Valorant: The Closed Beta

We’ve been teased by Riot Games about their new Tactical First Person Shooter Valorant for a while now. First we were shown some early alpha gameplay while the title was still being called “Project A” and then before we knew it, there were more promotional videos and a ton of information about the characters and their abilities. I touched on the latter with a post just over a month ago. About a week ago, streamers and other influencers were given access to the game, and the closed beta was announced. I’ve been patiently waiting for my chance to get into this title, and at this point I was hoping to already be in so I could share some first impressions about the game. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet, and this draft has been sitting in a folder collecting dust. I thought it prudent to just talk about what I know, what’s happened, and what I’ve seen of the game so I can still give some sort of impression, but I can’t touch on controls, responsiveness, how good it looks running on my PC, etc. I can give some opinions regardless though.

It was announced on April 7th that Valorant would be entering into closed beta. Plebs like myself were wondering how we could get into the game, and Riot was kind enough to give us a set of instructions. Unlike most betas that I’ve participated in where you simply enter your email address, or check on box on a launcher to “opt in,” Riot wanted you to do multiple things. First, you need a Riot account. This is something new-ish, but anyone who has been playing LoL/TFT would have already converted their existing LoL account into a Riot account. From there, you need a Twitch account. I already had both, so the hard part was already done. From there, you have to link your Riot account to your Twitch account, and then watch any Valorant stream with “drops enabled.” Simple as that right?

Well it’s been seven days and I’ve had a Twitch stream open in at least one tab for hours at a time during all seven of those days. There’s one open now as I write this. Still no access. Apparently you won’t receive a key, instead you will be “whitelisted” and will receive a notification through Twitch that will allow you to download the game. It hasn’t happened for me, but with the sheer number of people streaming the game, it obviously has worked for many. Watching the official Twitter account and reading articles elsewhere leads me to believe that they aren’t giving them out like candy as one would have expected. Instead, they are “monitoring” things and expanding servers and capacity as they go. I’ve read that drops happen 24/7, but do you really want to watch that much of a game for that long? I don’t. I haven’t really been watching most of the time anyway, instead leaving the stream run while I do other things. Whatever the case, I still want to play the game, but I don’t want to burn out on it before I try it by watching too much.

But I have watched. And I have liked much of what I’ve seen. The game is pretty, even while being streamed. It’s definitely just an updated Counter-Strike but it obviously has some quirks of its own. The fact that there are characters and they all have different abilities is a big part of that, but I also don’t really see their abilities playing into rounds all that much. The spike (think bomb) rarely gets planted. It’s even more rare that a planted spike gets defused. It ends up mostly being 5v5 deathmatch with some splashy effects that seem to have little effect on the game outside of hindering visibility.

For example, several characters have grenade abilities that leave an orb of smoke or other energy, poison etc that blocks vision through it but also reduces visibility while inside of it. One character makes a wall of poison. One can shoot arrows through walls. Some have vision abilities that allow you to temporarily see enemies behind walls or around corners. None of this seems overpowered because it almost all feels pointless. The gun play looks pretty damn good though, and that’s what I’m most interested in. However when a game is so obviously an iteration of an already existing title it’s hard to see it not setting itself apart all that much. Honestly I think Overwatch might have done a better job in this department, but it was also boring rather fast. Perhaps after more testing and patches and whatnot this game will truly set itself apart, but for now it looks like a mod of Counter-Strike which is already a mod of Half-Life.

I’m reserving my official judgment until I actually get to play the damn thing, be it during the closed beta or later when there’s an open one, or perhaps even after launch. But for now I’m not as impressed as I once was and I just want to try the damn thing myself. Also Riot, with the amount of games you now have under your belt (Legends of Runeterra just launched as well), maybe it’s time to make that Riot Games launcher? I despise having a ton of launchers, but since you’re your own company this seems to make sense to pack them all in one easy spot.

I’ll be back to talk about this game more as it develops.