Rumored on Friday, confirmed truth on Monday, Valorant is Riot’s “Project A,” and it’s a pretty much what we expected: a 5v5 tactical shooter with multiple rounds, CS:GO-style, and a cast of characters with colorful abilities. More details have emerged, though, following select press outlets’ preview of the game last week, and we’ll crib from a few of them to give you an overview of what it’s like to actually play the game.
First of all, it is going to be free-to-play, in case there was any doubt. The impressions I’m getting are that it’s solid and competent, but perhaps not exceptionally innovative. At its core, Valorant merges the round-based CS:GO style of planting a bomb/defusing a bomb with limited special abilities, a la Overwatch. I say “limited” because, as Eurogamer’s Chris Tapsell describes them, they’re not game-alteringly destructive but serve more to enhance the tactical nature of the game, giving boosts to vision, movement, and so forth (or doing the opposite to your enemies). They also appear to have limited charges, so you won’t want to just fire them off every 10 seconds or so.
“Ability spam” might be a thing during crucial confrontations, but for the most part, your firearms are still going to be the main way you deal damage in Valorant, and how they work in the economy is another crucial element. There are a max of 25 rounds in a match of Valorant, and between rounds you’ll purchase weapons — you can even buy them for your allies — and charges for your abilities, though I’m concerned this might lead to a bit of a snowball effect. The better your team does, the more you’ll have to spend, which will help you get better, and so on. Then again, League of Legends has operated in pretty much the same way for years, and it’s doing all right.
Polygon’s Austin Goslin says Valorant has a “more deliberate pace than Overwatch” but is “much quicker than something like CS:GO.” Riot is trying to find that middle ground between the two, which runs the risk of not satisfying either group of fans. In particular, the art style has me scratching my head a bit; Valorant aims to be a serious, esports-caliber tactical game, but with cartoony characters and outlandish special effects. In that sense, it reminds me a little of WildStar, which wanted to tell you it was for “hardcores” and had eye-bleeding difficulty but which you’d play with a man made out of rock or a bunny-ear woman.
The other things that concerns me has more to do with a technical detail than the game itself Riot is apparently very keen on keeping ping low across the world for Valorant players, to the point that it’s “struck a deal with internet service providers that will route internet traffic directly from you to Riot’s servers,” according to Eurogamer. That immediately brought to mind this article about an ISP that refused to upgrade its service until Riot (and Netflix) paid them. This detail might not be in the same vein, because it appears Riot is voluntarily paying to boost its own performance, but it seems to tug at the edges of net neutrality.
You can check out Valorant’s website, Twitter, and YouTube to keep up with the latest information direct from Riot Games. We’ll have more on the game once we get our hands on it, which last week’s leaks seemed to indicate would be as soon as Wednesday, though Riot is only saying “Summer 2020” at this time.