With Valorant's second competitive season almost at an end, Riot Games has begun detailing what's coming to its 5v5 tactical shooter on October 13th. Earlier this week, the company explained that Act III would include new leaderboards, better server selection and level restrictions on ranked matchmaking. It's also slowly drip-fed bigger news: a fifth map and a new agent will soon make their debut, too. Let's start with the new map, Icebox. As the name suggests, Valorant's fifth destination is a located in a snow biome, requiring players to plant or diffuse the spike on one of two bomb sites in a deserted shipping yard.
Riot Games has been pushing out regular updates to Valorant to keep gamers coming back to the free-to-play shooter. This year has already seen the introduction of new agents that can teleport and warp time and a Gun Game mode. Like clockwork, the launch of the third act of Valorant's Episode 2 is bringing with it a bevy of new additions headlined by a tropical map that transports players to the Bermuda Triangle. You'll be able to experience the new "Breeze" locale on April 27th alongside a new battlepass and Forsaken skinline. Inspired by Caribbean islands, the new map swaps the angular world of Icebox for a wide open and brighter setting, according to developer Devon Fay.
Valorant is already an esports success story, and Riot Games is set to expand the pro scene further. It's preparing to run its first Valorant tournament. So far in the competitive shooter's short lifespan, third-party companies and esports organizations have been holding their own Valorant events with support from Riot. Open qualifiers for Valorant First Strike: Europe take place from November 9th-22nd. The top eight teams will advance to the tournament proper, which runs from December 3rd-6th.
At face, there's a lot to love about Riot Games' new team-based shooter, Valorant--first and foremost, that it exists. It's the second big game from Riot Games (jokingly referred to as "Riot Game") since 2009's League of Legends, which ushered in the era of modern esports and, for a time, held the title of most popular PC game in the world. Within the space that legacy has carved out, Valorant, while still in closed beta, has become a competitive gaming phenomenon. The infrastructure that formed around League of Legends' million-dollar international tournaments is re-creating itself piece-by-piece around Valorant. Esports teams are already on the hunt for budding talent.
On a Tuesday in early April, viewers around the globe watched streamers on Twitch play one particular game for a combined 34m hours, smashing established live-streaming viewership records. The game in question, Valorant by Riot Games, has been averaging hundreds of thousands of daily spectators ever since, quickly displacing Twitch stalwarts such as League of Legends and Fortnite. Valorant is a ready-baked esport: a competitive shooter designed to be watched as well as played. After a few weeks with Valorant, I've found it to be a careful mix of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive's meticulous but rewarding gunplay and Overwatch's characters and soft-edged charm. This combination – complemented by expensive anti-cheat measures and super-fast servers – has made it an easy sell for hardcore players.