Utility is the name of the game, and Breach could be the catalyst to break it.
Modern video games always have that one character that becomes a trendsetter and sticks out like a sore thumb. Overwatch had Brigitte, a polarising character that added a ton of control to the hero stable, and one that framed how modern Overwatch is viewed today. Much in the same way, I have been a longtime supporter of the idea that Breach is VALORANT’s dirty little secret - we just don’t know it yet. With his recent buff in patch 1.07, it’s time for the world to take notice of how much Breach can do when placed in the right hands. With a belt stuffed full of utility, Breach is coming to take your ladder points, and there isn’t much you can do about it - literally.
First, let’s explore why someone, like Breach, that can inflict what I’ll define as “hard crowd control” is counter-productive to VALORANT as a whole. The core gameplay element in a tactical shooter, games like Counter-Strike or like VALORANT, is the gunplay itself. They’re mechanically demanding games that ask you to match your wits with your aim nearly constantly throughout the game. If either waver for a moment, that could turn the tide of a match.
VALORANT is special in this case because it does a little more than Counter-Strike in the sense that they’ve added agent-specific spells to the game. For those unfamiliar with both games, in Counter-Strike there is a symmetrical utility system, meaning both attackers and defenders can buy the same utility. In VALORANT, however, the utility system is based on the characters or agents you pick before the game.
This flow is interrupted when things like stuns, silences, or any other creatively named crowd control effect, stops the player from even attempting to shoot their gun. The general feeling always returns to that core element of gunplay, and hard crowd control is counterintuitive to that goal. The difference being - soft crowd control. Think being flashed or near-sighted - at least gives the player the chance to roll the dice and fire back. When you’re stunned, you don’t ever get the chance to “play” the game. It’s this feeling of helplessness that creates a lot of problems, for VALORANT across the boards, if it were to become too common.
Things like Killjoy’s ultimate feels separate here, it does check a lot of these boxes, but because it happens with less frequency and is classified as an ultimate, I believe players are more willing to let it slide. However, Breach is another animal entirely. However, when we look at Breach, this control comes in a small dose but much more frequently. However, that isn’t the only way that Breach bends the game; every single ability interacts with the map itself.
One thing that first-person shooters have always held as a constant has been leveraging the geometry of the map to gain an advantage, Breach takes this law and makes balloon animals out of it. Need to check this corner? Use one of Breach’s three flashbangs or burn your stun. Confident someone is still hiding behind a box after you’ve sprayed it and flashed it? Force them to move with Aftershock - or your stun.
Notice the trend? There are some serious red flags that could arise with Breach.
With how much time players in esports spend finding the most optimal way to play the game, I’m sure something will come of this. Will it be as clear cut as I’m making it? No, not at all, but the general idea still stands; stunning someone out of an Operator or consistently stunning someone off Recon Bolt or Alarm Bot isn’t too far off. Once the professional scene takes a liking to Breach, or whatever agent is viewed as meta, the casual player base will soon pick up on it, and that’s where things get out of hand. Once it becomes commonplace to stun and disable your enemy from even having the chance to fire their weapon, we’ve got a problem.
Take for instance Team Envy’s default A Site defence on Haven. Killjoy places an Alarm Bot down A Long and allows the team’s Phoenix to play behind the box near the orb. Once the Alarm Bot is triggered, Phoenix uses his Curve Ball and flashes the unsuspecting attacking team, and takes a favourable duel. Working with that, why leave the opportunity for a random spray down to occur, when you can perform a nearly more effective setup with Breach’s flash, or more importantly, with his stun. If that’s not too far off, when is a team going to use Sova and Breach to this same degree? This information setup, combined with hard crowd control, is exactly what has me worried for the future of the game.
As the game progresses and Riot continues to add more agents to the game, how much further will they take utility? We’ve already seen creative takes like Reyna’s invisibility and Killjoy’s turret, what’s stopping the next agent from having another stun similar to Breach along with a kit of useful spells?
Is VALORANT the game that was promised if it were to become a battlefield of spells and odd machinery flying up, down, and around the map? This isn’t intended to be a critique of Riot Game’s design, nor a fearmongering move to dissuade you from playing the game, but there is a path, a not too distant future, where utility becomes too strong, and the gunplay suffers from it. This isn’t a #deletebrigitte movement, moreso a concern brought up in a roundtable meeting. How far is too far, and once we find that will it be too late? Has Breach already gone too far and we just haven’t seen it yet?
I have a hunch that we have, but time will be the judge of that.
Images via Riot Games