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Playing Valorant as an allegory for greed, destruction, and resilience

Scrambled Egg before the round (Image via Valorant)
Scrambled Egg before the round (Image via Valorant)
SENIOR ANALYST

Valorant's lore is an interesting addition to Riot’s competitive 5v5 first-person shooter. David Nottingham, the Creative Director at Valorant, explains their efforts regarding the lore as presenting the players with:

"a distinct and cohesive universe that sets up a central conflict, stakes, and goals that map the experience and stakes."

Valorant’s lore is experienced in what the team calls environmental storytelling. It is released through cinematics that the team release from time to time. The dialogue of the playable agents also adds information about the in-game universe and how the agents function in it.

Nottingham, in an interview with Polygon, pointed to Fortnite while explaining:

"We want to experiment with little ways to sprinkle clues and breadcrumbs into the world."

Looking at the Valorant cinematics

Cinematics are narrative videos from Riot that follow the workings of the Valorant Protocol (VP). To date, there have been three cinematics explaining bit by bit the events happening in the Valorant universe.

The first one was Duelist. It featured Phoenix and Jett in a Bond-esque chase across the rooftops of Venice while vying for control over a mysterious “package”. Phoenix fails to stop Jett from planting it and with Ignition, it causes “significant reality distorting effect” on the city. The visuals would remind the viewer of Sokovia during the final battle in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Chronologically, Duality came after that. A number of agents showed up in this one - Phoenix, Viper, and Killjoy. They are part of the covert operation called Valorant Protocol that was created to prevent such disasters. In Duality, a package, identified as a Spike, has been planted at a Kingdom Corporation site in Morocco.

Killjoy tries to defuse it as Phoenix and Viper show up as backup. Phoenix chases the unknown assailant who turns out to be another Phoenix. Viper identifies that the Spike is stealing Radianite - an exotic substance that is a major part of Earth’s civilization after it was discovered. The Kingdom Corporation is known to harvest, process, and store large quantities of Radianite.

Defusing (Image via Valorant)
Defusing (Image via Valorant)

Duality ends with the trio being able to defuse the Spike and the other Phoenix meeting up with a bunch of other agents who promise to ‘bring whole team’. The final frame shows two earths.

In between these two, another video, titled Retake, was released. It was the showcase of the map Icebox with Phoenix and Yoru trying to defuse a planted Spike. This one did not add much information to the already known lore. It was more of a brilliant showcase of the abilities of the agents in the video.


The Lore of Valorant

The introduction of Radianite into the world of Valorant is said to have happened after a mysterious incident called the First Light. This new power source, Radianite, was the source of a technological boom - where humanity had numerous breakthroughs because of it.

This exotic material also affected some people who came in contact with it. They developed special abilities and became the Radiants. They were then hired by Valorant Protocol to keep Earth safe from anything related to Radianite. Other characters, like Killjoy’s machines, Sova’s eye, have equipment that use Radianite.

As explained earlier, Kingdom is a company that majorly deals with Radiantie and is now responsible for three-quarters of the world’s energy production. Some members of VP were also employed by Kingdom, like Brimstone and Viper, and they are aware of the dealings with Radianite.

Radianite questioned (Image via Valorant)
Radianite questioned (Image via Valorant)
Kingdom under fire (Image via Valorant)
Kingdom under fire (Image via Valorant)

The event in Venice made Kingdom scamper and state that Radianite is clean and safe and not involved in the incident. But as expected, public opinion slowly started to shift and the stocks took a tumble.

The next biggest reveal in the lore was the establishment of the mirror universe, by Duality. This opened the floodgates to a sea of possibilities for the potential powers of Radianite and how far the Kingdom has harnessed it.

Planting the Spike (Image via Valorant)
Planting the Spike (Image via Valorant)

The evil doppelgangers are shown planting Spikes to steal Earth-1’s Radianite. This use of double explains the dilemma of why the same agents can be played on both sides in a single match. The doppelgangers are revealed to have the ability to use teleport rifts to travel between the mirror universes.

The two halves (Image via Valorant)
The two halves (Image via Valorant)

With Valorant’s latest map Fracture, it is revealed that Kingdom of Earth-1, called Kingdom Corporation, is aware and in dealings with Kingdom of Earth-2, named Kingdom Industries. The place is a facility on Earth-1 divided among the two corporations built over a Radian collider.

Destruction of the Collider (Image via Valorant)
Destruction of the Collider (Image via Valorant)

The facility is destroyed by the destruction of the Radian collider brought upon by the workings of the latest agent, Chamber.


The Kingdoms of Earth and their comeuppance

The fascination with the discovery of an almost absolute unlimited source of power and fuel has thronged the imagination of humans for the longest time. Valorant seems to be the latest iteration of what-when that quest is fulfilled.

This exotic substance, called Radianite, can be substituted with multiple other titles - antimatter, dark-matter, Cs-137, arc reactor, nuclear fission, compound V, tesseract, et al.

And in almost all of these cases, whoever chases to harness these objects repeatedly emphasizes the safety of the process and how only they are adept at dealing with the complexity of these matters.

Phoenix asking questions (Image via Valorant)
Phoenix asking questions (Image via Valorant)

Even those who are part of the company are not always privy to every bit of information. This is evidenced by Phoenix stating he needs some answers to Viper at the end of Duality. They are mostly on a need-to-know basis, and frankly, the powers that be do not consider them important.

Radianite thus picks up the mantle from a long line of such sources of limitless potential. And in itself, it becomes an allegory towards the adverse possibilities of that power. One is reminded of Godzilla when it came out in Japan in 1954.

It was meant to be a metaphor for Hiroshima. Godzilla was a giant dinosaur stirred from sleep by the dropping of a hydrogen bomb. Its scales are meant to represent the keloid scars of survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In its coming to Hollywood, this allegory seems to be lost in translation.

Yet the latest installment of Godzilla portrays the search for an energy source deep inside earth in a space called Hollow Earth. The moment it is found, it is uploaded to power the film’s antagonist, Mechagodzilla.

Other examples in fictional media include Spiderman 2’s fusion reactor, Dark’s Cs-137, Angels & Demons’ antimatter, Avatar’s unobtanium, among various others. In real life, the example of Chernobyl comes to mind.

Mirrored (Image via Valorant)
Mirrored (Image via Valorant)

Radianite in Valorant seems to be a subtle nod towards this search for the Holy Grail of energy sources. The presence of the doppelgangers further nuances this. In a reductive way, the agents are saving the earth from themselves. Humans are the ones who are exploiting these resources, and in a way being the creators of their own doom.

The parallel earth is probably ahead in their timeline because they introduce the technology of Spike to Earth-1. This gives Valorant developers a playing field to subtly showcase the rampant exploitation of a power not quite understood in its entirety. Earth-2’s attack on its counterpart’s Radianite raises further questions like why they require Radianite and how they had depleted theirs.

When the Spike detonates, nothing but darkness engulfs the whole area as the place is depleted of Radianite. It seems like a commentary on what would happen when humanity has irreversibly exploited every last bit of natural sources.


The future possibilities of the Valorant lore

Fracture has provided players with a bunch of new information regarding the lore of the Valorant universe. With a new agent on the way, it is only a matter of time before newer cinematics drop, clarifying further on some of the burning questions and creating a few others in the near future.

Till then, Nottingham’s own question list in his blog post indicate Valorant’s storytelling for the future:

  • Who are these ‘mirror’ Agents?
  • Are they two sides of the same coin?
  • Why is one side seemingly acting as the aggressor?
  • What is the meaning of that final shot of Earth that seems almost split in two?

Edited by R. Elahi

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