What do the words “field-of-play” mean to you? They likely conjure images of grassy expanses, painted with chalk lines or marked with bases and populated by teams wearing color-coded jerseys. But we live in the digital age, a time where we’re testing the limits of what we can do using the internet. From the earliest days of video games — Pong is the first that comes to mind — they were often engineered for competitive play.
Today the games we play are a bit more sophisticated, but the spirit of competition lives on.
The rise of eSports in the mid-2000s elevated games like Counter-Strike, League of Legends, and Call of Duty each to the role of cultural phenomenon. With tournaments that have millions of dollars on the line watched by millions of fans, the “fields of play” (known in eSports as “maps” or “levels”) have become as visually synonymous with their respective games as the baseball diamond or the football pitch. Players learn them like their backs of their own hands — or at least they do if they want to win.
Aiming to be the best at VALORANT? First, you have to learn the maps.
What They Have in Common
Whereas with traditional sports the field-of-play is generally static, in eSports we can change it up on a match by match basis. An eSports competitor must often learn a half-dozen or so maps for each game. Whether you see it as a blessing or a curse is beside the point — eSports demand dynamic play. They’re as likely to test your tactical flexibility as they are your fundamental skills. And that’s what keeps millions of us coming back for more, match after match.
Each game has its own standard map design elements designed to supplement and take advantage of the core mechanics. Let’s take a look at the commonalities for VALORANT and what to expect regardless of what map you end up on.
1. Live Life in the Map Lanes
In VALORANT, like its predecessor Counter-Strike, maps are designed around multiple sites. The attackers are trying to plant a spike at one of them while the defenders try to stop them. Notice I didn’t say “two sites” — we’ll get to that in a minute. The two main sites are usually referred to as A and B. Generally, there’s a lane running from the attackers’ spawn point to each site, and a middle path which offers a high-risk, high-reward choice as far as map control and rotation time. Sometimes a lane will be split in two, offering a “short” route and a “long” route.
VALORANT ups the ante by including a third site on occasion, labeled C. While there’s only one map in rotation that consists of this three-site design, it’s a major statement as far as competitive tactical shooters are concerned. I would not be surprised to see more three-site maps crop up in the future.
2. Rotation, All I Ever Wanted
Maps in VALORANT are designed with trade-offs built into the bare geometry. The sites are often located far enough apart that the defending team is forced to split up for adequate coverage. Rotating across the map from one site to another takes time. Not to mention you’re often moving through contested territory as you go. Every map, every game, every time — when and how you rotate makes or breaks rounds.
3. Orbs of Power
Rotating’s not the only risky play — VALORANT scatters ultimate orbs around the map, which can be captured by an Agent for a slight boost toward their top-tier ability. These can become ad-hoc hotspots where both teams brawl for the prize. An analogy from Overwatch would be the medkits tucked away in dusty corners. Counter-Strike has no stomach for spawnable items that can turn the tides of war.
4. Stop, Cover Time!
Maps are also designed to offer plenty of hidey-holes and convenient crates for you to use as cover. While they may be more elegantly camouflaged in other shooters, a crate is a crate, and cover is cover.
You rarely want to take a gunfight out in the open like it’s High Noon. Seek shelter and return fire in bursts as you shoulder peek. As we examine the VALORANT maps currently on tap, we’ll discuss some common cover locations and why you might want to consider them.
5. What’s Mine is Yours, Then Mine Again
Sites on all maps are built around the ebb and flow of takes and retakes. They’re usually defensible enough for the defending team without offering all-powerful cover locations. But once the attackers claim the site and plant the spike, then there are all new angles to watch as the defenders rotate in. Being exposed to multiple angles as an attacker forces you to use your head — where were they hiding last time, or where were they last seen before the spike went down? A good site makes takes and retakes a worthy challenge.
The Maps of VALORANT
There are currently four maps in rotation as of version 1.0: Ascend, Bind, Haven, and Split. Each one sticks to the tried-and-true principles outlined above, yet brings some new spin or a dash of unique flavor to the table. If you wish to conquer all, you must study the battlefield as intently as you train with your weapons.
If Sun Tzu didn’t say that, he probably should have.
Ascent is the new kid on the block. It was first released after the Closed Beta, once the game went public proper. And maybe it’s the “new map smell” talking but it’s already one of my favorites. It’s got a unique site design, a wide-open courtyard in the middle, and a catwalk for Short A that reminds me of Counter-Strike’s Dust II in the best way.
Ascent takes place on a city block adrift among the clouds, offering some interesting vistas outside the map’s playable area. Flashbacks to Avengers: Age of Ultron are inevitable.
If you want to own Ascent, you’d better brush up on your sniping skills.
The mid-lane is incredibly important to control as the attacking team. If you can push back the defenders with a well placed Sage wall or a few headshots, you’re free to claim whichever site your little heart desires.
Getting onto the sites can take some work if they’re heavily defended, but once your team plants the spike, one of the map’s most unique features comes into play. Each site has a metal security door which can be lowered with a switch. The door can be destroyed with sustained fire, but while it lasts, it’s one less option for the defenders looking to retake.
While there are brick walls with gates blocking specific sightlines around the courtyard, Ascent’s mid-lane offers some of the longest sightlines in the game. The A and B sites add some verticality to takes and retakes as well — attackers have to step down into B to plant, while A has a catwalk overlooking the site. You can’t just hold your crosshair at head level and sweep into the site per usual.
The ultimate orbs are located in A Main and B Main, respectively. They’re positioned just perfectly to force a fight if the attackers spring for the goodies before securing the area. Use the sound cue to your advantage as a defender and whittle down the attacking team early.
Bind is the classic “sandstone and palm trees” map. It follows the formula to a tee — save for eschewing a mid-line in favor of long and short routes to A and B sites. Each site offers plenty of cover for the defenders to use. The attackers have some attractive Agent ability-based tactical options to consider, though they must be ever wary of snipers lurking in A Tower or enemies flanking via the teleporters.
But the teleporters work for both teams.
On the attacking side, you’re guaranteed to try the Sage rush on A site at least once per game. It must be in a contract somewhere. The idea is to push out from A short rapidly enough to force the defenders back, then drop a Sage wall between the vehicle and the wall to the right. This effectively splits the site in two and provides the perfect cover for getting the bomb down — not to mention forcing rotations through A Lamps and A Short. That is, of course, unless the defenders are fool enough to gun down the wall. There’s always at least one fool on every team.
The teleporters are the main attraction for Bind, allowing quick rotations for either team at the low, low cost of a thunderous sound cue. Those teleporter doors only open for folks trying to exit, but bullets don’t seem to care much. Hiding in a teleporter room will end up being the most lethal Marco Polo game you’ve ever played. If you’ve got a hankering for some Ultimate Orbs, you’ll find them in the A Bath (also known as “Showers”) and B Long regions.
A Tower and B Window (affectionately called “Hookah” for it’s resemblance to a hookah lounge) offer vantage points for snipers, and there’s plenty of mid-range fun to be had everywhere else. Bring your Vandals and your Phantoms out to play, and you’re guaranteed to have a blast.
Haven takes place somewhere in Asia, but there’s no zen garden to be found here. Only tight corridors, tons of hiding places, and *gasp* a third site. Yes, Haven is where Riot decided to go big or go home. And for having a third option to pick from, you’d be surprised how often the attackers still hold to the age-old “right-or-left” strategy.
On Haven, the attackers have A, B, and C sites to choose from. The approach to C is uncharacteristically open and clear for the map, offering some excellent sniping opportunities. While you might find a brief window to engage at length down A Long, you’re far better off bringing an automatic rifle to the A and B sites.
Due to the narrow routes around the map, area control abilities like walls, slows, and smokes are super effective at making (or preventing) plays. Remember that metal doors offer less bullet penetration than wood — so blast the metal plates off the C Garage doors and rob your enemies of the cover. Retaking B is especially challenging due to the sheer number of angles enemies can take post-plant, so put a Sage or your strongest player B to keep them from getting in the door.
The Ultimate Orbs can be found on the defender side of A Long and the attacker side of C Long. But if you can grab either one before getting domed by someone down the way, consider yourself lucky.
At the heart of a major metropolitan area lies Split, the map with massive rotation times, and many mid-lane duels. Audio cues will be your friend here, as the approaches to the A and B sites bring the attackers within range of the defender’s ears long before they push the site. Not to mention the ropes, which require a delicate touch lest they broadcast your stealthy intentions and leave you feeling like a fish in a barrel.
There might be more verticality in Split than Ascent, as both the A and B sites have towers and catwalks overlooking the locations for the defenders to perch upon. Like Batman — except they won’t have any qualms about using lethal force. A well-placed wall or flash might get you onto the site as the attackers, but then it’s your job to keep it. And you’ll have your work cut out for you.
Fortunately, the only routes from one site to the other are roundabout. This is why mid control is essential as the defending team; the shortest paths are, of course, straight across the middle. And if you aren’t quick to start rotation after spotting the spike on your minimap, you might not safely make it across the map before the spike’s nearly halfway to detonation. “Safely” being the keyword here, as there are plenty of nooks and crannies for enterprising attackers to lurk in.
The Ultimate Orbs can be found at A Main and B Main (also called “Garage”). But expect B Main to be trapped by a Cypher in some way, and A Main is almost always in the crosshairs of a sniper scope.
Now you know a bit about the battlefields of VALORANT. And knowing is half the battle. The other half is — No. No, I won’t go there. The other half is smart ability usage and communicating with your teammates. Go forth and conquer, Agent.