Valorant: New Craze, Same Old Format

Writer Duc Than analyzes the newest game created by Riot Games, the studio behind the acclaimed League of Legends.

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Duc Than

Valorant gameplay on the “Haven” map.

Duc Than

The homepage of Twitch, a live-streaming platform dedicated to gaming, is often an indicator of popular trends in the ever-changing world of the Internet. From the resurgence of chess to the meteoric rise of Among Us, one can tell which games are doing well simply by checking whether they are being played by the top streamers on the platform. The current game taking the community by storm? Valorant. 

Valorant’s premise is simple. Two teams of five take turns either attacking or defending over a best-to-25 game. Attackers carry the “spike,” or bomb, to one of several designated bombsites on the map, plant it, and hope that it explodes. Defenders, meanwhile, must either defuse the spike before it explodes, or eliminate the attacking team and prevent them from planting the spike at all. If this sounds familiar to any game, chances are one is thinking of Counter-Strike. They shouldn’t be blamed though; the games are strikingly similar. 

One thing that sets the two shooters apart, however, is the usage of abilities. Players can choose from a variety of different “agents,” or characters, each of them having a short backstory and a tailored set of abilities. Each agent has three abilities, which can be purchased with weapons at the beginning of every round, and an “ultimate”: a more powerful ability that can only be activated through collecting orbs or racking up kills throughout a game. While this aspect of gameplay sets it apart from its older cousin, it also makes the game strikingly similar to another popular shooter: Overwatch. 

The formula is “addicting, but it gets frustrating sometimes,” said Keith Le, a Cougar Esports officer. “The community can get as toxic as League of Legends and you can get tired quickly, but there’s always something that pulls you back to the game.” 

Given the nature of how gaming studios earn money in today’s age, it should not be a surprise that Riot Games knows how to make games people cannot get enough of. While some games have to be purchased either at a brick-and-mortar store like GameStop or on an online platform, many (including Valorant) are free to download. Money is made through microtransactions, in this case, the purchase of “Valorant Points,” which in turn can be used to buy in-game customization like gun skins and graffiti sprays. “It can be overpriced,” says Erijeana Colet, an EVHS senior. “But I think it’s fine as long as there’s some self-restraint in place.” For context, 1000 Valorant Points can be bought for $10, and the latest collection of skins (called “Forsaken”) cost 7,100 Valorant Points. 

While one can get carried away by fancy skins, another main attraction of the game is the maps. Valorant has six maps: Ascent, Bind, Haven, Icebox, Split, and the latest addition Breeze. Each map has a unique layout that makes the game feel immersive: Ascent has a wide-open center courtyard and closeable doors, Bind has two one-way teleports that can instantly transport one across the map, Haven has three bomb sites instead of two, Split and Icebox each have a unique set of ropes, and Breeze has a one-way chute. While the map offerings are not as diverse as CS: GO, where there are dozens of maps and gamers have the ability to create their own, the intricacies of the map still allow for interesting strategies and gameplay. 

Valorant, similar to other competitive multiplayer games, also has a competitive mode where players earn a ranking. The rankings, in order from lowest to highest, are Iron, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Immortal, and Radiant. Each rank, apart from Immortal and Radiant, is further divided into three sub-ranks, with 1 being the lowest and 3 being the highest. While competitive mode seeks to put similar-skilled players together and reward players who spend more time on the game, the system is not perfect. A bug in the game’s latest update has led to players being placed in much lower ranks than expected, such as from Immortal to Gold (a 3-rank drop). Furthermore, “progress upwards is slow and frustrating for many due to the MMR system,” says Anthony Tran, referring to the Match Making Rating the game uses to determine the true skill of players. “Some players just create new accounts because they found that starting fresh is easier.” 

Despite the flaws, the game has undoubtedly been embraced by the gaming community. Riot, which has experience organizing global League of Legends tournaments, announced the 2021 Valorant Champions Tour in 2020. The tournament consists of three tiers of competitions: Challengers, Masters, and the Champions Tournament later this year. As tournament matches are streamed on Twitch to an audience of tens of thousands, it is clear that the game is on a trajectory to success.