Shifting the meta for the sake of shifting the meta – Valorant Patch 4.0
Valorant’s recent Patch 4.0 has been out for a week now, and is fairly controversial. The changes have massively impacting the game’s meta and not in a good way. The first patch of 2022 has seen the introduction of major changes, some welcomed like adjustments to the game’s most hated map (Breeze), while others have been unnecessary, like the buffs to Ares.
Is Riot shifting the Valorant meta cause the game needed a re-balance, or just for the sake for mixing things up?
New Agent, New Season, New Act
Neon is Valorant’s 19th agent and is the game’s most aggressive agent yet. All her abilities are geared towards being able to solely entry a site. Her Relay Bolt is a powerful bouncy AOE concuss, that with the proper lineups and practice becomes one of the strongest entry abilities in the game. On top of a healthy stun, Neon can toggle E and move into High Gear, running ultra fast and can toggle up to two “Jett-like” slides while doing so. At this stage, her kit is already OP, but devs decided: Neh, she needs two Phoenix type walls on either side of her so she can move around unseen. When it comes to ult, why not give her a no-recoil laser that does as much DMG as a spectre with no trajectory shifts or recoil adjustments.
Overall, Neon is a showcase that Riot devs are reaching a power creep moment in design where each agent is substantially stronger then most of the Agents that came before it. At this stage, I expect the next Agent to have a no-clip and godmode activated as his two main spells and a tactical drone strike that kills the entire enemy team as an ultimate.
Bad Weapon Rebalance
Ares – The Ares has received a major buff. Previously, Ares had a wind-up time, resulting in the first couple of bullets being fired at a slower rate, before fully kicking in. However, in this patch, Riot has removed the wind-up time, allowing for its full fire rate from the get go. This has enabled the Ares to easily outpower enemies with assault rifles in duels who fail to land a headshot. The recoil was also tweaked alittle, and the price remained the same. At this stage Ares is the default buy in Round 2 regardless of winning the pistol round and can easily be played throughout bonus rounds making it the default weapon of choice for up to 5 rounds each match.
Spectre – The Spectre has faced nerfs due to its overperformance despite being one of the guns on the cheaper side. Firing error now kicks in earlier on, decreasing its strength in long range duels. Running and gunning on the Spectre has also taken a hit, with the bullet spread increased while moving. Overall the role the spectre had in Force rounds next to the Marshal has been completely negated and both roles are now filled by the Ares wielding spray punks.
Guardian – Despite not receiving any damage, fire rate or cost changes, the Guardian has received a significant buff. The Guardian will no longer have a firing rate penalty while scoped in and also has an extra shot before its large recoil curve, making the gun slightly more forgiving; After a week of play we have not seen an increase in Guardian purchases but those that were notorious with it before, just got even better.
Bulldog – Received an increased fire rate both in and out of scope, but once again these changes mean nothing as everyone opts out to play the Ares instead.
Good Map Changes
Bind received a change to the entry boxes at A short giving an advantage to attackers through an additional angle to peak defenders an easier view onto short on top of the tank. One way smokes and Sage walls are harder to place now, and most Sages now opt out to wall showers instead.
The addition of the bench will allow grant attackers an additional option when peaking. While not a major change, it will lower the prevalence of defenders scoring a one tap while holding an aggressive tight angle.
Breeze received an overhaul on both A and B sites, with additional boxes and walls to hide behind. The additional boxes and walls are a welcomed change for both sides. The changes make the site less open, which previously posed an issue for initial entry and post plant retakes. The new stone block in the middle of site makes it easier for attackers to plant. The wall back site, while it can be wall banged, provides additional cover for the defenders to play safe and wait for reinforcement for a retake. Both sites feel slightly easier for entry after the changes.
The changes to Breeze are certainly welcome, as the first iteration had a poor design for both attackers and defenders side. While not often, Riot’s map changes to date have so far led to a better player experience, as seen in Icebox in the past.
However, changes to the Ares were completely unnecessary given its low cost and high effectiveness already in lower ranks. Such changes has made the Ares overpowered, allowing it to contest assault rifles long range, and raised its effectiveness almost past the Odin (a gun that is almost double its cost). This poses the question if Riot is simply intending to make changes to the meta just for the sake of change. There will almost certainly be a change to the Ares in the coming patch, whether it be a revert to the recent buff, an increase in its cost or decreased damage per bullet.
At this stage, the game has a skewed economy curve and irrelevant economy benefits for winning rounds. The gun balance was quite good before this changes and Riot should definitely consider reverting some changes asap.