Riot Games has unveiled Valorant’s eighth map, Pearl, and it’s an underwater adventure. With the release of Episode 5, Act 1, Pearl acts as the “simplest” map released since Valorant’s initial launch, removing many of the gimmicks seen in previous slots. Not only that, but Pearl is a showcase of how Valorant’s alternate earth deals with climate change. Hardcore.
Pearl takes place in Portugal in an underwater city. The major inspiration for the level, according to art lead Brian Yam, was a pitch about a city flooded by climate change. “Since Pearl is set on ‘Omega Earth,’ we wanted to explore how Omega Kingdom would address climate change and how we would convey that idea visually.
“The idea of showing the cities staying underwater seemed like the right visual direction that got everyone excited. It’s a nice visual juxtaposition of Kingdom Industries structures with older structures in Portugal.” The Portuguese influence is present in more than just a concept. The map also features artwork by real Portuguese muralists and traditional music.
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Normally a new Valorant map also comes with a new gameplay feature to make it unique. This can be controllable doors to bomb sites, ropes to climb, or even one-way teleporters to zoom from site to site. But all gadgets are removed with Pearl. This is truly Valorant’s no-frills map. Three lanes between two 5v5 teams: it’s as easy as it gets. That’s a far cry from maps like Fracture which is known for spawning two-sided attackers, or Breeze which had a huge mid lane. Pearl strips everything down but does it with great style.
With the addition of Pearl, we unfortunately lose one of the original cards. Riot Games, alongside esports organizations, has decided that seven maps are best for active rotation, with five played and two banned in a tournament. So Riot will remove Split (opens in a new tab) unranked and competitive active play, only appearing in shorter games like Spike Rush. Riot has its reasons for benching Split, but it also didn’t share any planned return date for the launch card. Well, I hope Pearl is better balanced. We’ll soon find out that Pearl will go live in Unrated on June 22 with Episode 5, then be added to competitive play on June 12.