Valorant needs to take one huge leaf out of Overwatch’s book

It's kick off time for Valorant Episode 8, meaning we've got another little window into the FPS game's lore, but it just isn't enough.

A woman with black hair in a bob and glowing red eyes raises a gas mask to her mouth looking into the camera

I haven’t played Valorant in over six months, yet my first role in this industry was, in fact, as a Valorant and League of Legends writer. I’d come home every day after university (or sometimes during), boot up Riot’s FPS, insta-lock Skye, and cause absolute chaos. Now, however, I barely think about it – until a new chapter rolls around, just as Episode 8 has.

Having dropped on Wednesday, January 10 – unfortunately coinciding with League of Legends’ Still Here cinematic and the ensuing ranked grind – I haven’t had the chance to check out Valorant Episode 8, headlined by the snazzy new Outlaw weapon. However, what I did make time for was Reckoning, the update’s new cinematic.

We finally get a window into the world of some of the FPS game’s less-spotlighted characters – Cypher, Omen, and Sova. As the trio infiltrates a glowing amber tower block in the heart of Jakarta, we get a glory shot of the Outlaw, some smooth-as-silk action scenes, and a lore nugget about Omen, who, once upon a time, failed to assassinate Viper.

As a result, he was trapped and experimented upon by the squad’s second-in-command, transformed into the ominous shadowy being he is today, losing his memories in the process. As his body tears itself asunder and rebuilds, he emerges as a Radiant – one of the Valorant Protocol’s super-powered soldiers.

YouTube Thumbnail

But, as I always do with Valorant’s cinematics, I walked away a little deflated. Sure, there was cool action and some stunning animation, but it was six minutes of video for around a minute and a half of actual content. That’s how it’s felt consistently over the years; loads of hype action, not enough substance.

Before I go any further, I know that there’s the whole ‘oh but it’s just an esports game’ argument – ‘who cares?’ Counter-Strike 2 (and CS:GO laterally) doesn’t have any lore system, nor does Warzone. To be blunt, that’s why I never played them.

For me, one of the best FPS games of all time was the original Overwatch, which was made so special because of just how much backstory literally everything had.  Widowmaker, the blue-skinned former ballerina with no emotions. Reaper, the twisted embodiment of the fallen Gabriel Reyes. Sombra, who did Cyberpunk 2077 before it was cool. I fell in love with each and every one of those characters because of who they were.

A pretty woman wearing a black helmet with purple inlays looks into the camera and smirks while steading an ornate green sniper rifle

And the slow drip-feed of Valorant’s story-based content doesn’t help. We normally get lore dumps ahead of new biannual episodes, in new character trailers (focusing almost entirely on the new agent), and, sometimes, in vague snippets on maps. Oftentimes videos depict completely different missions with no given timeline of prior events, meaning it feels like a series of random instances versus a cohesive, flowing narrative. As always the animation is clean and the action is exciting, but the story feels sporadic, confused, and, as a result, boring.

We need a chunky lore video with each act (there are around eight of those a year) and probably a reminder of the lore so far (Riot did one of those back in 2021, and it’s a lifesaver). We need little surprise drops here and there to inject some excitement. Decoding battle pass player cards is fun, don’t get me wrong, but they’re more foreshadows than they are actual meaningful lore drops.

And let’s be real, Riot knows how to tell a good story; it knows how to run a social media campaign. Look at League of Legends, look at Arcane: two universes where storytelling is key. But, with League, lore snippets exist everywhere – there are the champion-dedicated short stories on the website, there are the all-new quests; there’s probably years’ worth of content for you to delve into. Overwatch is the same, and it’s what Valorant is missing.

YouTube Thumbnail

I can see that’s what Riot wants to do with Valorant. The decision to have two parallel worlds with the same agents is a clever way of navigating the whole ‘same agents on each team’ issue. The cheeky social images of Killjoy and Raze sneaking a peck as the sun sets, to my all-time favorite player card where Neon, Jett, and Sage gather for Dim Sum to celebrate the Lunar New Year – Riot wants its Valorant characters to be human, just like Overwatch’s.

It’s all of this that drew me in but, as more time passes and lore drops continue in a biannual cadence, the interest in getting to know them just fades away – pun entirely intended.

After almost four years of Valorant, we still don’t know what First Light is. I’m still not entirely sure I know what Kingdom is – other than the fact it’s a huge Terminator-style evil that also happens to make cola on the side. Where Overwatch’s vibrant world pulled me in, Valorant’s feels incomplete and, unfortunately, I’m tired of waiting for something exciting.

A shadowy creature wearing a purple hood with three red slits for eyes holds a huge sniper rifle in his hands on an ornate golden background

Riot needs to go big or go home. If you’re going to do lore, do it well, don’t leave us hanging on for six months. If the pivot is towards esports, then make that choice – but I don’t want that. I want a fleshed-out Valorant. I want to love these characters; the Vipers, the Skyes, the Fades. I want to love them like I do Sombra – maybe I’d even get another tattoo, who knows.

I’ve probably spent years of my life on Valorant, and I’ve been watching Valorant esports since the good ol’ First Strike days when Team Heretics lifted the trophy. Yet it’s been six months since I even considered booting up Valorant – not because I don’t want to play it but because, right now, I just don’t have a reason to really, truly love it.