COMMENT: Riot really messed up the Ares buff in VALORANT patch 4.0

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·Senior Games & Tech Producer
·7 min read
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The currently dreaded Ares in VALORANT. (Image: Riot Games)
The currently dreaded Ares in VALORANT. (Image: Riot Games)

As most VALORANT players will tell you, the light machine guns (LMGs or Heavies, as they're officially known) Ares and Odin in VALORANT have a distinct place in the gun meta.

While extremely powerful and accurate when aiming-down sights (ADS), you also have to deal with their drawbacks — namely, the slow movement speed and terrible mobility.

Before this current patch, if you chose not to ADS on either of the existing LMGs, both guns' firing rate became atrocious (they require a spin up time to reach its maximum fire rate), making their users easily outgunned by the likes of a Phantom or Vandal (one may argue that they could even lose a fight with a Spectre user if it were a short to medium range battle).

The Ares is the cheaper of the LMGs (it's even cheaper than the Spectre, a sub-machine gun), meant to be powerful enough to shoot through thick walls (both LMGs can do this), but docile enough to not replace the the Odin (the more superior LMG). So, what's the problem?

Well, in patch 4.0, together with the release of Neon, Riot Games made two simple changes to the Ares:

  • Removed spin up

  • Firing rate increased from 10 >>> 13

That was all it needed to 'break' the Ares.

Removing its spin up means that the Ares doesn't start at a fire rate of 10 bullets per second and slowly increase, it just goes straight to 13 bullet per second immediately, whether you ADS or not.

Now, just to be clear, I am on the fence with this buff. While I do not disagree with this change, I cannot deny that it does take away something that was a drawback to using an LMG - its initial fire rate.

I can still agree that a buff to the Ares was needed to make it more usable, but it really feels like not much thought was put into implementing this buff. And that's my issue - not with the buff itself, but the way it was implemented.

Riot didn't increase the Ares' in-game price (It was still 1,550 credits to buy in 4.0). Instead, they decided to nerf a more expensive gun in the same patch (the Spectre), and implemented it game-wide (yes, even in competitive).

Did no one at Riot playtest this change? I do not believe for a single moment that an experienced player would have said, "Yeah, this is fair and balanced for its price" while using this souped up Ares.

Sure, the Spectre still has the advantage of being able to kill at close range with 2 headshots to a fully armoured enemy (78 damage to the head, as opposed to 72 per headshot from the Ares).

But the effects of aim-punch (the visual shake on your character which throws off your aim when you get headshotted) totally negates this advantage.

At this point, whoever fires first wins, but why would you buy a Spectre anyway at this price point when it's initial advantage of being a little more accurate at running & gunning has been nerfed?

Coupled with the fact that the Ares is packing 20 more bullets than the Spectre, and can shoot through walls, you can easily see why this buff is a little busted if the LMG is still priced at 1550 in game credits.

Furthermore, did you know that the buffed Ares has the same time to kill as a Vandal from 0 to 30 in-game meters? Did you also know that it outguns the Phantom at 15 to 30 in-game meters?

Yes, if you do not hit your headshots against an Ares user with these guns, you are absolutely dead if they manage to fire at you first. With a gun that costs 1350 credits less. Yep.

Now, you can somewhat see what Riot is going for here. The Viper buff in patch 2.06 made her extremely powerful for a short period of time. This made a lot of players wanting to pick her up to play, because prior to 2.06, she wasn't picked very often.

Riot then nerfed her slightly a patch later to balance her out. Despite the nerf, a lot of players finally saw the usefulness of Viper in their games, and proceeded to stick with using her.

It's also not new for the developer.

Outside of VALORANT, Riot has been following this buff pattern in League of Legends for years. For example, Champions like Nidalee saw massive buffs before being pulled back for being too powerful. But by that time, players were already been accustomed to playing her, and saw her potential in game.

Using this same tactic, Riot is likely hoping to make VALORANT players try the Ares, which almost nobody would have bought before this patch, even on save or half-buy rounds. Now, everyone is carrying an Ares by the second round.

I am pretty certain some form of nerf is going to come for the Ares in the next patch. That is a guaranteed point. And players that really like the Ares for what it is will continue using it, especially after using one extensively due to this patch.

Like I mentioned earlier, I am on the fence about this change. I think the Ares needed a buff, but the in-game price should at least have reflected the change. There is absolutely no reason to buy any other kind of gun anymore if you are not planning to hold a specific angle or spot.

That said, if Riot is still figuring out on how to price the gun after the buff or trying to see what works and what not, leave it out of competitive.

Even at Diamond elo at the moment, it just boils down to '10 players with an Ares go brrrrrrr' almost every round. There is absolutely no sense in buying anything else since it's cheaper than and as reliable as a Phantom or a Vandal.

I remember feeling the same way I did with the Viper patch. Every major tweak that really impacts gameplay should never be implemented into competitive immediately.

We all know that if something is too overbuff-ed, Riot will tweak it accordingly anyway. Some of us use our competitive games to actually measure how we play the game, and sometimes dealing with overbuff-ed stuff immediately in competitive takes away from this. If I want to experience the changes, I can do that in an Unrated game.

Call me old-school, but if you are trying to implement a big change, feedback from the community should be your priority.

Do a public playtest before it goes live, implement it in only one mode of the game, or at least playtest the change with internal playtesters to receive feedback (I am still convinced that any experienced player would tell you that this current change is not okay, so they either ignored feedback or they never actually tested this).

This is why I think that Riot has screwed up the Ares buff in VALORANT.

Although it didn't really make the game unenjoyable for me, it definitely has made me question if there was any thought put into implementing this. Hopefully, the patch to fix this comes out soon.

For now, I am avoiding playing any Competitive games, because I do feel that being outgunned by a gun that is 1,350 credits cheaper just because I missed my headshot is absolutely unbalanced.

And I don't particularly enjoy the fact that to beat them, I have to join them in buying an Ares.

UPDATE: Shortly after this article was published, Riot Games released patch 4.01 for VALORANT, which reduced some of the advantages to the Ares introduced in 4.0. You can read more about the changes here.

Dominic loves tech and games. When he is not busy getting headshotted in VALORANT or watercooling anything he sees, he does some pro wrestling.

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