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Valorant: Is The New Kid On The Block A “Game Killer”?

December 27, 2020, by Rakesh Naik


  • Ever since the announcement of the game, Valorant has been titled as a “Game-Killer” by many big names in the industry, specifically of Fortnite and CS:GO.
  • At first glance, Valorant appears as a mix of CS:GO’s gameplay and the abilities from Overwatch. But, Riot ensures the game’s uniqueness with a lot of special in-game mechanics and abilities.
  • Valorant’s controversial feature: The Vanguard Game Security Software, may be a boon as well as a curse to players.

Valorant, Riot Games’ latest venture into the world of competitive esports. The creators of League of Legends have definitely brought their A game with the release of Valorant. At first glance, it looks like a mix of the gameplay from Counter-Stike and the abilities from Overwatch. But Riot has kept the game unique with a lot of special in-game mechanics and abilities. Players play as one of 13 different agents each with unique abilities and mechanics. While the game is generally free-to-play, it does have various in-game purchases that include skins for agents as well as the guns. The game doesn’t even require a system with high-end specs, so one could simply download it freely and start playing.

A 5v5 tactical first-person shooter, the game offers every player a choice to join either one of two sides – the Attackers or the Defenders. The Attackers work through the game to plant a ‘Spike’, the successful detonation of which earns them the victory. On the contrary, the Defenders aim to not let the attackers plant the ‘Spike’ or by defusing a spike after it has been planted. A win could also be achieved by eliminating all players on the enemy team before a spike is planted. The game offers other game modes such as Unranked, Spike Rush, Competitive, and Deathmatch with varying objectives and rounds to be played. The main game mode will have the players play a total of 25 rounds, with the first team to win 13 rounds, wins the match.

Released officially on June 2nd 2020, the game had a record breaking viewership on Twitch even before its release, where the streaming platform saw over 34 million hours watched in a single day. Most of the credit for the popularity of the game goes to a broadly promoted closed beta. The developers of the game, in order to maximise viewership, made it so that if a key wasn’t given to you straight from Riot Games, you could “earn” a key by watching the game live on various popular streams on Twitch. This made sure a maximised viewership and engagements for the game even before its release, as early as April 2020. A lot of this engagement would also be due to the global COVID pandemic where people sat at home in lockdown wouldn’t have much else to do.

 

Image 1 Courtesy: Valorant Twitter

Ever since the announcement of the game it has been titled as a “Game-Killer” by many other big names in the industry specifically of titles like Fortnite and CS:GO. While some of the speculation was true, nothing was as serious as killing the said games, at least not yet.

Valorant: A potential factor in the downfall of Fortnite?

Epic Games’ Battle Royale game isn’t as popular as it once used to be and is slowly losing its charm as well. The issue however isn’t entirely caused by the release of Valorant, but can be traced back to as early as 2018, the infamous Fortnite: the Summer Skirmish series which was the first ever Fortnite major esports tournament. The event failed miserably due to a number of reasons: lag, lack of interesting gameplay and the boring style of the participants. A lot of experts even claimed the game to not be esports ready like other titles such as CS:GO, Overwatch etc.

The fall of the game can also be chalked up to the various meta-breaking updates and patches that Epic Games releases before every major tournament. Another main issue for the downfall of the game is the cheating problem in the game. Many pro players claim that the anti-cheat system in the game is virtually non-existent. A hacker even managed to use some basic hacks to bypass the anit-cheat and make his way to the FNCS Solo Qualifiers Finals. With the game receiving a lot of bad press and criticisms from pro players, as well as many streamers slowly shying away from the game, it is losing its previous glory to other titles.

Valorant however, can be a breath of fresh air to the scene. Although inspired from other games such as Counter-strike, Valorant offers a fresh perspective to players with its unique play-style and mechanics. The game, being a tactical FPS puts many players in a familiar arena which they might be used to. Adding the unique abilities and macro-controlled play-style makes the game interesting and keeps it fast paced for the viewers as well.

Even in the competitive scene, Valorant can be considered esports ready as the game is specifically designed for a competitive play-style. The 5v5 teams is standard for traditional esports such as CS:GO, DoTA2, Overwatch etc, which only adds to its competitive gameplay. There have also been quite a few successful Valorant tournaments that happened without any trouble, with a quite good Twitch viewership as well.

Finally, in terms of an in-game anti-cheat system, Riot Games have out done themselves with their latest ‘Vanguard’ Game Security Software. It is designed to detect the slightest attempts of cheating using any hacks, and consists of a client that runs while Valorant is active. It makes use of a Kernel-Mode driver, to detect any malicious software that might be running along with Valorant that maybe used for cheating. To say that this is a foolproof anti-cheat software would be a serious understatement.

However, besides all the differences between the two games, and their pros and cons, is Valorant a “Fortnite killer”? Not necessarily. Firstly, the two are entirely different types of games, with Valorant being a Tactical FPS and Fortnite being a Battle Royale type game. Therefore they have entirely different play-styles and mechanics that sets them apart. The skillset required for either game is also entirely different except for a few basic mechanics such as aiming, map awareness or game-sense. Secondly, unlike Valorant, Fortnite has a sort of story that moves ‘Forward’. It is a story about many characters, and the storyline moves forward with every new season.

While quite a few Fortnite streamers and players have jumped onto the Valorant ship after its release, the downfall of the game can be chalked up to the careless attitude of Epic games among other reasons. But Fortnite is far from dead, because of its loyal fanbase and many players that still prefer it over other games.

Can Valorant steal the spotlight from CS:GO?

 

If there is any game that Valorant can be claimed to be “inspired from”, it would only be Counter-strike. At first glance, Valorant would look like a hacked version of CS:GO to replace all the weapons with their more futuristic counterparts. One could say CS:GO is to Valorant what DoTA2 is to League of Legends. Funnily enough, it is always Riot Games that is being “inspired” by other games.

In terms of play-style and mechanics, Valorant is almost the same as CS:GO. The only difference is the presence of character unique abilities which can be used in-game in addition to the guns and other weapons. Even the win-loss condition of the game is the same for both games. The Attackers/Terrorists work to plant a Spike/Bomb on either one of the 2 in-game bombsites, while the Defenders/Counter-Terrorists aim to prevent the planting of said Spike/Bomb or defuse it once it is planted. The number of rounds per match are different but there is however a team switch midway through the match.

Counter-strike is a series of multiplayer first-person shooter video games with the first game released in November 2000. The game later released multiple versions of the game of which Condition Zero and Global Offensive are the most popular.  There have been several 3rd party spin-offs designed for various asian markets over the years such as Counter-strike Neo and Counter-strike Nexon Studio. The general gameplay however remains the same the only changes are graphical or a few weapon and mechanics changes.

The game has developed a huge fanbase over the years of all age ranges. Anyone born in the 90s, interested in gaming, would have definitely played Counter-strike with their friends at a LAN party. The game gained a popularity among casual players even during the early ages of the internet due to the possibility that it could be played over a Local Area Network connection. The fanbase has stuck to the game over the years and casual players still continue to play the game after almost 2 decades.

Valorant and CS:GO with all their similarities, are however quite different from each other. For example, CS:GO is a seasoned FPS game that requires amazing reflexes, razor-sharp memory of the maps, crazy pre-aiming skills with a good grasp of the gun recoils. Valorant requires almost the same skillset along with a good grasp of all the unique abilities and how to use them in-game.

On the other hand, in Valorant all players have the same set of weapons to choose from while in CS:GO either team (CT or Terrorists) have a different set of weapons with the game requiring a higher level of adaptability by the player. On the same note, the weapon selection in Valorant doesn’t make a difference (you could usually get away with an SMG) but in CS:GO the purchase of weapons need to be well thought out. Bringing an SMG to a Rifle fight would be a grave mistake.

In short, all the similarities and differences aside, CS:GO is here to stay as long as it has the extremely loyal fanbase. CS:GO has years of development and player hours gone into it making it a class apart when compared to Valorant. This isn’t to say that Valorant is a bad game, it is only in its initial stages of release and only tie will tell whether it will actually take over and convert the diehard CS:GO viewership.

Not as Flawless as it Seems

The “Game-Killer” however isn’t without its flaws. The first flaw that comes to mind would be the lack of a console or controller support for the game. A majority of the streamers and viewers on most online streams use consoles which means these people would rather stick to their own games than move to Valorant. Besides this, quite a lot of pro players call the game a bit boring and quite confusing to watch. Jaryd “Summit1G” Lazar and Turner “Tfue” Tenney touched upon these points in a few of their streams with former CS:GO legend Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek making comments about the confusion while watching Valorant. He claims that while it is easy to understand CS:GO, where it is as simple as one person shooting another, Valorant takes this and adds a boatload of different abilities being cast on top. Unless you know all the different characters and what they do, it is quite difficult for a new player to follow.

Another issue faced by the new kid on the block was the loss of the millions of viewers after  the initial few months of release. The in stream key drops made sure almost everyone had a key to access the beta. Once the game was officially released, all the hype died down. Mind you, the game didn’t die out, its only that once the game had been played for a few months, many lost the initial curiosity and turned to games that they were more comfortable with. But such a change in engagements is expected of any new game. After the initial hype is over, the actual loyal fanbase starts to form who might eventually stick solely to this game.

Finally, the most controversial part of the game is the Vanguard Game Security Software, a boon and curse to players. While it does make sure no cheating takes place in the game, many have speculated that its Kernel level access could be easily misused if need be. Various industry experts claim that Riot Games could potentially spy on their users with this kernel level access provided to the Security software. Ultimately, it could be even used to disable a user’s system if required. The user might not even know what caused the problem unless experienced in System Security. While a lot of worries have been raised in this matter, Riot Games haven’t taken much action against it, praising the advantages of such a system and ignoring the problems.

The Future

 

All flaws aside, the game has been out for only about half a year and is yet to establish a proper and loyal fanbase. Riot Games has a collection of data from years of FPS games and live feedback from the players as well meaning that they have a lot of room for and ability to improve the game. Riot Games’ capability of adapting and integrating player feedback into the game to improve said game is not unknown as we have seen from its other famous title League of Legends. The game definitely has the potential to become one of the best FPS games in recent times and constant improvements and updates will help a lot. Only time will tell whether Valorant is here to stay or is just a one trick pony that will soon be forgotten like many titles in the genre.

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