Valorant’s maps all have their own unique quirks. Be it the teleporting doors on Bind, or the long cross-map ziplines on Fracture, developer Riot Games has always made sure to include some sort of dynamic feature. However, deep below the waters of Omega Earth’s Lisbon, Portugal, lies a whole new arena for agents to do battle in without any form of gimmick – Pearl. Last week, I got to spend some quality time with the new map, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience (even when I was getting blasted by Radiants).
Before I properly get into my thoughts on how the map plays and the agents that could be regular features, I just want to say that Pearl looks absolutely gorgeous. The cool blue hues contrasted with the warm glow of the sleepy town’s lamps evokes the image of fireflies in the night, making for what is, in my opinion, the prettiest map Riot has produced to date. If you haven’t had a chance to check out Pearl’s layout then definitely consult our Valorant maps guide before you continue reading.
Though there are clear comparisons to be made between Pearl and Overwatch’s Dorado (something a number of players I spoke to noted as well), Pearl is of course Portuguese in origin rather than Hispanic. And it certainly displays those influences proudly with everything from the murals created by local artists, to the traditional fado music which plays between rounds offering perhaps the clearest sense of a map’s geographical roots yet.
Diving in, then, Pearl may initially appear to be a simple two site, three lane map, but players will quickly find that there are multiple layers to its complexity. From my experience, vertical crosshair placement is going to need to be on point as Attackers descend into Defender territory, and there’s plenty of small ramps to run up, ledges to climb, and boxes to hop up onto on the way too.
This is certainly at its most-clearly pronounced as you make your way through areas like A Restaurant, Mid Shops, and B Link, producing a ton of verticality to account for akin to something like Icebox, though accentuated by the map’s natural decline/incline depending on if you’re Attack or Defence-sided.
Accessing the sites is also not entirely straightforward – unless you’re five-manning down the super long B Main, that is. Mid Plaza control is incredibly important as it gives Attackers rotational options between either site and a second lane of offense when pushing, while Defenders can force enemies into the wide lanes and better-protect themselves against that lurking, baiting Reyna.
Speaking of agents, Pearl is clearly a map made with Valorant’s latest agent, Fade, in mind. Even without optimised lineups, Fade has plenty of rooftops to throw an (E) Haunt up onto, providing plenty of information. Additionally, her (C) Prowler is a potent tool for pushing out from Mid Plaza when you’re attacking, or even clearing it when you’re defending. When you’re heading down the winding streets of Pearl, having a Prowler to play off of is a great asset.
Of course, this also extends to utility like Skye’s (Q) Trailblazer and Raze’s (C) Boom Bot. Unsurprisingly, these two agents are also great options, especially Raze who I feel will become the map’s premiere Duelist. Aside from her amazing synergy with Fade, Raze’s (Q) Blast Packs allow her to navigate even the tightest angles (believe me, there are a ton of them) and skirmish more effectively than the likes of Jett.
However, while I can imagine Raze will get her time in the sun, some have already suggested that Pearl compositions could do away with the role altogether, opting for a double Controller comp with Viper as its, well, pearl instead.
As an example of why Viper is so effective, her wall is important for closing off B Main – even a Sage wall isn’t wide enough – and will also cut off the doors leading out into Mid Plaza, effectively making access to the B Site risky business for Attackers.
From there, a mixture of Initiators – primarily Fade, Skye, and KAY/O – and Sentinels – most notably Sage, though Chamber and even Cypher would still be serviceable – would fill out the roster.
Of course, you’re always going to get your instalock Jetts as you climb the Valorant ranks, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, she can make great use of the holes in the top of A Art’s walls to sneak a knife or three through, and can fly up into B Tower, which can only be accessed on foot by pushing in towards the Defenders’ spawn when you’re attacking.
As you can probably imagine, Pearl could produce some of the most interesting comps we’ve had in some time – an impressive feat for a map that lacks any sort of dynamic feature.
Though it’s early days yet, I’m hoping Pearl will be warmly received by the community when the Valorant Episode 5 Act 1 release time rolls round. For me, Pearl is the best-looking Valorant map yet, and it’s ironically one of the game’s most unique experiences despite the absence of gimmicks.