To the dismay of many of my friends, teammates, and colleagues, I bought VALORANT’s first Ultra Edition skin line: the Elderflame Collection.
Yes, I paid almost $100 to fulfill my Game of Thrones fantasy and harness the power of dragons. But if there’s a silver lining in this, aside from wielding badass skins in-game, it’s that I can deliver my honest take on the collection before you spend your shekels.
You’re literally wielding freaking dragons
From an aesthetic standpoint, the Elderflame skins are fire (sorry). The developers clearly put a lot of time and effort into designing them so that they’re worthy of the hefty price tag. And giving each weapon its own quirky personality makes them feel alive.
The Elderflame Collection includes cosmetics for the Frenzy, Judge, Vandal, and Operator, with the melee weapon, spray, gun buddy, and player card thrown in for “free.” And while you might unlock the skins by paying that precious VP, players still need to shell out Radianite to upgrade each one’s animations, VFX, and variant skin colors.
What’s truly enthralling about the entire skin line is how the pricier a weapon gets, the more mature the drake you’re wielding looks. Each gun has its own unique personality, with the inexpensive Frenzy being the annoying little sibling and the pricey Operator being the sage grandparent.
The Frenzy is a small dragonling that’s eager to fight. And it’s animations perfectly capture its personality, showing off impatience and loyalty at the same time.
“As the baby of the brood, a panicky ‘gimme gimme’ reload felt just right,” Riot said in a blog post. “[Senior animator Sean] McSheehan also utilized the Frenzy’s tail so it felt as if it were scurrying into the player’s hands.”
The Judge is the “brute of the bunch,” according to Riot, and has a beefier body and a thicker head. Instead of pleading for a reload, the teenage-like drake seizes the magazine with its mouth and crushes it.
Since the Vandal is one of VALORANT’s most popular weapons, many players acquiring the Elderflame bundle will put plenty of game time into the assault rifle—and it doesn’t disappoint. Lava leaks from its mouth, it roars when you cock it, and it looks clean when aiming down sight.
And the Operator is extremely well designed. The drake is stoic and wise, calmly accepting the magazine during the reload animation and leaving behind the fire-breathing theatrics seen from its younger relatives. Its glorious wings meet to create a spectacular scope that looks like an intergalactic gemstone and its long neck is interesting without being awkward.
This natural progression in personalities offers more than just a decorative and tasteful look. You can relate to each weapon’s temperament in one way or another, making the gun come to life and allowing you to connect with it on a more personal level.
Is a pet dragon worth the potential distractions that come with it?
Let me preface this section by saying the Elderflame Collection doesn’t appear to give the purchaser any sort of competitive advantage. Riot has made it its mission to never compromise competitive integrity for a cool-looking skin.
When the Prism Operator skin was released, for example, a VALORANT player discovered that it offered an unfair advantage when scoping in and setting material quality to low.
The bug gave players a larger field of view in comparison to other Operator skins. Riot quickly swooped in, fixed it in the next patch, and claimed not to be “selling power” with its “cosmetic content.”
That being said, players who buy the Elderflame skins might find the over-the-top animations distracting.
A side-by-side comparison of pulling out the level-three Elderflame Vandal to the Standard Vandal shows some stark differences. The dragon pounces out and leaves a fiery trail from its mouth, taking up a considerable amount of the center of your screen. The Standard Vandal animation covers the right side of your screen but leaves the center open.
And the stellar reload animations are so badass that it’s impossible not to look at them. When switching out magazines on the Operator, the dragon crushes the ammo in a fiery burst and looks back at you waiting to be fed another. Pitting that against the standard Operator’s reload animation, it’s not even close.
But for a competitive tac-shooter, boring isn’t necessarily bad. With so much riding on the ability to kill your opponent first, you don’t want to be thrown off by a fire-breathing dragon menacingly looking back at you and roaring—especially when there’s Raze rockets and Phoenix flashes to worry about.
It’s possible, however, that you’ll get used to all the flashy bells and whistles over time or that it doesn’t bother you at all. And this can simply be chalked up to preference. You don’t have to use the animations, you don’t have to use the VFX, and you certainly don’t have to buy the skins.
It’s unlikely that any player, myself included, would handicap themselves in any way just to flex on their teammates. But making a $90 non-refundable investment on something you’re unsure of requires research and thought.
The big dragon in the room
By far the most controversial thing about the Elderflame Collection is definitely its inflated price.
The bundle costs 9,900 VP, which isn’t even a purchasing option from the store. Players are forced to buy 11,000 VP instead, which runs you about $108 with tax. The good news is that players can save the remaining 1,100 VP for next season’s battle pass. But it’s still a lot more expensive than bundles offered by other titles.
Last year’s Batman Caped Crusader Pack in Fortnite, for example, included two outfits, two back blings, a pickaxe, and a glider for $19.99. Similar to VALORANT, Fortnite is a free-to-play game and it pumps out cosmetics frequently.
But the ultimate counter-argument to the Elderflame Collection’s price is that you don’t have to buy it. VALORANT is a free game with no pay-to-win mechanics, similar to League of Legends and Teamfight Tactics. So players can sit back and wait to pick an Elderflame skin up from a fallen player’s corpse.
Consensus: Should you buy the Elderflame Collection?
The obvious answer is it depends.
The Elderflame Collection includes two insanely popular guns in the Operator and Vandal. And even though the Frenzy’s usage probably spiked when the bundle dropped, players typically opt for a Classic, Ghost, or Sheriff instead. The Judge is the superior shotgun, but it’s still situational depending on the agent you’re playing and the map.
For players who frequently use all four weapons, the bundle is definitely worth it. And the upgraded knife is gorgeous. But if you’re interested in only one of the items, purchasing them individually might be the better option.
Keep in mind, each Elderflame gun on its own costs 2,475 VP ($25) and the knife is priced at 4,950 VP (about $45). So splurging for the entire bundle is more cost-effective than picking up two or three individual items—and Riot throws in a couple of more cosmetics.
But if you’re worried about being distracted or aren’t a huge fan of dragons (whoever you are), then don’t be afraid to skip it and wait for another bundle. There will definitely be more.