From cams with guns to an esport that stuns, VALORANT isn’t going anywhere.
What a year it has been for the feather stuck in Riot Games’ cap. VALORANT, a game that saw traction as a rumour and became the latest craze in beta tests, that same game is now on track to becoming a tier-one esport title - all within the span of a year.
While some point towards other members of the League of Legends family tree, VALORANT is the game that truly marked the “s” in Riot Games. A new world, a new vision, a new genre. The journey thus far hasn’t been without its hiccups and rocky paths, but for what its worth, VALORANT has had a glowing introduction. And to think it all began with one simple project name.
During League of Legends' celebration of ten glorious years, a stylish title that looked foreign to the world of Riot Games was introduced to the gaming world. Code named, “Project A”, this was our first official glimpse of the newest property in Riot’s wheelhouse, the game we’d come to know and love as VALORANT. Entering early beta testing in April and released shortly thereafter in June, VALORANT wasn’t shy about attempting new things and seeing what stuck. This led to some loving memories.
As the beta continued we were continuously gifted with some memorable interactions, some fondly remembered through history’s lens, other not so much. One that won’t be missed is Raze’s double Paint Shell start. For an ability that covers so much ground and does that much damage, the fact that Raze started with the ability to holster two Paint Shell grenades was baffling.
Cypher has his fair share of endearing interactions, least we forget the evil grins had en masse once everyone began to hear about the strange glitch that allowed Cypher’s Spy Cam accesses to guns. On top of being a mini-turret for the initiated, Spy Cam could also be placed out of bounds to gain information prior to the round beginning.
Obviously, the game has changed since those dated beta builds, but it's the history that gives context to where we are today. That context helps to better understand why for instance some of the newest agents are the way they are. Ever since VALORANT entered our homes, and our heads, a number of new playable agents have both entranced and polarized the community.
Reyna entered the space as a solo player's dream come true. Self-sustainability, rewarded for kills, and a surprisingly strong piece of utility made her a force to be reckoned with on the ladder. However, when it came to professional play, Reyna’s appearance was spotty but as of recently, she’s come much more into vogue.
Killjoy was viewed in the same light; an agent that seemed useful but took time to find her way to the top of VALORANT’s competitive scene. Ladder players took no time at all figuring out how useful her Swarm Grenades would be both post-plant and to shut down a key choke point.
And last but certainly not least, we’ve got Skye. As the newest agent on the block, Skye is—in some eyes—the spiritual successor to Sage. With the ability to heal her allies and a tool kit that makes Cypher blush, she has made a splash as a wildly popular hero but hasn’t necessarily been giving the chance to shine in tournaments yet.
Three new agents with wildly different styles and mechanics, for a game that has its roots tight nestled into the tactical shooter space, VALORANT is in no shortage of creativity.
When it comes to esports, VALORANT has created footholds that will propel the game forward all across the world. That vision has continued through the end of the year with VALORANT’s final marquee event; First Strike. Since its beta events and tournaments, VALORANT’s global narratives had already begun to sprout up. Some were challenged, others weren’t fit to last, while a select few continue to thrive, cementing their place into competitive VALORANT lore.
North America for the longest time has been a two-horse race between TSM and Sentinels. However, both teams look slightly more mortal than they once did. While Sentinels looked like heavy favourites to pull ahead of the pack, they faltered just short of the North American First Strike grand final. TSM, on the other hand, convincingly found their grand final ticket under the pillows of Immortals and Team Envy. That said, against the odds, the team that upset Sentinels in the semifinals—100 Thieves—would seize the day and be crowned North American First Strike champions.
While Fish123 took Europe by storm out of the gate, it had been nothing but gold for G2 Esports in Europe for the longest time. Returning and retooling as Team Liquid, the original Fish123 core has struggled to regain their seat at the top. Now, a contender sits a top the European throne. Team Heretics stand with a blasphemous grin as they sit comfortably as the European First Strike champions.
South Korea is incredibly familiar with esports and unsurprisingly it also is home to its own dominant force in the form of Vision Strikers who leverage veteran experience with coordination that seems unmatched. Undefeated since June 2020, Vision Strikers rolled over their First Strike opponents to cement themselves as the Kings of Korea.
We’ve witnessed first hand what Riot Games is able to do with VALORANT esports with the advent of First Strike. This was their first global project for their newest property, one that will usher in a new age. Golden skies lay on the horizon for those who even teased the idea of competing in VALORANT. Three tiers of play await any young rookie looking to break into the space with Riot Games’ vision for the VALORANT Champions Tour set to begin in 2021.
While 2020 has been one exhausting nightmare, VALORANT has not only given us a beautifully competitive shooter to sink our teeth into, but it’s one of the fastest-growing esports on the market. What’s more exciting, is that the train’s breaks have been removed—the growth isn’t hamstrung or slowing down, there is constant communication from the developer and a level of accountability that is refreshing, to say the least.
That said, it’s been real 2020.
Cheers to VALORANT and to 2021. May the ranked ladder be ever in your favour in the new year.
Images via Riot Games