Valorant: Closed Beta Part 2

I just wrote about my experience with trying to get into the Valorant closed beta a couple of days ago. As I still had yet to gain access to the game, I decided to push out a post with thoughts about the streamed gameplay I had watched. Due to having only watched the game I couldn’t comment on certain parts of the experience, and like most things first-had experience makes a difference. Much of what I said still rings true, but having actually played the game now I can offer a few more thoughts.

Yesterday I received an email notification while I wasn’t even watching a stream. Logging onto Twitch from there, I saw my flagged status and was directed to a page where I was able to download the client. The patcher looks much like the League of Legends launcher so I would hope that eventually these are all unified into one for Riot as a whole. Anyway, the game wasn’t too large and downloaded quickly. I managed to get in a couple of rounds last night before bed and I have to say I like it.

That isn’t to say it isn’t without flaws. It does look pretty. It ran smoothly and I didn’t notice any lag, though I did have a ping sitting around 30ms the entire time which is pretty good. I’m not sure if that was due to time frame or smaller servers, but perhaps the server is in California like the old LoL servers used to be, as that was my ping then as opposed to the ~100ish ping I get sometimes now that the servers are in the middle of the country. Whatever the case, these were good conditions to test the game. There isn’t a whole lot to the menu system just yet, but you can look at the collection of weapons that will eventually all have a ton of skins, along with looking at characters and their abilities. There’s a store and all that jazz.

Getting into a live match didn’t take long either. The game loads considerably faster than LoL, that’s for sure. I ended up playing my games as the archer character, though I can’t remember names at this juncture. He had the ability to send out an “owl drone,” shoot shock bolts and recon bolts, and his ultimate allows you to shoot energy beams through walls. I managed a couple of kills with that, and the recon bolt definitely came in handy while I had them, but I learned through playing that you have to purchase your ability charges, though they don’t cost much and some rounds you won’t use any of them. Your ultimate charges over time, but can be sped up with orb drops on the map.

There are two maps currently, and both seem okay. I don’t know them like the back of my hand just yet, so figuring out blind corners and where people will hide will take a little bit. The game mode is always on attack/defend, in that one team goes a certain number of rounds being attackers before swapping sides. As attackers you plant the spike, and as defenders you either kill the attackers or defuse the bomb or both if it happens to get planted and everyone is dead. In my rounds it was mostly just deathmatch, with the spike only detonating once and being diffused once. In most rounds it was pretty even, and though I was not on the first team to reach 13 round wins, we were only behind by 1 and 2 in the games I played. I think with practice it will be more fun, and I also think it would be better with friends. Voice chat is built in, but of course you can always coordinate on Discord.

One thing I would like to see is a push mode, where an objective needs to be moved from point A to point B ala Paladins. I think these characters are set up to do this, and more characters can always be added to make for more diversity. I’m sure Riot already has plans to build upon the game once they go live and get it all stable. Hey, CSGO made a battle royale mode based off of their engine, why couldn’t Riot? I guess we’ll see what happens. Whatever the case, if you manage to get into the beta and want to get some games in, drop me a line!

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.

TeamFight Tactics: Galaxies

So it’s been a while since Teamfight Tactics officially went live, and since then I dipped my toes into the game with their Elemental set. I had only played the game once prior to that during the beta, when the original set was introduced, and honestly didn’t know what would change with this game nor how often these changes would occur. I had also basically written off the genre after I wasn’t really intrigued with DOTA Underlords or Teamfight Tactics in its earliest form. When friends convinced me to give it another go, I found a surprising amount of fun could be found while not really controlling the action. I suppose this should be common sense, since people have been playing idle or clicker games for years now, but those styles of game rarely appealed to me on a personal level. Regardless, I managed to play enough to start to understand the rules, the champions available, their classes and item builds and then jumped headfirst into ranked. During that season (which are rather short) I climbed from Iron to Bronze, but abruptly the next set was released and progress was reset. The next new thing? Galaxies.

The previous set had a special feature, where certain tiles of the battlefield would be enhanced with buffs that would apply to whichever champion you stood upon them. This time around, those tiles are gone, replaced by a random chance to enter into a different galaxy for that game. Above are examples, and honestly I don’t even know if I’ve seen either of these or if there are more of them. I have probably played more games since the new set kicked off than I did last season, so I would imagine I would have seen at least one of them, but honestly there is so much new information to absorb after a reset, I couldn’t tell you if I have.

New items were introduced that can help you to get to those higher origin/class tiers faster, along with a couple that are utility oriented. Having used both the Shroud and the Portal, the Portal is the better of the two but the Shroud still has its uses. I like putting it on my tank that has an item or two by late game or is level 3 and it’s effectively a guardian angel. It’s really good. The others rarely pop up in the carousel and you don’t get spatualas often either so you’ll see less of them.

Just when I started to understand which origins and classes worked well together, they switched things up on me. I have managed try most of these to the minimum or 2/3 that they need to go online, but have pulled together a Mech Pilot team one time, a full squad of 6 Chrono and Star Guardian. I really enjoy Chrono because it grants attack speed across the board, so if you have a couple of other strong champions that don’t quite fit they still benefit from the attack speed. Speed = more mana = more spells = more DPS. Fighting against Mech Pilot comps feels shitty but I actually got crushed when I ran it so I guess I didn’t have the proper support.

There are some similar classes this time around, but a couple of others that do something a little different. Snipers only require two units, and actually stack quite well with Chrono. Vanguard is a solid choice too even if you only get to 2 units. Starship basically replaces Alchemist in that the character runs around aimlessly, but has a powerful ability. Infiltrators are basically Assassins. Blademasters function mostly the same. Overall the bigger changes occurred with the origins, and many of these I haven’t fully delved into due to having other preferences.

Anyway, as I said I’ve been playing more often now than I had been mainly due to being home basically all of the time. I’m really starting to enjoy it as well, after learning more about the new abilities I felt confident I could get further in ranked than I had previously. I managed to come out of my placement matches in the same spot I had ended the prior season on, so there was nowhere to go but up! Since then, I have played a few more rounds and managed to get my first victory of the season (with the aforementioned 6 Chrono 2 Sniper build) which promoted me from Bronze IV to Bronze II. I think I’ll be able to run up to Silver at least before the reset. Looking forward to trying, and I’ll check back in the next time we have something new to tackle.

Next For Riot Games: Valorant

We’ve know about “Project A” since Riot’s tenth anniversary stream that went live late last year. At that point in time very little information was revealed outside of that code name and the fact that it would be a hero based tactical shooter, as if Overwatch and Counter-Strike had a baby. Despite the fact that I’ve loved Counter-Strike since it was just a mod, I never really cared for Overwatch. In fact, I haven’t really cared for many of these style of “Hero Shooters” and I’ve played a handful of them. However, I do think that if any company has the ability to get me to play their games without question, Riot Games does. They’ve built trust with me over the years and despite taking breaks from their main game League of Legends, I always find myself coming back around. So far I’ve enjoyed their other forays into new territory, with Teamfight Tactics and the little bit of Legends of Runterra that I’ve played. As such, I think I am the target audience for this new title, which we now know is called Valorant. First things first, let’s look at some fresh alpha game play to put things into perspective:

Wow, so this really does look like Counter-Strike, but with characters called “agents” who have various abilities. Otherwise, it’s still plant the bomb (called a spike here) if you’re on the attacking team, or defuse the spike if you’re defending. Otherwise, killing the entirety of the enemy team (as there are no respawns) will win you the round. Polygon has a ton of info up about the game, including a Q&A that addresses game play, fluff skins, and future plans, along with another article detailing all of the agents and their abilities. There isn’t anything inherently unique about the premise of the game nor the abilities of the agents, but it still looks like a lot of fun. I tend to be better at first person shooters than I am at other styles of game so I think it’s something I could actually be competitive at. Graphically it looks sharp, but apparently the minimum specs mean you can play the game on a toaster. Thankfully my aging machine is still more powerful than a toaster, so I should be able to jump in right away.

There is a planned beta that I assume will happen soon. The launch window is summer of this year so I think we’ll be able to beta test within the next couple of months and Riot can make adjustments from there prior to full launch. I can’t seem to find a way to sign up for beta yet, but as soon as I can play it and talk about it some more I will do so. I’m actually pretty hyped for this one, but I am trying to temper my expectations. Whatever the case, as more information drops I’ll be sure to throw my two cents out there.

Easing Into Riot’s Games

Somehow or another it’s been over a week since my last post. Honestly don’t know where that time went. I have been playing a ton of games though, and a bunch of MTG to boot, so I do have some drafts floating around in various states. Still figuring out where blogging fits into my life at this point, seeing as how I’ve had some swings in momentum for the last 6 months. Whatever the case, I’m not here to talk about that, I’m here to talk about Riot Games.

The last time I did so, I wrote about the company’s 10 year anniversary and their livestream with a bunch of announcements for a bunch of different games they have in development. It seems they are aiming at being more than just the company that produces League of Legends. Since then, I hadn’t really played the game, but in the last month or so I have dipped my toes back into their content. The main reason for the renewed interest was finding out a few of my co-workers still play, and though they are much younger and definitely less rusty than myself, it’s been a reason to play. I like the camaraderie that comes from actually knowing the people you’re playing with. The one co-worker in my department actually has a friend list with people he actually knows, so we’ve gotten nearly full groups a couple of times and all get on Discord to bullshit while we run through matches. Another reason I’ve been engaged is that the URF (Ultra Rapid Fire) mode has been running for a good long time, and it’s always been a blast. We jam a few games several times a week and though I haven’t played any normals or ranked yet, but we’ve already to talked about doing so after URF rotates out. I would share more stats and figures but at this point I don’t really have anything brag worthy. I think I’ve earned one S rank the entire time and more low grades than I care to share. Thankfully the friends are pretty good and oftentimes carry me, but I am pleased with my progress. I’ve knocked quite a bit of the rust off and I think when we do drift towards ranked play I should be good to go. I will miss the max CDR and infinite mana, but I’ll adjust again.

Something that surprised me was my interest in playing Teamfight Tactics again. Riot’s spinoff Auto-Battler was in beta last I had checked, but recently fully released. I tried it out last year during the beta, and shared some thoughts. I wasn’t too fond of it, or the genre in general. Initially I played DOTA Underlords and because I don’t have a relationship or investment into DOTA I wrote it off pretty quickly. When a game that I adore made its own version I thought I would enjoy it, but it turns out I just didn’t really understand what I was doing. This is a product of not really giving it a fair shake along with really only using the experience for blog fodder.

Upon its full release, Teamfight Tactics did some overhauling to the systems of the game, and I thought I might as well check it out since I didn’t give it much of a chance in the past and my friend was talking it up as being really good. One day I finally logged in and gave it a shot. I ended up playing nearly the whole day. I’m not sure what the actual issue was in the past, but I now consider myself a fan. One advantage it has over traditional LoL is the fact that there aren’t any twitch requirements which I recall thinking was a bad idea, but in fact makes the game more relaxing. Once you start to understand how the various elements and classes work together, how item builds work and which champions tend to be better than others in various situations, it really does feel like a chess match, except you’re playing against more than one person so the strategy intensifies. My only real complaint is that sometimes the AI is stupid with its targeting system, but I have come to understand that it is working as intended, and that the characters follow particular rules for targeting. For example, when a low health enemy hides behind a higher health champion that happens to be closer to yours, yours will target the high health character when every shred of rationale is screaming to kill the other champion first. Whatever the case, it’s been a blast and I intend to continue playing it for the foreseeable future. At this point I’ve done two of my five placement games in ranked and I’m hoping to make a climb.

Lastly, one of the other games announced last year has entered beta as well, and that’s Legends of Runeterra. I went ahead and signed up and downloaded the client (which is currently separate from Riot’s launcher, though I imagine it will be integrated at some point). My initial impressions are positive, but there is one negative. Overall the game looks like it will be good fun. There’s a fair mix of CCG elements we’ve seen in other games (feels closest to Elder Scrolls Legends and Hearthstone but only in particular ways) and League of Legends characters. Riot’s rich lore lends itself to other genres quite nicely, it seems. The negative aspect was the fact that there is a fairly long tutorial (which I appreciate them having) and while I was playing I got through multiple steps, the game then crashed and I was forced to start over. I assume at some point there will be an option to skip this, but I didn’t feel like starting over and have not played since. Granted, that was only within the last couple of weeks, but I just haven’t gotten back around to it. I do intend to give it a fair shake though, because I don’t want to overlook it too soon just to write about how much I enjoy it later.

So yeah, I’ve not had as much to write about as a result of spending more time gaming. I’ll get working on these other drafts soon and give y’all something new to read. Until then.