Riot Games has revealed Valorant's eighth map, Pearl, and it's an underwater adventure. With the release of Episode 5 Act 1, Pearl acts as the most "straight-forward" map released since Valorant's initial launch, stripping away many of the gimmicks seen in previous locations. Not only that, but Pearl is a showcase of how Valorant's alternative earth is dealing with climate change. Hardcore.
Pearl is set in Portugal in an underwater town. The major inspiration for the level, according to art lead Brian Yam, was a pitch about a city flooded by climate change. "Since Pearl takes place on 'Omega Earth,' we wanted to explore how Omega Kingdom would approach climate change and how we would convey this idea visually.
"The idea of showing the sustainment of cities underwater seemed to be the right visual direction that everyone was excited about. It’s a nice visual juxtaposition of Kingdom Industries structures with older structures of Portugal."
The Portuguese influence is present in more than just concept. The map features artwork from real Portuguese muralists and traditional music, too.
Normally a new Valorant map also comes with a new gameplay feature to make it unique. That might be controllable doors to bomb sites, ropes to climb, or even one-way teleporters to zoom from one site to another. But all gimmicks are stripped away with Pearl. This is truly the no-frills map of Valorant. Three lanes between two 5v5 teams: it's as simple as it gets. That's a far cry from maps like Fracture which is known for its dual sided attackers spawn, or Breeze which had one huge middle lane. Pearl strips it all back but does it with great style.
With the addition of Pearl, we are sadly losing one of the original maps. Riot Games alongside esports organisations decided that seven maps is best for an active rotation, with five played and two banned in a tournament. So Riot is going to be removing Split from active Unrated and Competitive play with it only appearing in shorter games like Spike Rush. Riot does have its reasons for benching Split, but it also shared no planned return date for the launch map. Oh well, hopefully Pearl is better balanced. It won't be long until we find out as Pearl will go live in Unrated on June 22 with Episode 5 and then be added Competitive play June 12.