Initial Impressions: Crucible, Amazon’s New Game

Well, it’s here. Amazon’s first competitive shooter game has arrived in the package that is Crucible. Amazon is trying its hand at the gaming industry and this is its first attempt, along with their MMO “New World” to follow in the next few months. I dove into it and played the tutorial and about 8 rounds of Heart of the Hive mode, which is supposed to me the main game mode. This mode resembles Heroes of the Storm, where you farm some creeps and capture objectives around the map to gain experience; then after a period of time, your main objective is to kill big boss monsters and collect their hearts (3) to win.

Watch my first session of Crucible

Game Play

So essentially the flow is something like – farm creeps/capture harvesters, skirmish with other team, meet at hive boss monster to fight it off, winner of team fight kills the hive monster and takes heart, repeat until someone has 3 hearts. This is essentially exactly what happens every game, which was pretty fun, but I can see how this might wear out rather quickly. The time to kill is REALLY high in this game. You can spend a solid 2 to 5 minutes fighting someone if you guys take turns kiting. It definitely is preferable to have teammates around instead of trying to solo someone. I found myself getting annoyed when characters with higher mobility just ran or dashed away constantly.

Characters

You’ll find the typical lineup of characters like in most team based game. There are hunters that lean towards damage, tank, or support. I spent the day just using Mendoza (basically soldier 76 from Overwatch). He was a basic run and gun character; his special abilities were a grenade and the ability to call in a health care package that doubles as a stationary shield. I did massive amounts of damage in all my games for the most part and won most of them. Fighting tanks was rather dull, they simply stand there absorbing bullets for a while and eventually die.

One character that ticked me off was Shakirri, she definitely seems broken so far. She’s one of the few melee heroes who just gets in your face and swings a sword at you. Everyone else has a useless melee with a massive cool down and shooting at someone who’s just jumping up and down in your face is nearly impossible. Add the fact that one of her abilities just traps you in a small space that you can’t walk out of…it is certain death. She also has a shield so she can block your bullets as she approaches you. To be fair, these are just initial thoughts – I’m nowhere near the top of the learning curve just yet.

Performance

The game runs decently, but I am running on a 2080 graphics card. When I unlocked the frame rate, it maxed out my GPU and caused a bunch of performance issues, which I think a lot of people are doing; many of my friends were crashing constantly. Once I locked it into 60 fps, the game was smooth with no issues and minimal GPU usage. My only gripe here is that the devs didn’t include any other frame rate locks aside from 30 or 60. Bugs are definitely not uncommon, once after I crashed, I was able to rejoin but no longer had a HUD and couldn’t do anything to fix it (lost that game). Then in another instance, it wouldn’t reconnect at all (lost that one as well). The game is 1 day old, so we’ll cut Amazon some slack, hopefully they patch it up.

Overall Initial Thoughts

So far, the game seems decent. I wasn’t blown away by anything in particular and I wasn’t super compelled to keep playing. I’ll certainly have a crack at it with a full squad of my friends over the weekend. I still need to try out the mini battle royal mode which pits many duos against each other in elimination. The game is free to play though, so no risk in trying it out – it definitely has some potential if Amazon plays their cards right.

Get it for free in the steam store.

One Week of Valorant Ranked

Valorant ranked competitive mode has been out for about a week now, giving me some time to evaluate the new mode, here are my thoughts.

Ranking System

The ranking system is similar to league of legends, in order from worst to best, Iron – Bronze – Silver – Gold – Platinum – Diamond – Immortal – Valorant. Each tier has 3 sub-levels, i.e. Gold 1, Gold 2, Gold 3. Now here is where the curve ball comes in – In league of legends, Gold 4 is considered worst, while Gold 1 is highest of the tier; In Valorant however, Gold 1 would be the lowest and Gold 3 is the highest. I’m not sure what the purpose of this was, but it did cause some confusion for a good while, I would think they would just be consistent about it across their own games within Riot, but the only reasoning I could conjure up was that, in counter strike it went from 1 to 4 (highest) as well, and its safe to assume that CS players are going to make up a solid chunk of Valorant players. The only requirement to start playing ranked is to have 20 games played, no level requirement or anything else (thankfully). This seems pretty reasonable compared to LoL, where you had to play a ludicrous amount of games to reach level 30, although at the same time, this could lead to a smurfing problem when the game is fully released.

Gameplay

So how did my first week of ranked go? Not bad. Even in closed beta, there are enough people playing for matchmaking to be decently fair in most games. Individual performance is definitely factored into the rankings, as one person in my party climbed the ranks higher than the rest of us by scoring MVP many games. This did however, introduce another problem, even though we all started at the same time and played many games together, if you are 6 ranks below someone, you can no longer queue up with them. This is total nonsense, considering we ALL won those games as a team, but suddenly we can no longer queue with our friend anymore, because he became 6 ranks higher. The Valorant algorithm doesn’t seem to care for anything aside from kills. Scouting enemies, planting or defusing, healing , resurrection, walls, etc. All of these things can turn games around and create wins for your team, but if you’re not getting maximum kills, then your rank will suffer. This leave no incentive for people to pick up the bomb ever, or play heroes like Sage that are a huge boost to the team, but might not have an offensive toolkit. This also promotes smurfing, as people naturally will still want to play with their friends, but have no choice but to create a new account and purposely tank the MMR, and then proceed into ranked to ruin Iron player’s dreams. Streamers have also pointed out that even though you can’t queue with your lower ranked friends, Matchmaking will still put you into a game with people of those ranks considered “too low” sometimes, which makes even less sense. There is also no definitive separation of solo vs 5 stacks, so an entire team of solos can sometimes end up playing against a 5 stack; summit1g made a comment about this unfairness as well. I would love to see a solo queue mode as well.

Anticheat Issues

Valorant has still been facing a handful of issues. Aside from regular game bugs, there was quite a big issue with their Vanguard Anti cheat system this week. Many users (including myself) have been reporting the Anti cheat has been blocking various things from drivers for PC components, to cooling software being blocked. Yes, you read that right, COOLING SOFTWARE was being shut off, one redditor has his GPU almost fry and start burning plastic, because Riot shut off their cooling software. I was luckier in that it was shutting of drivers for my RAM, causing RGB function to cease, but I haven’t seen any other symptoms. One of my friends stopped being able to launch the game completely for a couple days due to more Vanguard issues. Riot released a hot fix on 5/8/20, hopefully that resolves any major issues for most players.

All in all, its a good start of beta ranked. Get out there and enjoy!
If you still don’t have access to the game, read below.

If you haven’t gotten into the Valorant closed beta, here’s how:

  1. Create a riot account if you don’t already have one
  2. Create a Twitch account
  3. Link your riot to your twitch account here
  4. Watch any drop enabled streamer on twitch playing Valorant here

Riot has stated that watching multiple streams does not increase your chances. We recommend that you leave one stream running all day, you can also lower the resolution in the video player to reduce the network usage.