Back when Valorant's beta launched in April 2020, I didn't know what to expect. I had never gravitated to shooters before, but there's something about seeing dozens of Twitch streamers that drew me and plenty of others fans to the shooter. After a year of matches, wins, losses, and other heartbreaking and triumphant moments, it seems that Valorant is more than what meets the eye, and to its millions of players, there's even more to come.
The first year of a game can make it or break it, and with Valorant, it absolutely made it. For Counter-Strike players, it provided a breath of fresh air. For Overwatch players, it provided them a glimpse of what an actually fun hero shooter could look like, could do for its players. And for someone who had never played many shooters before, it hooked them, rewarding them for strong plays, and providing an equal amount of punishment when a newbie made a mistake.
Agent abilities provided a new dimension to what would've just been another shooter, and just as importantly, their personalities shine clear through. Astra can bend the laws of space-time to suit her needs. Viper is a beleaguered scientist with just a bit of a sadistic side. Phoenix is a hotshot, both with his words and his abilities, with an ego comparable to that of a Premier League superstar. Each and every one of these Agents provides depth and charm. Even the least human Agent, the robotic KAY/, is working to prevent an apocalypse caused by one of his fellow Agents. Its lore and story might be limited to a few cinematics, but the foundation it has laid is nothing to sneeze at.
Couple all that with five new Agents, two new maps, and plenty of balancing released over the year, Valorant surged in popularity, from a player base perspective, and as a rising esports scene. It doesn't hurt that Riot Games is dedicating just as much attention to Valorant as it does to League of Legends, which is going on over a decade now since its launch in 2009. Valorant would be lucky to have half the legacy that League of Legends has, but in my eyes, it could have plenty more in the years to come.
Games rise and fall, just like empires. Players are fickle, switching from one game to another, and then switching back on a whim. But with unique and colorful Agents, good gameplay mechanics, and a community that provides more fun than the toxicity it exudes, and Valorant has the basis on a winning formula. This is the ground floor; who knows how much higher this could go?