A year and a half ago now, when I was working for Cybersport, I wanted to expand on my esports knowledge. My reasoning was that by diversifying my writing, in terms of the games I cover, I'd be more attractive in the marketplace. So I set off to find that one game, that we didn't already cover, that would have a bright future. Everyone I asked kept giving me the same advice. It didn't matter if I was talking to esports personalities, sponsors, or just event staff. They all said: get into Rainbow Six Siege. A game I, at that point, hardly knew existed. This is the story of how a, admittedly somewhat disingenuous, career move turned into a new passion. And I hope I can convince you to watch the Six Invitational that starts this weekend. (It's their version of TI).
In competitive Siege, the game mode is called "bomb". It's a slight variation of the standard CS:GO mode. Except in Siege the defenders are the terrorists and the attackers are the anti-terrorists. The defenders have planted two bombs on the map and the attackers needs to make their way to one of those two sites and plant a defuser. After (if) that has been achieved, the attackers needs to defend it for a period of time.
The main difference is that while the bomb sites are pre-determined, the defenders can choose between four pairs of these. There are also rules which prevent defenders from selecting the same two sites over and over (as some are easier to defend than others).
A standard game is best of 12 rounds. Meaning you play 6 rounds on defense and 6 on attack. First to 7 rounds win.
A bit more complex
I think one thing that unites everyone who likes esports is that we had sort of a sadistic side. In order to pick up Dota, LoL, CS:GO, Apex Legends, etc. etc. etc. you accept the fact that you're gonna suck for the foreseeable future. Hell, I'm 3500 hours into Dota and I'd still say I suck, even though I'm average judging by the MMR curve. But it's all worth it for those small improvements. Since the games are so hard, even slight improvements feel like a massive achievement. And let me make this clear from the start: Rainbow Six is fucking hard. There are a plethora of reasons for that but I'll go over the main ones:
Destructable walls and floors
Most walls and floors in Rainbow Six can be interacted with. You can destroy walls to create new paths and angles. You can punch them to create kill holes. You can shoot floors to create a new angle from above. There are even more advanced techniques that I won't be getting into here.
Walls that can be destroyed are referred to as "soft walls". Walls that can't be are "hard walls". You can turn a limited amount of soft walls into hard walls.
To prevent attackers from just blowing up every wall, you can reinforce walls. Every operator can reinforce two wall units. (A wall unit is not a full wall but rather a horizontal section of it). This is one of the most important strategic assets for the defenders in Siege. You don't want to fully fortify a bomb-site. Mostly because that leaves the other bomb-site unprotected and, if the attackers manage to take the heavily fortified site, it's hard to re-take.
Operator choices matter
All operators have varying amounts of armor and speed. You have 1/2/3 armor and 1/2/3 speed. These two combined always adds up to 4. So if you have 3 armor, you have 1 speed, for example.
More armor = tankier but slower and you make more noise as you move around.
More speed = quicker and quieter but you can't take as much damage.
They also have a gadget or a skill that makes them stand out. Some attackers can blow up a small number of reinforced walls. Others can quickly open up soft walls. Some can flush you out of a corner or destroy defenders gadgets. You also have defenders that can give you more information through cameras. Or that can prevent you from pushing down a hallway for a few seconds. It's all very complicated but I think that we, as Dota fans, can understand the importance of picking good operators.
We talked about the destructible environment before. This means that you have an insane amount of angles to worry about, and they're never set in stone. In CS, when you enter a site, you know to check certain corners. You can't do that in Siege. Because not only could someone have created a kill hole, they could've created a kill hole right above where you enter. This multi-floor design is a big part of Siege and it's why you rarely attack a bomb-site head-on. Usually, you try to gain vertical control, so you take the floor above or below the bomb-site first.
Attackers also have two remote-controlled drones. These drones are ALWAYS sent in first to scout the room you're about to enter.
Aim doesn't matter (as much)
All of the above points combine into this one point: Aim doesn't matter as much as in other FPS games. Strategy matters way more. I am a poor aimer but I can keep my K/D ratio at a decent level simply by positioning myself better than the enemy team.
I'm a sucker for storylines. For example, I think that OG's journey to their first Aegis is soooo much more interesting than how they played. And you have plenty of storylines for Six Invitational this year. Here are a few:
The fall of G2
Siege esports is still in its infancy, in a way. Yes the game has been out since late 2015 but I prefer to see the 2018 launch of the new pro league, with longer online group leagues being introduced, as the true start of the game. And ever since then (a bit before too), the current G2 roster has been at the top of the standings. To me, they're to Siege what NaVi was to Dota in the early years. A team you can always count on being close to the top. Or they used to be.
Ever since their win at SI 2019, G2 have started to fall off, and they know it. They've made three roster changes in the last year, one lasting only a little bit over 2 months but it hasn't really helped. They didn't actually qualify for SI2020 but was given a direct invite from Ubisoft (after all other teams had qualified). So this is a big tournament for them. They will either bounce back and place near the top, or fall out early. If they go out early, it can be seen as the end of an era.
The new wave of EU teams
The European region, that G2 belongs to, haven't spent much time mourning their downfall, though. EU has always been the strongest region in Siege but this year has just been nuts. Over the last two seasons, four new teams have managed to qualify for the EU Pro League (there's a promotion/relegation system) and all four of them have proven to be competitive at the highest level. Two of those teams, BDS and NaVi, will be in Montreal and expectations are high!
On top of that, you also had Team Empire qualify three seasons ago and they've already won the global Pro League finals. While it's impossible to pin down a heavy favorite, Team Empire is the closest you'll come.
LATAM and NA's outsiders
EU has been dominant in Siege. In the four seasons of the modern Pro League, a European team has won three times. That doesn't mean that other regions don't pose a threat here at SI. TSM's North American roster has shown incredible results as of late, topping the NA Pro League at the moment. The other three NA teams, DarkZero Esports, Spacestation Gaming, and Team Reciprocity are also teams that have shown flashes of brilliance and can, under the right circumstances, go deep.
Latin America, or Brazil rather, is the region that probably has the most passionate fans. The game is HUGE in LATAM. If you don't balieve me, check out this aftermovie from the S8 finals, that took place in Rio de Janeiro. LATAM has some solid teams and are represented by Team Liquid, FaZe, NiP, and MIBR. As much as it hurts to say, FaZe are probably the best team from the region right now but all four have shown that they can be huge threats.
The APAC dark horses
Moving away from the big boys, it's time to look at the two underdogs. The APAC region has improved consistently over the last couple of seasons but any of these teams even making the finals would be a huge upset. Wildcard Gaming is a new roster that I, if I'm to be honest, know very little about. Fnatic, on the other hand, has been the most stable team in the region over the last couple of years. I'm not sure of their current form but they've created upsets before.