“Bye bye boomer!” my character shouts after one-tapping the enemy Brimstone that was trapped inside my defense-shredding gravity well. Now there’s only three players standing in between me and the bomb I have to defuse. I throw down two Astral Stars in front of me and immediately dissipate them, creating a caterpillar of smoke; the perfect cover to run onto site. When I make it to the bomb I summon a galactic wall to slice the map in half, muting either side so the enemies can’t see or hear a thing that I’m doing. Panicked, assuming I’m diffusing, one of them runs through the wall and catches a quick bullet. Their friend follows in a second after in a revenge-fueled frenzy, repeating the same motions as his fallen predecessor, and catching a different bullet. The last enemy plays it safer, putting up a Killjoy ult that disarms me if I’m in the radius after the 12 second time limit. I give up some ground, put on my hood, and hop into my mind palace and place down one more star, right by the bomb. I tap to diffuse and see her do a stalled peek by my star that I immediately turn into a Nova Pulse, delivering a swift, star-filled concuss as I rush at my enemy with a classic pistol and a dream. As I turn the corner I see that she was in fact hit by my cosmic earthquake and is disoriented beside the bomb. After missing a few shots that I definitely shouldn’t have, I end up taking her down and seemingly reversing fate by winning a doomed round by playing safe and utilizing all I could out of the ridiculous, galaxy brain kit of Valorant’s newest agent, Astra.
Astra is a Black woman that hails from Accra, the capital city of Ghana, and she represents her culture proudly through her voice lines and interactions. She has a vibrant and excited personality, and her look is sleek and Afrofuturist (think Black Panther), mixing traditional African garb with the neon and otherworldly. This character design pops, making her stand out from Valorant’s other agents. One of her arms looks like a universe contained inside the shape of an arm, which is simply cool as hell. Honestly it’s amazing being able to play as an unapologetically Black character like this, one who really loves jollof rice and humming tunes while she’s walking around. The fact that her abilities are infinitely useful, too, is a great cherry on top.
Valorant is a tactical shooting game about momentum and prediction. What makes Astra so cool is that her presence throws a wrench into both of those concepts, permanently changing the pace of games and forcing players to adapt to what she can do, or quit.
She’s classified as a Controller character, and her main role is to split up sites and “set her team up for success.” At the start of each round Astra can use her passive, Astral Form, to have an out of body experience and pull up a galactic map that she can freely fly around and place down Astral Stars which can be activated at any time. When aiming at a Star, Astra can choose to make it a Gravity Well, which sucks players in and makes them vulnerable; a Nova Pulse, which blasts and stuns; or a Nebula, which turns it into a Smoke (with the same characteristics of other agents Omen and Brimstone). Astra can also dissipate any unused Star, creating a pseudo-smoke before returning a Star to her pocket. Her kit orbits around the unpredictable nature of these stars, which is exactly where the galaxy mind games come into play.
She’s hard. I figured this out during my first few matches as her, where I accidentally concussed, smoked off, walled off, and gravity pulled my fellow teammates (If you’re reading this, I am sorry). But I love that she’s hard, and that her skill ceiling feels so high. After playing a few days of unrated and competitive matches I’ve seen so many different takes on her playstyle with people completely faking a bomb site through dissipating stars, or completely crowd controlling an area using both Gravity Well and Nova Pulse in the same cramped space. There’s no right way to play her—right now it’s all experimentation. Astra will have players tinkering around for tons of hours trying to discover her full potential, and who knows what will be revealed once professionals use her in high level play like the Valorant Champions Tour 2021.
Valorant is still a relatively new game since its release date in June, and with the recent addition of the wild card Astra I am super excited about its future. From what I’ve seen in-game it looks like communication will be key to making this character shine like the supernova she is. So let’s just hope my teammates aren’t blatantly racist and yelling in team chat, like they are way, way too often.
Funké Joseph is a non-binary black writer and artist. Check out their goofs @funkefly.