Is Icebox Viable For Competitive Play?
Icebox is the latest map introduced in VALORANT and features a wintry battlefield with a unique design that sets it apart from the other maps. However, this design has not been well received by all players. Many believe the map’s vertical elements make it hard to cover all angles and difficult to push sites. Others believe it is a fun map and that players will eventually get used to it.
Icebox made its professional debut during the First Strike: North American finals, but only two matches took place on the map. This still provided a brief insight into how the best players in the region approach Icebox and what strategies work at high competition levels.
Taking a look at Icebox and understanding what makes it different from other maps can help identify why many players avoid playing it when possible. Listening to feedback from professionals also highlights common complaints from the best players in the region and what could be changed to make it a better experience in a competitive environment.
The Vertical element
One of the most significant changes in Icebox is the vertical gameplay around the map. Both sites allow players to use elevated positions to cover areas accessible to both attackers and defenders. This is not a new concept as multiple maps feature elevated areas, but they are far more frequent in Icebox.
For example, players can cover B site from B halls, which is above the bombsite. Attackers can also boost on top of B tube in the middle of the map, which adds another angle for defenders to cover.
A site has even more elevated areas for players to use and is a stark contrast from previous VALORANT maps’ traditional design. This change is jarring to players who are used to the previous design, especially if they have experience in CS:GO.
However, not all players dislike the new design that features a heavy emphasis on vertical gameplay. Sentinels’ Shazeeb “ShahZaM” Khan shared his thoughts on Icebox and why he believes some players dislike the design: “We really like Icebox. I think it is a fun map to play. I know there is a lot of criticism for the map because it doesn’t play like other VALORANT maps, which play like Counter-Strike maps. It plays like a different game. The verticality of Icebox is not what people are used to, so I think that’s why people don’t like it. Personally, our team, we enjoy playing it very much.”
VALORANT needs to define itself as its own game, regardless of it’s similarities to CS:GO. The verticality of Icebox introduces unique strategies that specific Agents can use, but finding the balance is essential.
Too many angles?
Another common complaint about Icebox is how there are too many angles to cover when moving around the map. Many players have expressed their frustration with the middle lane that is difficult to use, especially when attacking.
Defenders can use the mid-boiler position, which provides an elevated view towards the attacker’s spawn. Defenders can also cover this area from B site, and B tube can easily be covered from B kitchen as it is a cramped corridor with one entrance.
Envy’s Pujan “FNS” Mehta expressed his frustration with the middle lane in Icebox in a recent interview with Hotspawn:
“I think there are too many angles, especially in mid. If they opened up the middle a bit and got rid of the tube, which I think is useless. There is no point in having it, especially in the middle of the map. I don’t think the tube should be in the middle of the map at all. It’s just blocking the entire middle part of the map. I don’t mind either site, but I think the middle of the map is completely scuffed. I think if they removed the tube entirely and got rid of the kitchen area and made the area something you could actually fight over in a manner that made sense, it would lead to a lot more engagements, which is just not the case right now. People are just staying away from mid in a lot of situations. Immortals hit A on us 12 rounds in a row. Even the teams we are scrimming don’t mess with mid that much because it’s too difficult.”
If one of North America’s best teams is noticing a trend of players avoiding the middle lane, there is likely an issue with the design. It should be difficult for teams to take parts of the map from defenders; they should use their utility effectively and work together to counter the defense. However, if it is almost impossible to take the area, and some teams avoid it altogether, the design should be reconsidered to make it more balanced.
Renegades’ Stephen “Berghy” Bergh also expressed his frustration with the mid-lane in Icebox and how he believes it will never be a popular option:
“Berghy: I don’t think that map will be preferred ever. I don’t think it’s a very good map; I think it’s very one-dimensional. You can’t really split from A to mid since they can just sit in their spawn and cover so many angles. It’s very open. Even A site, which I think is the better-made site, is not made very well. You can’t go B unless you play B because they can spam the plant if they are in position. If you want to go A, you kind of just have to run it down. I hope they figure out to reduce some of the angles on B and give you a plant spot that is actually safe that isn’t fully spammable. I definitely feel like they need to do a lot of work to get it to a good state.”
The multiple angles and vertical gameplay appear to be the main complaints from players. These are valid concerns, but fans should not give up on the map yet as there is still time for it to be updated and balanced.
The future of Icebox
Icebox might be considered one of the worst maps in VALORANT currently, but this can always change. Riot Games has updated other maps multiple times since the game was released. These changes helped balance gameplay for both teams and made the gameplay experience better in most cases.
Riot significantly adjusted Icebox in Patch 1.14 and balanced some of the vertical elements around the map. These changes should make taking both sites easier for attackers, and will hopefully alleviate some of the frustration.
Icebox’s unique design was a step in the right direction as it created the possibility for unique gameplay, but it needs to be improved. Some teams enjoy the map and what it has to offer, while others believe it needs an overhaul.
There are clear areas where Icebox needs to be adjusted, but players should not expect the same traditional design on every map. However, it should be possible for them to push towards objectives without worrying about an overwhelming amount of angles.
Riot Games will likely continue to monitor the map’s feedback and hopefully take it into consideration.