The new star-slinging agent’s first impressions
Valorant, a tactical shooter, will begin its second Act next week, introducing a character who I believe will become my new favorite. Astra is a space lady with a stunning character design who uses her abilities by astral projecting into a strange starry dimension. I got a chance to play with her early on, and while she’s a lot of fun to play, her unique sight and sound-denying ultimate can be a little trippy. It’ll take some time to get used to Astra.
Astra is a controller, which means she possesses abilities that allow her team to block enemy sightlines and gain an advantage when attacking or defending. She has a smoke (Nebula), concussion (Nova Pulse), and pulling-in ability (Gravity Well – think Orisa’s Halt from Overwatch, or a very mild version of Horizon’s Black Hole ultimate in Apex Legends), all of which are activated by clicking on stars placed across the map by Astra.
This is where she sets herself apart from the other Valorant agents we’ve seen thus far. To use any ability, Astra must first enter the aforementioned starry dimension (which is similar to the shadow realm Omen enters to place his smokes), which provides her with a bird’s-eye view of the entire map. She can then place up to five stars wherever she wants, and all she has to do now is aim for one and activate the ability she wants it to become.
It provides a plethora of options for organizing pushes and defending a site. If you know exactly what you want to do, you can place stars during the buy phase, or you can place them on the fly to help your team during a fight. The only drawback is that Astra’s body remains motionless and can be killed while in this strange realm, so it’s not something you’d want to visit while out in public. However, if you’ve already placed some stars before the enemies appear, you can choose how to deal with them from there. If an enemy attacks from a choke point where you’ve placed a star, you have the option of enveloping them in smoke to block their view or concussing them to set up a kill for a teammate. But be careful: both Nova Pulse and Gravity Well have an effect on Astra and her teammates.
The way she works is difficult to describe in words, so check out this video I made to demonstrate her abilities and how you can use them in a real match.
As you can see from a few of the examples, Astra has a lot of potential to work with the other agents. Gravity is the force of nature. Because it can drag enemies in and hold them there for a short time, Well and Nova Pulse work brilliantly with characters who have molotov-like abilities, such as Killjoy’s nano bots or Viper’s poisonous floor goo. Breach’s Aftershock worked exceptionally well with the concussion (which throws a firebomb through a wall). That one was discovered by accident by myself and a teammate as we were rounding a corner where we knew an enemy named Sova was hiding. I’m a sucker for a little wacky coordination.
Astra’s ultimate ability is a big one I haven’t mentioned yet, but you can see a glimpse of it in that video. In Overwatch, Cosmic Divide is similar to Symmetra’s Photon Barrier. It allows Astra to build a straight wall that runs the length of the map. It’s impossible to see through it, shoot through it, or, most importantly, hear through it. Whatever occurs on the other side of that wall will remain a complete mystery to you. However, abilities such as grenades and flashes can be thrown through it, and you can walk through it if you want.
I suppose, like any other sight-denying ability in Valorant, if you don’t place it correctly, it can be harmful to both your teammates and your enemies. The thing about this one, though, is that it’s incredibly trippy because it’s also sound-denying – especially when both teams have an Astra in the same area. When you’re used to relying on audio so heavily in a game, having it suddenly taken away feels very unsettling. That is, however, most likely the point. Riot is attempting something unique with Astra, which I admire, but I believe it will take some time to adjust to.
My only other concern with Astra’s introduction is the massive number of abilities that can now be added to a site at any given time. Both teams had a Killjoy and an Astra in some of the games I played. Killjoy also has a powerful ultimate that affects a large portion of the map, as well as grenades and a turret that are useful when pushing a site. When you combine that with Omen’s smokes and Astra’s ability to pop as many abilities as she can, the game quickly becomes very messy. Some of our shootouts began to resemble Overwatch team fights rather than tactically coordinated efforts. Granted, my experience comes from friendly customs matches where we were only semi-seriously playing the game, but I’m concerned that Valorant’s fights will become too cluttered.
At the very least, it’ll be fascinating to see how Riot handles this in the future. I can’t help but wonder if future agents will be a little more straightforward, or if they’ll only get more complicated.
Despite my complaints, I had a lot of fun playing Astra, and I’m excited to see how players use her abilities to create some interesting strategies. I’m also excited to see more of her and her abilities in general. I’m afraid I’ll spend half my matches just staring at her Nebula smokes because they’re so beautiful.
On Tuesday, March 2nd, Astra and Episode 2 Act 2 will arrive in Valorant.