This week brought ranked play to VALORANT, League of Legends developer Riot Games' first foray into the first-person shooter genre.
Excitement continues to swell for the game, which launched in its closed beta phase on April 7 with an upcoming release window of Summer 2020.
With character reveals and gameplay details continuing to trickle out, we've built a one-stop shop for all things Valorant, from agent details to ability breakdowns and what you can expect from the game.
What is VALORANT?
VALORANT is a tactical first-person shooter developed by League of Legends creator Riot Games. The game is akin to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in its five-on-five, round-based gameplay as well as the option to purchase different weapons with some alterations, including being able to purchase abilities for your agent and the inclusion of "ultimate" abilities akin to the heroes in Overwatch.
That said, VALORANT is nothing like Overwatch, and it's distanced enough from CS:GO, too. The game's Alpha stage featured nine agents and two maps -- one with two plant sites and another with three. The core objective of each round is to either eliminate the enemy team or complete a defense or attack the plant sites, depending on which side you're on. Offensive players must plant a bomb called a Spike at one of the plant sites and protect it until it detonates, while defensive players will try to stop their opponents from planting or defuse the Spike if it gets set. The first team to win 13 rounds wins the match.
When is VALORANT available?
The alpha and an esports pro/influencer/media bootcamp wrapped up in late March, and the closed beta for VALORANT began April 7. From there, it's a bit murkier, with a release date tabbed as "Summer 2020" for the title.
Need something to sate your appetite for info? We had participants in the bootcamp rate the agents in VALORANT and took a deep dive into the creation of Jett, one of the game's duelists. ESPN also put on a VALORANT invitational featuring teams from other FPS titles like Rainbow Six Siege, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Apex Legends, Fortnite and Overwatch as well as a team for the game's developers and a League of Legends squad. You can check out VALORANT in action and the ESPN Esports VALORANT Invitational on our YouTube page.
Players with access to the VALORANT closed beta were treated to a tenth playable agent on Tuesday: Raze. Raze's character design and abilities were leaked a few days earlier, and the beta confirmed most of the leaked information, including her look and four in-game abilities.
Blast Pack -- Raze throws a blast pack that will stick to a surface. Re-using Blast Pack will detonate the blast pack remotely, damaging within range and also moving things within the blast zone.
Paint Shells -- This is a cluster grenade that creates sub-munitions, damaging anyone within range.
Boom Bot -- Raze will equip a boom bot and deploy it upon pressing Fire. The boom bot will travel in a straight line with a cone of damage that will lock on to enemies in the cone and chase them, exploding if it catches them.
Ultimate: Showstopper -- The rocket launcher that Raze has slung over her shoulders isn't just for show. Her ultimate ability equips it, allowing you to fire for maximum devastation.
Unlike previous agents, which have had more straightforward comparisons to different games put out by both Riot and Blizzard, Raze is a bit more of her own thing. Raze has cosmetic similarities to Overwatch's Junkrat or League of Legends' Ziggs and Jinx -- all with bomb or rocket weaponry -- and her arsenal is both more vast and chaotic but also requires attention and skill due to the way her bombs work. Combined with the fact that she's meant to be a leading duelist on the team, kicking off fights, Raze makes for an interesting agent who will take over a game in the right hands.
People who might enjoy playing Raze are people who:
Love to blow things up and/or played with fire as children
Don't really want to always bother with those pesky other four people on the team. They're probably bringing you down anyway.
Final thoughts: In her current state, Raze is, as the kids say, just a little bit overpowered. She doesn't take damage from her own explosives, which means that if you aim a few of them correctly, you can access previously unexplored vantage points on the map. Combine this with her rocket launcher ultimate and you basically create a scenario where she can rain down over a spike site or key map area.
-- Emily Rand
"Blasting!" -- Breach
The Swedish Cyborg of VALORANT, Breach knows how to shake up the party. While our metal-fisted operative didn't do so well in our bootcamp power ranking, former Overwatch pro and current streamer Brandon "Seagull" Larned said he believes the Swede might pack the heaviest punch of anyone currently in the game. With his all-around utility, unbeatable status in close quarters and an ultimate that can turn a teamfight around in a split-second, here's what you get when you lock in Breach.
Aftershock -- Walls? Who cares about such silly obstacles. Breach's Aftershock ability allows the cyborg to charge up an attack and then release it through a wall, dealing out a heavy burst of damage depending on how close the enemy is near said structure.
Flashpoint -- Not only does Breach deal some heavy damage, but he has some utility built into his circuits as well. When the Swede uses Flashpoint, he sends a burst of light through the wall he targets, blinding all opponents that are looking in the direction of the blast when it activates.
Fault Lines -- How about a little bit of earthquake action? Fault Lines is where Breach sets off a quake in a straight line, dazing all players that are caught in its path.
Ultimate: Rolling Thunder -- What's better than a small quake? What about an even bigger one. When Breach activates Rolling Thunder, he erupts a cascading quake that travels through all terrain and stuns and knocks up any enemies caught in the tsunami of gravel.
While Breach will struggle on more empty-space maps, his bread and butter coming from when he has a bunch of terrain to tear through, don't overlook our neighborhood metalman. His Flashpoint ability is considered by some streamers and pros to be one of the strongest tools in the entire game. Couple that handy utility with his overall beefy offensive arsenal, and you have a character that can top any leaderboard.
You might be a Breach main if you are:
A fan of Reinhardt in Overwatch
A Braum main in League of Legends
Someone who believes cyborgs are superior to humans
A lover of craft beers
-- Tyler Erzberger
"Open up the sky!" -- Brimstone
VALORANT's powerful commander received a fair amount of love from early alpha testers in the VALORANT bootcamp, and for good reason. A character focused on utility and map control, Brimstone can take over games, but not without risk.
Here's a look at VALORANT's controller.
Stim Beacon -- With the drop of the stim, teams level up with RapidFire. That single-shot gun? Faster. Got a revolver? That's faster too. But at a cost. The recoil from RapidFire is massive and makes guns even more difficult to control, making it only a good fit for the best of mice savants.
Incendiary -- Bring the grenades! If you like molotovs, well Brimstome's got you covered. Incendiary gives you a grenade launcher, and when the projectiles collide with the ground, a zone of fire immerses. Walk through it and you'll be burned.
Sky Smoke -- One of Brimstone's most useful abilities, Sky Smoke lets you block vision from sections of the map. Once activated, you'll open a map that lets you select within a medium-sized radius around you. Perfect for pushing sites or causing distractions while holding. But be careful, being in the map view leaves you vulnerable to opponents. Don't do it without cover.
Ultimate: Orbital Strike -- Boom! Airstrike inbound. If you're holding a site alone and you hear a defuse, Orbital Strike reigns terror down into a user-selected circle. It may be a small area, but it's a deadly one. Use this ability to hold down post spike plants.
Final thoughts: Brimstone takes some extreme understanding of maps, for proper use of his smokes, and lots and lots of caution. His utility can be through the roof, which will prove useful for supportive-style players, but requires team communication to make the best use of his smokes and his stims. Brimstone isn't flashy, but boy is he mighty.
Wanna give Brimstone a shot? Here's who he caters to:
Bangalore mains in Apex Legends. Smoke and airstrikes sound familiar? Count me in.
People who really like to sit back in windows, use sniper rifles and be the most annoying sucker on the map.
Pyromaniacs. 'Cause who doesn't love a good fire ... and Brimstone?
-- Jacob Wolf
"Where is everyone hiding?" -- Cypher
Do you like information?
Do you like spies?
How about duster-wearing robots?
Then Cypher is the agent for you! Always in the background, never in the front lines, Cypher is the info-gathering king in Valorant. Most of his skills revolve around protecting his team with the most lethal tool available: knowledge.
Let's take a peek.
Cyber Cage: His only non-scouting ability, Cyber Cage is more useful to use when you have the information in your hands. Cypher drops a cylindrical wall that blocks sight and slows the movement of anyone who walks through. It's useful for when you need to block off someone's advance.
Spycam: Now we're talking spy stuff. You equip this skill to shoot a camera at a wall. It's invisible when you're not accessing it, and when you are using it, you can shoot players with a tracking dart. That's some old-school cool spy stuff right there. The camera can be destroyed, so make sure you're tactical when using it!
Trapwire: The anti-flanking and anti-site retake tool. Cypher can drop a trap between two walls that is invisible until the enemy is right next to it. If they walk through the trap, they are tethered, slowed, and dazed if the trap goes off (the player has a chance to destroy the trap after it's tripped). Even if the trap doesn't go off fully, it makes a fair bit of noise and halts the progression of flanks, giving you, that's right, more information.
Ultimate -- Neural Theft: If you've got a dead foe in your crosshairs, you can use this ability to wall hack! Sort of. When you use this ability the screen comes alive with the locations of all enemies ... about a half a second before. It's a delayed info-gathering tool, but it's huge to get an idea of where the enemy team has set up.
Final thoughts: Cypher can be very strong in the right hands and the right situations. You're not going to be utilizing him to his fullest if you're playing him like a rusher. He's best used on the defensive, playing it slow and deliberate until he has enough info for himself (or his team) to act. He really shines on the anti-flank duty with his traps, and the camera can be a nuisance for players trying to retake a bombsite. Play methodically and you'll find success.
You'll like Cypher if:
You dig the spy gimmick
You want to bring some fashion to the battlefield
You like traps and thwarting the plans of others
-- Darin Kwilinski
"Their backs will be toward at least one of us." -- Omen
With the launch of the VALORANT closed beta on April 7, players around the world finally got their hands on the current cast of 10 agents, including Omen.
Omen didn't get great reviews from VALORANT boot camp participants compared to the other available agents, but his ability to teleport and vision control can give any team an edge.
Here's a look at VALORANT's resident edgelord.
Shrouded Step: Reaper mains, rejoice! Although Omen doesn't get the same kind of range out of his teleport ability, fans of the Overwatch hero will recognize the utility of being able to shift across the map without showing your hand to the opponent. The maneuver comes with a sound cue, though, so don't get too cocky.
Paranoia: Need to shut down a long sightline? This is the ability for you. Paranoia limits the vision enemies caught in the blast, allowing you and your teammates to push up. The ability passes through walls as well, which makes it a bit safer to toss out.
Dark Cover: This one's for everyone who's ever misfired on a smoke grenade. Rather than tossing it out, Omen remotely places Dark Cover and can adjust how far away or how close the smoke will go. Enemies that step through it have their vision limited, and the orb created by the smoke can block sightlines as well.
Ultimate -- From the Shadows: Do you think they picked Reaper's tagline just to troll Overwatch even harder? I like to think so. This ability is nothing like Reaper's ultimate, though; From the Shadows is a different take on a global ability that allows Omen to teleport anywhere on the map. There's a loud (*very* loud) sound cue that comes with using it, so enemies will often have an idea of where you wind up even if they don't have eyes on you, but just the hesitation that comes from knowing someone's in the backline can be a difference-maker for your team in a crucial round.
Final thoughts: I can see why top players wouldn't be as high on Omen. A coordinated team can make his abilities less impactful, and there's nothing in his kit that screams outplay potential. However, in the right hands, Omen can be a force, flanking opponents and forcing teams to break out of their gameplan to adjust for an unseen enemy.
Sound like a good fit for you? You'll probably enjoy stepping into Omen's skin if:
You like Reaper. Have I mentioned Reaper? There's a lot of Reaper energy here.
Win or lose, your main goal is to annoy the hell out of your opponent
The only thing you enjoy more than scary movies is scaring other people
You still dream of being the vocalist in a garage grunge band
-- Sean Morrison
Gameplay reveal date: April 2
"Keep up." -- Jett
Riot Games released another short trailer profiling a new character from the studio's upcoming tactical first-person shooter Valorant. South Korea is the unofficial esports mecca, and while other countries may have larger player bases and leagues, South Korea will always be esports' first home, going back all the way to the days of Starcraft. It wasn't a question of whether VALORANT would have a South Korean character, but when they would announce one. On April 2, Jett was announced. Voiced by Korean pop star Shannon Williams, Jett quickly rose up the community ranks as an agent that people can't wait to play.
We took a deep dive into the development of Jett when she was announced. Here's a look at her abilities as well.
Cloudburst: Smoke is a key tactical element in a lot of first-person shooters and VALORANT is no different. Jett's Cloudburst offers zone control and blocks enemy vision with a smoke bomb. Jett can also bend Cloudburst's trajectory.
Tailwind: Tailwind is a simple dash ability. Jett by design is a quick and lethal entry fragger if played well and Tailwind gives her an extra burst of speed in whatever direction she's facing at the time.
Ultimate: Blade Storm -- This is where people will compare Jett to the likes of Akali or Irelia in VALORANT's sister game, League of Legends. Jett's ultimate abandons the game's guns for a set of knives that she can throw for instant headshot kills or lesser damage with a body shot. Blade Storm resets if Jett manages to get a hill while her ultimate is up. Jett can also throw all of her knives at a shorter range with a right-click.
Final thoughts: VALORANT game designer Bobby Prochnow put it best when describing people who will want to play Jett to our own Tyler Erzberger.
"In the right hands, she can out-skill her way through any situation with elegance and grace," Prochnow said. "In the wrong hands, she's a dashing potato that forces your team to 4v5. Welcome home, Yasuo mains."
The "my team's Jett vs. an opponent's Jett" memes are already percolating. You may like Jett if:
You main Tracer in Overwatch
You love any sort of assassin movies and TV shows
You are a Yasuo main in League of Legends
Jett is a flashy character both in design and top-tier execution, but that execution isn't always going to be there for most players. There are going to be a lot of Jett mains in the initial VALORANT beta who will be dead for most of their matches before they grow accustomed to her. Jett's success in a game will also rely heavily on positioning and coordinating with teammates, timing her dashes appropriately so that she can open up possibilities for her team by getting the first quick hits in.
Gameplay reveal date: March 26
"Let them try to get through me!" -- Sage
Riot Games released another character gameplay trailer March 26 for VALORANT, the studio's upcoming tactical first-person shooter. The latest reveal is of Sage a medic from China who focuses on crowd control, support and defense and can revive downed teammates.
Sage carries various orbs, and in brief gameplay footage looks inspired by characters such as Overwatch's Mei, Zenyatta and Mercy or Apex Legends' Lifeline. She is the one eight initial characters revealed in Valorant.
Here's what we know about VALORANT's first defense-oriented character:
Slow Orb -- Sage's Slow Orb puts down a wide green sludge after impact with the ground, slowing enemies, as well as grounding them and causing their footsteps to make noise as they walk through it. In the trailer, Sage uses this ability to slow an enemy, then executes them while their movement is restricted.
Barrier Orb -- Sage conjures a wall that can section off parts of the map and be rotated in any direction. Casting under herself allows her to vault Sage or her allies, for a positional advantage, or separate them from opponents.
Healing Orb -- Self-explanatory, but Sage's healing orb allows her to heal either herself or teammates over a few-second time frame. Some big Omnic energy here.
Ultimate: Resurrection -- Sage's ultimate allows her to target a friendly corpse and revive that ally, but the game-changing ability comes with a several-second delay, which exposes Sage to attack from enemies. Use this ability wisely, as it could result in your own demise.
Final thoughts: Sage's game revolves around the ability to play smart, understanding and predicting where opponents might be and positioning yourself relative to your team where you can safely use your Resurrection and Healing Orbs. But Sage is not all defense. She can be used for aggression, too, by making good use of the Slow Orb and the Barrier Orb to hinder opponents and give yourself and teammates the high ground, as seen in the trailer.
Sage has already been compared to Mei and Zenyatta from Overwatch, and understandably so, given the Barrier Orb and the use of orbs in general. But there may be fans of other characters and other games who will also enjoy her:
Lifeline and Wattson players in Apex Legends
Healers in World of Warcraft
Defense-oriented real-time strategy players
Mastering Sage will come with time, and learning the ins-and-outs of VALORANT, particularly its maps and other characters' game flow, will be even more key for her support-oriented style. She'll take dedication and smart players: ones who are willing to patient, hang back and not get all the glory, but set up others for it.
Gameplay reveal date: March 19
"Wherever they run, I will find them." -- Sova
Riot Games released another short trailer profiling a new character from the studio's upcoming tactical first-person shooter Valorant. From the snowy mountains of Russia, Sova is someone you wouldn't want to ghost in a texting conversation -- with his tracking arrows, he will find you. The love child of Orlando Bloom as Legolas in the Lord of the Rings franchise and Henry Cavill as Geralt in The Witcher, this expert tracker is ready for the games to begin.
Here is what we know so far about VALORANT'S Russian operative with the flowing locks.
Owl Drone -- What is a world-renowned spy without his trusty ... mechanical owl? The first thing shown in Sova's trailer is the agent deploying his owl-like drone from his wrist to scout further ahead into the map. Not only can Sova's robotic pal scout for him, but the owl drone can also shoot darts at the opponents, revealing any enemies who are hit.
Recon Bolt -- The other ability of Sova's on display in the trailer is his Recon Bolt. With one enemy on the opposing side remaining, Sova fires his cybernetic arrow into an area where he believes the final adversary might be hiding. When his arrow lands, it deploys a sonar emitter, pinging any nearby enemies and revealing them. Luckily for Sova's opponents, Recon Bolts can be destroyed.
Shock Bolt -- Not featured in the trailer, Sova can fire an electrical bolt which damages upon impact.
Ultimate: Hunter's Fury -- What's better than one rocket-like energy blast? How about three? When activated, Sova's ultimate Hunter's Fury allows the agent to become the ultimate sniper, allowing him to fire up to three high-damage spears that can fly across the length of the entire map, heavily damaging and marking any enemy he hits. If Russia needs another member for its Olympic archery team, Sova seems like a good choice.
Final thoughts: Where Phoenix was about showstopping plays and Viper controlling crowds with her poison, Sova is far more tactical in his approach to eliminating his foes. A mix between a carry and a scout, Sova is a nice blend of offense and intel, making him a valuable member of any VALORANT team. When it comes to combat, it appears as if long range will be Sova's sweet spot, using his slew of tracking items to sniff out the opposition and then pepper them from afar with his futuristic arrows. And if that doesn't work, he can just activate his ultimate and become fully scorned, firing across the map with nukes at will.
Here is a list of people who I believe will enjoy playing Sova:
Ashe mains in League of Legends
Hanzo mains in Overwatch
Hunters in World of Warcraft
People who think they're good at darts on a Friday night after a drink or two
Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts
People who still check the social media of their ex-significant others
To master Sova, it's all going to be about knowing when and where to scout properly. If you can save your Recon Bolts for opportune times, it's going to make number advantages feel like checkmate for the opposing side. For the impatient Sova players, however, who think there's an enemy around every trash can or wall, get ready for a lot of complaining from your teammates.
Gameplay reveal date: March 12
"Welcome to my world!" -- Viper
Riot Games' March 12 profiled a new character from the studio's upcoming tactical first-person shooter VALORANT. An agent from the United States, Viper, as her name suggests, is all about poison, using her biological warfare to get the upper hand on the opposition. If you're not good at holding your breath, you're not going to have a good time playing against Viper.
Here is what we know so far about Valorant's queen of toxicity:
Poison Cloud -- The first ability shown in Viper's trailer is her Poison Cloud, which, as the name suggests, creates a fatal cloud of poison that can stop the enemy in their tracks. As with some of her other abilities, Viper has a fuel meter, where her venomous roadblocks dissipate when her tank reaches empty.
Toxic Screen -- Similar to Phoenix's Blaze spell where the British operative can form a wall of fire, Viper can do the same with her toxic gas. As seen in the trailer being used alongside her Poison Cloud, the one-two combo is perfect for crowd control to plant the Spike (Valorant's version of a bomb) and force your opponent to play into your hands.
Snakebite -- Not featured in the trailer, this is Viper's ability where she fires a projectile that explodes into a pool of damaging acid.
Ultimate: Viper's Pit -- This is where the map really becomes her playground. When activated, Viper emits a massive, poisonous cloud, where unlike her other poisonous roadblocks, won't dissolve from a lack of fuel. Instead, as long as Viper stays alive within her toxic domain, Viper's Pit will remain. Also, any enemy that steps inside the Pit will be highlighted for Viper to have an easier time to take down.
Final thoughts: Crowd control, crowd control, crowd control. When it comes to Viper and what makes her special, it's all about how she can bend the map into her favor. With her poisonous walls and clouds, Viper can make any map an unbeatable obstacle course for the enemy. All of Viper's tools make her the perfect agent to deploy the Spike on the offensive, her ultimate forcing the defense to run into her domain than the other way around.
Here is a list of people who I believe will enjoy playing Viper:
Singed mains in League of Legends
Mei mains in Overwatch
Mages in World of Warcraft
People who enjoy forcing others to take the long route to things instead of taking a shortcut
Fans of the game series Fallout
To master Viper, controlling her fuel tank and knowing when and where to utilize her crowd control weapons will be key. For the top Viper players, she will become a headache for the entirety of a match for the enemy. To the players who don't use her correctly, the only toxic thing about her will be your teammates trash-talking you in game chat.
Gameplay reveal date: March 5
"Oh, you wanna play? Let's play." -- Phoenix
Riot Games released a short trailer on March 5 profiling the first agent from the studio's upcoming tactical first-person shooter VALORANT. Hailing from the United Kingdom, Phoenix is one of the eight agents confirmed to be playable in the game, his fiery aesthetic going hand-in-hand with his gameplay.
Here is what we know so far about Valorant's resident firestarter:
Curveball -- The first ability shown in the trailer is Phoenix's signature ability, Curveball. With a snap of his fingers, the UK operative can create a flare and weave it around walls. After a short delay, the flare bursts, blinding all that look at the fireworks show. I'm sure Counter-Strike fans will be amused by this literal flashbang.
Blaze -- After Curveball and a solo kill on the enemy Jett, Phoenix shows off another one of his unique abilities, Blaze, where he can cast a curving wall that blocks vision from the opposing side and damages anyone who passes through the flames.
Hot Hands -- Hot Hands is one of Phoenix's abilities not shown in the trailer. His own personal Hadouken from Street Fighter, Phoenix throws out a fireball that detonates following a short delay, or explodes on impact. The fire zone left behind deals damage to enemies but will heal Phoenix.
Ultimate: Run it Back -- For a cocky character, there is no better ultimate than Run it Back. While not shown in the short trailer, Run it Back is your chance to go for the big play without the fear of your team flaming you if you don't get the job done. When Phoenix has enough points to activate his ultimate, you can press "X," marking your current location on the map. If you perish during your ultimate's time limit, like the mythical firebird itself, Phoenix will rise from the ashes at your marked location, ready to have another chance at winning the round.
Final thoughts: Overall, Phoenix is a straightforward character. An aggressive damage dealer, expect this agent to be highly coveted when the game releases and a staple for top fraggers when the game transitions into a full-blown esport.
In the hands of good players, Phoenix is going to be a showstopper, his ultimate a chance for a one-on-five to be actually doable if the player can pilot the agent correctly.
In the hands of first-timers and not-so-great players, get ready for a lot of wasted ultimates and Leeroy Jenkins moments with this aggro agent.