There’s a ton of interest around Valorant, the character-based tactical shooter from Riot Games (developers of League of Legends and Teamfight Tactics). It set Twitch streaming viewership records with 34 million hours watched in a single day and, at one point, reached a peak concurrent of 1.7 million viewers.

Whether or not it’s from the thirst for beta access, Valorant is gaining notoriety by combining aspects of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Rainbow Six Siege, and Overwatch. For those who haven’t dug into its systems or haven’t even had a chance to play, here’s our basic rundown so you can get a full picture of what Valorant is about.

Agents Are The Real Heroes

The “heroes” in Valorant are called Agents and there are five to start off with an additional five to unlock, which you get from simply playing the game and earning XP on your account. Each player chooses who to play as throughout an entire match, and only one of each Agent is allowed per team.

Each agent fills a particular role and has their own unique moveset. Initiators are meant to disrupt chokepoints and scout for enemy activity in order to let their team get into contested spaces. Controllers have area-of-effect abilities and spells to obstruct or punish enemies which help split up combat spaces and deny incoming attacks. Sentinels help to fortify locations, such as sites where you can plant the spike (Sage in particular fills a healer role). Duelists are multi-role fighters that focus on frags and aggressive pushing.

Time to kill is fast in this game so you’ll have a smaller timing window to react and get abilities off than a game like Overwatch. Because the gameplay pacing shares a lot in common with CSGO, you’re expected to be proactive in how you use your abilities.

Below are the 10 Agents available in Valorant’s beta:

  • Sage (Sentinel)
  • Jett (Duelist)
  • Phoenix (Duelist)
  • Brimstone (Controller)
  • Sova (Initiator)
  • Viper (Controller, must be unlocked)
  • Raze (Duelist, must be unlocked)
  • Cypher (Sentinel, must be unlocked)
  • Omen (Controller, must be unlocked)
  • Breach (Initiator, must be unlocked)

Demolition, Man

The current mode in the beta pits two teams of five against each other until one team reaches 13 wins. Your team will be assigned to either defend or attack the map’s bomb sites for the first 12 rounds before switching sides. You win a round either by wiping out the enemy team or by planting the spike and guarding it until it detonates. If a spike is planted, the defending team must defuse it to win. Each round has a one-minute-forty-second timer–despite its tempered pace, rounds can unfold rather quickly. However, full matches can run long (upwards of 30 minutes) depending on the number of rounds needed to determine a winner.

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There’s a CSGO-style buying phase at the start of each round where you can purchase weapons, armor, and charges for your Agent’s unique abilities. In the beta, the economy is pretty forgiving with a loss netting you 1900 points to spend, a win giving 3000 points, and kills awarding 200 each. That means you’ll be stocked with low to mid-tier weapons consistently, presuming you don’t overspend on the more expensive weapons.

You have five sidearms to choose from and a few choices from each of the primary weapons categories: SMG, shotgun, rifle, sniper, and machine gun. You can only carry one sidearm and one primary weapon, and you always have a knife (and everyone knows you run faster with a knife). If you survive in the previous round (win or lose), you keep your gear in the next one–if you die, only unused powers will carry over. Because of this, you may find teammates trying to “save” which means avoiding confrontation to keep their gear when it seems there’s no chance of winning the current round.

Teamplay Tactics

It’s important to recognize the benefit of certain tactics and systems. For example, moving slowly by holding the Walk key will cancel out the sound of your footsteps and is a must for not giving away your position at specific times–you generally want to run at normal speed for when you’re already engaged or need to move fast.

Certain guns, such as rifles and SMGs, will allow aiming down sights. Firing while ADS gives you a slight zoom and will tighten up the bullet spray pattern a bit. Another thing to keep in mind is how Agents’ Ultimate ability charges. Each Agent requires a different number of Ult points, and you accumulate them in a few ways: dying in a round (win or lose), capturing Ult orbs on the map, planting or defusing the spike, and getting a kill all net you one Ult point. When it comes to most abilities, you should use them often, especially if they’re in support of your teammates–just keep in mind whether a particular ability obstructs or damages teammates (like Sage’s slowing ice or Viper’s poison attacks).

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Communication is key in Valorant more so than your average multiplayer shooter. To succeed, you’ll need to pay attention to teammate’s callouts and return the favor by letting them know what you’re seeing. If teammates don’t have microphones, pay attention to what’s happening on the map so you know when and where they’re engaged in combat and react accordingly.

Map Designs And Callouts

The maps we’ve seen so far tend to have longer sightlines on the outer edges and close-to-medium engagements at the center. There are plenty of chokepoints for teams to pile up, plenty of lanes for agents with a sniper rifle to lockdown, and many tight corners to keep eyes on. If you’ve played any demolition map in Counter-Strike, map layouts in Valorant will feel very familiar.

Most maps have two bomb sites (one has three sites) with nooks and crannies for enemies (or yourself) to hide or use as cover. You’ll hear teammates use callouts such as “long A” or “long B” which usually indicates the longest route towards that site. “Window” generally indicates a high-up perch where you commonly find snipers, and “heaven” usually means a larger open platform that’s also high up. “Pit” will often mean an area that’s below the map’s ground level. “Mid” of course means the middle of the map, but you’ll sometimes hear “mid-to-B” or “mid-to-A” which simply means a push that starts at the map’s center and ends at that site. Lastly, “rotate” just means to run to the site you’re not watching.

Other Features And Microtransactions

Valorant comes with a pretty handy training area where you can try every weapon, which is important so you don’t spend money on guns that you’re not familiar with. There’s no controller support yet, but the training area is a must for those brushing up on their mouse and keyboard twitch skills, especially when the game rewards headshots significantly more than body shots and each gun has a certain recoil pattern.

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There is also a microtransaction store already available to sell you gun skins and buddies (basically gun charms). You can also earn buddies, sprays, cards, titles, and some gun skins by leveling Agent’s Contracts, although the microtransaction store will have exclusive goodies. Right now, the exchange rate for the in-game currency, called Valorant Points, is as follows:

  • $4.99 for 475 points
  • $9.99 for 1000 points
  • $19.99 for 2050 points
  • $34.99 for 3650 points
  • $49.99 for 5350 points
  • $99.99 for 11000 points

A typical gun skin during a limited time offer period costs 875 points, while a knife skin can go for 2250 points. The Reaver skin collection went for 5325 points.

Overall Beta Impressions

We have an article covering our overall impressions of the Valorant beta. In short, its gameplay systems have been sharp and smart, making it a great blend of its influences so far. However, it leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to visuals and presentation.

The closed beta is still running and you could still get in on it; basically you need a Twitch account and a Riot Games account and have to watch streams of the game itself to have a.a chance at getting access to the Valorant beta. Valorant is scheduled to release as a PC-exclusive in Summer 2020.

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