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Riot’s ‘kill power, launch weaker’ approach toward balancing VALORANT agents is destroying the fun Dot Esports

VALORANT’s Patch 8.01 just killed one of the game’s most versatile agents, and like most of the community, I’m not thrilled about it. In fact, Riot Games seems to have embraced an approach that might be achieving its goals, but is hurting us—the playerbase—substantially.

While Skye definitely needed a rework to balance the meta, absolutely decimating her in VALORANT Patch 8.01 wasn’t the way to go. I was expecting better of Riot, but the patch just left me worried about the game’s future.

Skye holding her Guiding Light in VALORANT
Not so guiding after all. Screenshot by Dot Esports

The Australian animal-whisperer offered the perfect intel-centric initiating kit anyone could ask for in VALORANT. Thanks to the flexibility she brought, Skye was undeniably overshadowing her peers, and it was time Riot took care of it. But taking away her flash’s recharging potential seems like overkill, and it’s an evidently lazy move from Riot to avoid the effort of doing a proper rework. To top it off, Skye can no longer fake flash, as her hawk automatically pops at the end of its life.

This isn’t the first time Riot totally destroyed a VALORANT agent’s personality on the way to “balancing the meta.” We saw Chamber weakened over a number of patches before Patch 5.12 dealt the final blow. While Chamber’s unrivaled dominance was hurting the game, it was painful to watch one of the most popular agents die like that. He’s no longer the sharpshooter we used to love watching pros like yay, Cryocells, and Laz drive once upon a time. 

Besides killing strong agents, Riot seems to be taking different approach to releasing new VALORANT agents since 2022. From Harbor to Iso, none of the past four agents launched strong enough for the meta, but they were buffed over time to make them viable. For a moment, this strategy might make sense—after all, it’s easier to buff weaker agents than nerf overpowered ones to the ground, infuriating the player base in the process, right?

Well, that approach might seem decent, but it looks like Riot is missing lots of crucial factors while designing and updating agents. Take Gekko, for example. He launched as a fairly weak initiator, but received multiple buffs over time. Now, while Skye has been nerfed to the ground, Gekko is effectively just an overpowered version of Skye, offering an absurd number of flashes and Wingman uses per round. I mean, is it fair for Gekko to be able to throw over 10 undodgeable flashes per round while Skye only gets two easily dodgeable blinds? 

Considering you have to pick up Gekko’s orbs to get that many flashes, it might seem fair. But in the hands of a good Gekko player who knows how to throw a Dizzy, this is, simply put, a meta-breaking feature right now. It only takes a second to pick up those globules, by the way, thanks to the latest Gekko buffs in Patch 7.12.

Skye definitely needed toning down, but for Riot to take away her ability to fake flash and gather intel was uncalled for. I wouldn’t mind if her Guiding Light charges were reduced to one, but its recharging and activation mechanic should’ve been left alone. Moreover, this nerf doesn’t balance the meta; it just makes Gekko a bit too powerful. Will Riot nerf him to the ground, too? That’d be funny, because they repeatedly buffed him to get him where he is now.

Considering the sheer difficulty of balancing VALORANT’s meta, agent reworks should be more thoughtful and inclusive of other agent designs. Right now, Riot doesn’t seem to mind killing a well-designed agent while trying to fix the meta, and it’s denying players the fun they deserve. 

Sharmila Ganguly

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