VALO2ASIA sat down with former CBT Gaming and current FPX player Zhang “BerLIN” Bo-lin to discuss various topics.
CHINA – In an interview after the end of VCT LOCK//IN, Zhang “BerLIN” Bo-lin spoke on his time playing in the HK/TW region throughout the first two years of VALORANT and getting a fresh start on FunPlus Phoenix (FPX).
If you followed the Southeast Asian VCT circuit in 2021, you might come across the name BerLIN, as he played for Taiwan’s CBT Gaming, which made it to the top eight of the 2021 VCT Southeast Asia Stage 3 Challengers Playoffs. BerLIN was even part of the team’s slogan, “送柏霖去柏林,” which means “Send Bo-lin [BerLIN] to Berlin.” To provide context, the top two teams from that tournament would qualify for Masters 3 Berlin.
After the 2021 season ended, the Taiwanese player joined FPX ZHUQUE, which was one of two FunPlus Phoenix rosters at the time. The first roster was the EMEA team that won Masters Copenhagen last year, with most of the players now playing for Natus Vincere. The second roster was an academy team based in China that competed at the highest level of domestic competitions.
After improving significantly in the latter part of the year and winning the local FGC VALORANT Invitational 2022 Epilogue tournament with a 3-1 victory over EDward Gaming, FPX ZHUQUE was promoted from the academy team to become the only FPX team that exists in VALORANT today following the departure of the main roster.
Going into 2023, FPX entered VCT LOCK//IN with modest expectations, aiming to gain more experience in their first-ever international tournament. However, their journey in Brazil was short-lived as they were eliminated by their first opponent from EMEA, Karmine Corp, in the single-elimination tournament. It was not without a fight, though, as FPX managed to win the second map before being defeated in the last and final one.
Upon the team’s return to China, we had a conversation with BerLIN to discuss his performance in the tournament, delve deeper into his transition from the APAC circuit in HK/TW to the emerging China circuit, and gain insight into the future of VALORANT in China.
VALO2ASIA: Can you describe your experience playing in your first international LAN tournament at VCT LOCK//IN?
BerLIN: I was very excited and looked forward to it. During the training, I also encountered many strong teams I had never competed against before and learned a lot. Although the competition did not go as smoothly as expected, I gained a lot of experience in the process of competing with opponents. The feeling of participating in an offline competition for the first time was very good. The stage was very massive and cool, and the audience was very enthusiastic. I hope to have more opportunities to participate in events like this in the future.
VALO2ASIA: Can you explain your experience joining one of China’s most famous esports organizations – FPX?
BerLIN: FPX has achieved good results in many other esports titles. I just joined a large organization and look forward to delivering a great performance here.
VALO2ASIA: Was it hard to reach the top of the scene in HK/TW? What advice would you give to the players starting out in the scene there?
BerLIN: When I was playing in the region, I felt that things were going pretty smoothly. However, it’s been a long time since I last played there, so I’m not very familiar with their current situation. But I believe they have also made a lot of progress.
The thing that the players there lack the most is experience and team synergy. If I were to give advice, it would be for the players to put in more effort when it comes to team coordination, map understanding, and developing a sense of game awareness.
VALO2ASIA: As the new FunPlus Phoenix roster, do you feel the pressure to perform and achieve the same level of success as the European FPX roster did last year?
BerLIN: I don’t feel pressure in this regard, but carrying the name of FPX does give me a bit of self-imposed pressure. I will strive to follow the examples set by the previous players.
VALO2ASIA: Having competed in the Chinese and APAC circuits in HK/TW, what were the biggest cultural differences you observed among players or teams?
BerLIN: The playing style in the Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau region is more similar to the DRX style, with an emphasis on coordination, slower pacing, and the massive usage of utilities. The prevailing style in China is generally more individualistic, focusing on individual play and skill sets in aim duels.
However, this is just my personal opinion, and there may be some variation in playing styles depending on the teams and players.
VALO2ASIA: Aside from gaining in-game experience, what was your most memorable moment from playing at VCT LOCK//IN? Did you make new friends there?
BerLIN: When I was streaming in Brazil, there were many Brazilian fans who came to cheer me on, and it felt great. During training sessions, I also had the opportunity to meet many famous players, such as ScreaM, and playing against them on the trip was a memorable and impressive experience for me.
VALO2ASIA: Historically, China has always been at the forefront of the CS:GO in Asia, alongside Korea and, recently, Mongolia. Do you believe that the Chinese region will surpass Southeast Asia this year when it comes to results?
BerLIN: While there’s no guarantee for this year, I’m confident that the future will be bright for Chinese VALORANT. China has access to more resources and a better esports ecosystem, which will foster the development of more outstanding players. With time, Chinese players will gain more experience and continue to catch up with the rest of the world.
FunPlus Phoenix are:
- 🇨🇳 Zhang “AAAAY” Yang
- 🇹🇼 🇹🇼 Zhang “BerLIN” Bo-lin
- 🇨🇳 Tang “TZH” Zhehao
- 🇨🇳 He “WudiYuChEn” Cai
- 🇹🇼 Huang “Yuicaw” Yung-chieh
- 🇨🇳 Deng “NaThanD” Senqiao (Coach)
- 🇨🇳 Li “Billyo” Xinyu (Coach)
Cover photo courtesy of Lance Skundrich/Riot Games