This year was one to remember for Apex Legends. The game reached heights in its player base and Twitch viewership that it hadn’t seen since the halcyon days of its release. A new permanent mode was added to the game in the form of Arenas. The newest battle royale map launched this year as well. And, of course, as with every new season of Apex, there came new legends.
The past 12 months brought four new playable characters to the game, and each shook up Apex Legends in their own way. But which characters’ releases broke the hype meter, and which ones were duds? Fear not, intrepid reader: here are 2021’s legend releases, ranked.
This feels like an odd one to put in last, since Valkyrie has arguably been one of the most successful new characters balance-wise to be added to the game. She didn’t feel overpowered on arrival but still carved out a niche in the meta and is a fun character to play. Her release itself simply felt a bit underwhelming, though, all things considered.
Valkyrie’s introduction was overshadowed by the introduction of the Arenas game mode. That’s pretty understandable. Arenas was the first new game mode Apex added to the game on a permanent basis, and not simply as a slight twist on the battle royale base game that would only be available for a couple weeks. It still feels like Valkyrie could have received a bit more love in the run-up to her introduction, however. Most legends introduced to the game get some sort of in-game teaser that players can interact with. There was the random appearance of Octane’s Jump Pad, players activating Horizon’s gravity lifts, and Loba’s teasers even ended with the game briefly teleporting players from a cleaned-out vault in World’s Edge to the Revenant simulacrum facility beneath Kings Canyon.
Valkyrie got a couple Instagram posts.
Yes, there was a great Stories from the Outlands about her and her unique place in Apex Legends and Titanfall lore. But every character gets cool introduction videos. The in-game teaser we got for season nine was ultimately for Arenas, featured a teaser for a different future legend in Ash, and an easter egg for yet another different legend in Seer, with the conspicuous moth graffiti on the wall in the Arenas teaser. Couple this with the not-insignificant server issues when season nine rolled out, and you’ve got yourself a lackluster character launch.
Seer’s launch was a good one, but not one without its flaws, and most of those flaws were confined to the character himself. The devs gave the character his due in-game, featuring teasers of his heart chamber players could find on Olympus and subsequent micro-drones forming Seer’s trademark moth symbol. The game even threw in an unlockable gun charm if players found the heart chamber in three different locations. Add this to some of the incredible animation for both Seer’s Stories from the Outlands, as well as the teaser videos posted to social media, and it’s clear that plenty of care and effort went into making players excited about Seer’s arrival in the game.
There was just one problem: Seer was a busted character. The infamous “Seer meta,” which lasted all of a week or two at the beginning of season 10, had players in fits. Sure, Seer was fun to play, in that it’s usually fun to play a character that is more powerful than other characters. The combination of his heartbeat sensor revealing far-off enemies and his tactical ability, Focus of Attention, providing players with a scan, enemy health bar info, 10 damage, a stun, a silence, and the ability to interrupt enemies reviving teammates and using health items turned out to be a bit too powerful to do with just one ability. And that wasn’t even his ultimate.
Strong characters are fun to play, but they’re also the characters that become unbearable to play against quickly. Seer was undoubtedly cool. The game assured in every possible way that he was very, very cool, and early on in the season he was an incredibly popular pick. But he had to be swiftly nerfed, and when he was, the hype around him died quite quickly. A good release foiled by some bad balancing.
Yep! It’s your old mate Fusey, coming in at No. 2 on the best character releases of 2021. That might seem a little odd, because Fuse simply wasn’t a very good or even popular character to play by the end of season eight when he was released. In fact, the amount of people playing him only recently overtook any of the other legends released this year, thanks to the number of people playing Seer falling sharply.
So why does Fuse rank this high on the list? Pretty simple, really: style.
Fuse’s entire modus operandi was incredibly clear from the start: his name is Fuse. He likes blowing things up. Every single decision about him the Apex devs made from then on stemmed from that simple fact, and the entire character release blossomed into a full-on eighties action movie theme for season eight. Fuse was the attitude, the look, and the style for the entire season. The gameplay trailer for the season was so good it almost made players forget that much of the season would be played on Kings Canyon.
Even then, the teasers and videos for Fuse went a step further. Even though Fuse wasn’t a character like Valkyrie or Ash, both characters fully invested in the Titanfall story, everything about Fuse was steeped in lore that held implications for everyone in the game. The in-game teasers, featuring balloons, fireworks, and in the final circles of non-ranked matches, randomly spawning Fuse ultimates, held lore implications with the planet Salvo joining the Syndicate. Players later learned this paved the way for Fuse to join the games. In Fuse’s Stories from the Outlands, players saw Mad Maggie for the first time, and the lifelong friendship between her and Fuse. This relationship didn’t just remain in the Stories from the Outlands, however. Maggie returned when the season launched, and it was explained that she was responsible for destroying much of the northern portions of Kings Canyon. Again, players found themselves chasing and being chased by Maggie in the season’s quest.
Every bit of information released and teased about Fuse in the run-up to his release became storylines the game explored and backstory for why certain things were happening in the game’s story. Fuse might not have been the most powerful character in the game when he was introduced, but his release was top notch.
Well, well, well, if it isn’t the character Apex teased in one form or another for an entire year and a half before actually bringing her to the game. Ash was always going to take No. 1 here. It’s difficult to imagine any universe in which Respawn wouldn’t give the iconic Titanfall antagonist her due—and boy, did she get her due.
Already a character with more history than any other in Apex Legends outside of Kuben Blisk, Ash’s build-up was a slow burn for the ages. Players literally rebuilt her in The Broken Ghost, which also served both as an introduction to the game for quests and as a teaser for yet another map: Olympus. Players then got to see Ash again, interacting with Pathfinder and Kuben Blisk in season six, while some players picked up hints on the character design of a certain prominent doctor in Horizon’s backstory. Season eight’s Arenas teasers again featured Ash heavily, until the final teaser of the season revealed Ash as the organizer of the Arenas competition. She popped up yet again in season nine’s Legacy Antigen quest, interacting with Horizon and dropping somehow even more hints until, finally, most everything players suspected about Ash was confirmed with the teasers featured in season 10 and Ash’s Stories from the Outlands: Ash was in fact Dr. Ashleigh Reid at one point, and she would be coming to the Apex Games.
We don’t want to belabor the point, but it all bears repeating: Ash feels, in many ways, like the culmination of an act. Most character teasers are short, simple, and to the point. Ash’s introduction to the game was a Greek epic: the rise and fall of Ashleigh Reid, the forging, breaking, and re-forging of Ash, the triumphs and deep tragedies of her story, it’s all in there.
And, more than that, Ash was the lens by which so much of the Apex story was told. Despite not even being a character you could play in the game, she influenced and actively altered several characters’ storylines.
The smooth release of season 11 and Ash being a fun, yet not all-powerful character only serves to reinforce the point that Ash’s release was simply the best legend release of 2021. From lore and teasers to quests and gameplay, Apex has been waiting for Ash. Now, she’s here, and the entire game feels like it has reached both a high point, and something of a cliffhanger. Now that the character that’s seemed most destined to become a legend is in Apex, where does the game go from here? What does 2022 hold for players and characters alike?
If the last year of Apex Legends has taught us anything, it’s to be ready for anything, and anyone.