenges- players will be looking to spend an estimated 100 hours over a two-month period, Should they want to complete every level, which equates to around 12 hours a week. Upon trying to find more detailed statistics on how long other battle passes took to max out, My search came up surprisingly empty-handed.
Viewers who would appreciate a breakdown video of battle pass completion time and value for different games can tell me in the description. Ultimately, a value much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. And for $10 those expecting to play a metric shit-ton of Valorant will probably commit to the purchase without a second thought. But more casual players may want to hold off for the time being.
One redeeming factor is that although some of these prices can seem quite steep for different items, There are no loot boxes of any kind present in the game. If you want an item, you simply pick it out and buy it from the store The addition of premium currency and heightened prices still don’t make it up to the Titanfall 2 gold standard of micro-transactions.
But Valiant should get respect where it’s deserved. More than anything else, the one thing that will either make players love or hate this game, is its shooting mechanics. One of the reasons many people find the gunplay so appealing is because of its extremely steep learning curve.
Every weapon has a distinct recoil pattern that can be learned and compensated for, Meaning even if your sights are looking directly at your target- It doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to land anywhere near them. While other shooters would use: Healing Movements or Other special modifiers to make combat more dynamic, Recoil and spray are Valorant’s answer to this need for more depth.
This was a concept that I personally struggled to adapt to. In every shooter I’ve ever enjoyed, the golden rule was to keep moving to become a harder target.
My own play style has never necessitated outstanding mechanical aim, Because I find it so much more interesting to outplay an enemy, with better planning or a more creative approach to combat. In Valiant, however, standing still is almost a necessity to hit anything more than a few meters away, and not doing so makes the spread of a weapon far too inaccurate to ever win a fight.
It took every fiber in my body to resist the urge to be harder to hit. and often times I would find myself Instinctively strafing, only to be absolutely wrecked by an enemy who never moved a muscle.
Long time Counter-Strike players will see the following clip as completely normal, But I’d imagine many of those not familiar with this genre will be horrified.
This was the optimal way to kill this enemy. Valorant has all the carrots and sticks geared toward making sure the person with the better aim wins a vast majority of the time.
The slow movement speed, The extremely loud footsteps The fact that a player is greatly slowed upon getting hit, and The huge disincentive to move when in combat, is going to either make you adore the game or drive you away for being too much of a static and unforgiving experience.
This is very much a Counter-Strike style game with an Overwatch aesthetic, Meaning one-trick Mercy mains are very unlikely to enjoy their time. The losses in Valorant seem to hit so much harder than most other games you’re likely to play. There will be matches where it appears that your enemies will know exactly where you are at all times, and will deal triple damage, while your own bullets seem to be less capable of doing damage- than a water balloon filled with marshmallows.
Newcomers will come to learn that playing like absolute garbage is just part of the authentic Valorant experience, and often times not playing at all can be the best way to improve your own game-play, Especially when the enemy team seems to have a divine entity looking over their shoulder.
With all of this being said- In the times where your team is performing well and you’ve established good communication and strategy, Valorant can genuinely be one of the most satisfying titles you can play in the present day. The praise you give to a teammate who just got their first ace, The tense moment you defuse a plant only seconds before it’s expected to wipe you out, and the times you get a one-in-a-million collateral shot, Are some of the best moments you can have in any game. Valiant was made to be played with a full stack of friends and not doing so really doesn’t do the game justice.
Playing most games will make you feel good the majority of the time, but playing Valorant doesn’t feel like this at all. The truth is that losing can truly feel incredibly unrewarding- To the point where I’d rather play Orisa in Overwatch then play a bad game of Valiant. And I’d rather shit in my hands and clap, than play that stupid cow barrier bot for more than ten seconds. This feeling of absolute hopelessness does however get countered, by the intense joy of clutching an impossible round or just having a game where everything is going right. And to its credit, Valorant on these highs contend with some of the best dopamine hits a person can have while playing a video game.
One of the greatest things about modern gaming- Is that even if you’re not certain you’ll even enjoy Valorant at all, It’s free-to-play nature, Relatively small game size and Minimal system requirements, mean that you won’t lose anything by trying. Valiant winning game of the year is about as likely as this channel ending up on YouTube rewind. However, It’s dedicated developers, Already astronomical player base and It’s extremely well-laid foundation for an export, Will likely establish itself as the title that lasts the longest from anything launched in 2020. When games in the modern day can grow to become exponentially larger than where they set their roots, This, more than anything, is the most exciting promise of all.