Riot introduces KAY/O, a new VALORANT agent whose suppress mechanic brings players ‘back to basics’ in Episode 3: Reflection

Riot unveiled the new agent and his ability kit today.

Image via Riot Games

Video games are chock full of loveable robots. Overwatch has Bastion, Apex Legends has Pathfinder, and Borderlands has Claptrap. And now, VALORANT has KAY/O.

Riot introduced KAY/O today, a killer robot debuting in Episode Three: Reflection whose single purpose is to neutralize radiants. As such, the initiator has the unique ability to suppress enemies and render their abilities useless. The devs wanted his kit to feel “familiar to FPS players,” allowing fans to rely on gunplay more than anything else.

“We kind of wanted to push for some really intuitive and almost ‘back to basics’ type of inputs,” game designer Ryan Cousart said. “An aspiration we have for KAY/O is that FPS players could take some of the common mastery they have acquired from other games, like throwing grenades, and apply them in an intuitive way to access the outputs of KAY/O’s kit.”

A big portion of KAY/O’s kit will feel familiar to longtime FPS players. The killer robot has a flash grenade (FLASH/drive) and can sling an “explosive fragment” (FRAG/ment) that sticks to the floor, explodes multiple times, and deals near-lethal damage at its center. But he offers something unique to VALORANT‘s competitive gameplay, forcing fans to essentially play Deathmatch mode and focus on shooting and shooting only.

KAY/O’s ZERO/point ability lets him throw a blade that sticks to the first surface it hits, winding up and exploding to suppress anyone caught in its radius. This ability was teased earlier this month when fans noticed a pulsing blade stuck in a Radianite crate on Breeze’s A site. KAY/O’s NULL/cmd ultimate lets him overload and pulse Radianite energy, suppressing enemies hit for a short duration while also granting him a combat stim. When overloaded from his ultimate, KAY/O gets downed and enters a destabilized state, allowing teammates to revive him as commonly seen in the battle royale genre.

The revive mechanic almost didn’t make it into KAY/O’s live iteration, according to Cousart. While some devs made the call to cut it from the robot’s kit, it was seemingly too fun to get rid of.

“As a bit of a send-off to the mechanic, I lowered the Ult Points to 5 and we just started doing these ‘rescue missions’ in our design playtest,” the designer said. “I distinctly remember going into the round-ups after the playtest just having the biggest grin on my face and us laughing about these missions and after a full two days of us having a bit of fun on it, we decided to keep the mechanic. After a few tweaks, the downed state gave us a big opportunity to give the KAY/O his killer robot fantasy, enticing him to move forward and kill, while creating a unique mid round objective if he was downed.”

Image via Riot Games

The killer robot should bring players back to their FPS roots, with some fun twists mixed in. And he’ll likely work well in tandem with a number of agents. An Astra Gravity Well, for example, can help pull enemies directly into the center of KAY/O’s FRAG/ment and potentially deal devastating AoE damage. And his suppression mechanic will nullify the kits of agents that rely on their abilities to make spectacular plays, like the Jetts and Vipers of the world. While it’s hard to tell what effect he’ll have on the meta, his impact on the game will become apparent after millions of players test him out on the live servers.

KAY/O enters VALORANT with Episode Three, Act One on June 22. Players can also expect a fresh battle pass, a free event pass to commemorate the tac shooter’s first birthday, and a slew of balance changes.

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