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Another Unique Spin On Agent Roles

New Valorant Agent Harbor was made available during a preview period, and the immediate takeaway from the addition is that he will further increase the value of a certain type of philosophy: team composition over specific Agent roles. Valorant is a hero-power tactical FPS that launched with four defined roles for its various characters: Duelist, Initiator, Controller, and Sentinel. Even at launch, these roles were flagged as being more of guidelines rather than strict instructions on how to design each Agent, but that philosophy has really been hammered home in recent Agent launches.

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New Agent additions like Fade and Chamber have pushed against there needing to be an exact way to construct a specific role. Even Neon, an Agent with a slew of Duelist abilities, isn’t fully enabled without pairing her with other Agent’s utility on specific map selections. Harbor, an Indian agent named Varun Batra, is the newest Valorant Agent and a water-wielding Controller who further pushes the philosophy that teams can really build around specific picks to fully maximize the potential of their utility.

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Harbor’s water abilities’ most close comparisons are Viper’s kit, so it’s worth establishing some links between the two. Harbor’s Cascade wall helps cut sites into smaller sections and can be curved, restricting lines of sight and creating pockets for players to hide in. That flexibility comes with a tradeoff – the wall can’t be dropped and brought back up the same way Viper’s Toxic Screen can – but it’s still an incredible ability that’s going to create a lot of fun for strategists.

Harbor’s Cove – again, somewhat similar in functionality to Viper’s Poison Orb – is a sphere of water that can be thrown, popping on impact with the ground. The orb comes with a shield that blocks bullets for a limited number of shots. In practice, the most obvious use so far seems to be using the orb to advance Spike defusal, but it can create tricky one-ways that can’t be spammed without emptying a clip first, which might create new avenues for attack and defense.

Finally, Harbor’s High Tide is the unique part of his kit in terms of what already exists in the Valorant Agent pool. Harbor equps a wall of water that, when fired, gets pushed through the map. It doesn’t block enemy fire, but it creates a massive smokescreen, and enemies who are caught within the wall as it moves are also slowed. In practice, the slow effect isn’t as dramatic as, say, Chamber’s trip – but it does make swinging out of the wall difficult.

Naturally, Valorant Agent Ultimates are also a massive part of their in-game identity, and Harbor’s is a strange one. Reckoning creates a massive Area-of-Effect that spawns “geyser strikes,” which concusses players who are hit by them. These strikes repeat, so it’s not the kind of Ultimate that players can stand in and tank. It seems tailor-made to disrupt bomb site holds or prevent attackers from hitting a site quickly.

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In testing Harbor’s abilities in Valorant, it becomes immediately clear he’s unlikely to be a solo Controller. His lack of effective smokes and inability to reuse his wall as efficiently as Viper means he’s more of an offensive-oriented alternative to her niche. So far, it feels more like Harbor will be to Controllers what Neon and Breach are to their respective roles – an Agent with a clearly defined, explosive role that’s best enabled by having team compositions that support his abilities. That’s in line with the way it appears Riot is beginning to design new Agents, carefully walking the line between useful and irreplaceable, desperately attempting to avoid the latter.

Beyond just Harbor’s impact on Valorant competitively, however, there’s also the Agent’s impact on aesthetic. Harbor’s design is absolutely gorgeous and his abilities are breathtaking, dazzling the battlefield. It was already difficult arguing that Valorant isn’t the prettiest tactical FPS on the market, and additions like Harbor just further stake that claim for Riot’s massively successful title.

Time will tell if Harbor establishes the sort of niche for himself that Riot is hoping he will. Agent balance is tricky, especially at launch – keep in mind that within days of an Agent being made available to the public, players will have already accumulated a significantly higher number of hours playtesting him than the development team was able to do over months. With recent balance changes to other Agents that have been inspired and a strong starting kit, however, it feels like Harbor is perhaps the best release yet – and one that will help shake up teams immediately.

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