Valorant 2022 Review: The Confirmation
As every year, we look back at the evolution of VALORANT over the past year to take stock of the game and its esport scene. Incidentally, this is already the third year that we have had the opportunity to look in the rear-view mirror! Let's go back together on the essential points that marked 2022.
Valorant: A necessary step back
When Valorant was released in 2020, it was accepted that a game service should always offer new content and patches as regularly as possible. This is an approach that works very well for Riot Games and League of Legends for a decade and others like Fortnite have also enjoyed rapid growth in this way. However, it soon became apparent that this model is a dead end. It is resource-intensive, human resource-intensive and not necessarily desirable for a stable and rewarding competitive environment.
By 2021, Riot Games assumed that they would have to curb players' impatience for more maps and agents. The pace has slowed down at the end of the year to give us what will probably be the cruising speed of the game for a while.
In 2022, Valorant was therefore entitled to 3 new Agents (Neon, Fade and Harbor), 1 new map (Pearl) and 22 patches. That's one less Agent, one less map and four less patches than in 2021, and it's a far cry from the initial unrealistic goal of releasing 6 Agents and 2 Maps per year.
This slower pace allowed the developers to look back at their past work and try to correct it. This resulted in the first real rework of a character with the profound changes applied to Yoru and his abilities. The character was not at all convincing in 2021 and, despite these changes, will not be much more convincing in 2022. He has nevertheless become a character of choice for some players. The changes to the maps were much better received. In particular Icebox and Fracture which have been given an almost complete overhaul of its sites and obstacles to balance Attack and Defence and make the areas more interesting.
The year 2022 also marked the beginning of competitive map rotations. Thus Split disappeared from the ranked games and competitions since patch 5.00 deployed in June. The map will return in January 2023, and it will be to Bind and Breeze that we'll have to say goodbye this time. Riot Games says that Breeze will get another chance to shine once it has been revamped a bit and new Agents are available. To be continued, then.
But it's clear that this change of pace has been beneficial for both Riot Games and the players. The metas have time to settle in and players can get to grips with the Agents and maps more serenely without having to start their preparation all over again every fortnight. It could be argued, however, that some of the Agents have taken a little too long to become balanced, notably Chamber who alone defined the rest of the team compositions.
Esport: Encouraging interest despite complex schedule
If there is one sector in which Valorant has evolved in 2022, it is the esport sector. Not everything is perfect, far from it. The Valorant Champions Tour 2022 lasted only 9 months and the next one might be even shorter. A lot of games, not always easy to follow because of the changing schedules from one week to another and the profusion of leagues that have been opened. And above all, there's been a big gap since September and the World Championship final which crowned LOUD.
And yet, the VCT 2022 was probably the most interesting to follow. While in 2021 many teams relied on one star player, this year the power of the collective has taken full effect. With the environment finally stable in most parts of the world, the best players have now had time to be spotted and selected. The level of play was the highest ever and competition tighter than ever for a great show.
The end of year slump has left plenty of room for Riot Games to structure and promote the Valorant Game Changers. It is gratifying to see that the tournament organisers have put their money where their mouth is by making these women's matches an important event of the year. The various historical esports structures also responded to the call by forming and supporting teams on this occasion. We therefore welcome the victory of the G2 Gozen, who won the competition, but also all those who participated in the VCT Game Changers.
Mandatory and local circuits
But the most important change (at least in our eyes!) at the competitive level is the arrival of the Valorant Regional Leagues. At the time of our 2021 review, we talked about the fact that the game had a rather timid start compared to the ambitions of the title and that it was perhaps missing a spark and the possibility of being followed by local influencers. The VRL is clearly what Valorant was missing. While Valorant was working well in the US and Brazil in terms of audience and engagement, this was not necessarily the case in the rest of the world. Creating smaller scale competitions like VALOTF was not enough. What was needed was a real circuit, a reliable event that allows the curious to take an interest in the talent of their own country and to get to know the players. Local rivalries are also much easier to arouse the curiosity of the crowd.
You only have to look at what happened in France to see that. Valorant was not very successful there and the competitions were not well attended. But the creation of the Mandatory team, joined a few months later by Karmine Corp, two teams pushed by major influencers in the country, which led many curious people to take a look at Valorant. The matches of these two teams were particularly followed, with the streams of the two "CEOs" generally accumulating far more views than the rest of the competition on its official stream. This has led to many players becoming interested in the competition and even in Valorant. If it is by no means the only factor in the success of the game in France today, it is certainly not foreign to its success.
These local leagues should now be stabilised, as they suffer from having to follow the schedules of international competitions. Like the first Valorant competitions in 2020, the VRL is still trying to find its way and changes its format or calendar far too regularly, at the risk of alienating the public and tiring its players.
The Mandatory team in 2022
Finally, it is impossible to conclude without making our own assessment. It's been less than a year since Mandatory decided to launch its own team Valorant. And yet so much has happened that it seems like much longer.
We launched our team in January 2022, with HyP, APO, hoppY, Crea^ and Jbzz. While the results were not there, we learned a lot from our losses in the first VRL split. Some changes were necessary; Jbzz went back to concentrate on the stream and Crea^ joined menegh in the coaching staff. They have been replaced by AKUMAAAAA and Goaster, two real monsters, each in their own way, thanks to whom we came third in the Split 2.
Despite the departure of APO and hoppY, we continued to make progress. With the recruitment of TheBigFiz and Babax, we were able to win our first two titles, only a month apart. Mandatory managed to win the Lyon Esport competing against its first international teams, just before it won the French Champions title during the French Cup of Valorant.
The paths of Mandatory and Babax unfortunately parted shortly after these victories, but we hope to see him again next year. Because 2023 promises to be a particularly interesting year...