Apex Legends devs on potential Ash buffs, underrated characters & the R99's fall from grace

Apex Legends devs on potential Ash buffs, underrated characters & the R99's fall from grace
Images via Respawn Entertainment

Written by 

Alex Garton


3rd May 2024 10:11

The Goliath Battle Royale that is Apex Legends is ever-changing, with major content updates bringing exciting additions to the table on a regular basis.

Managing and balancing everything inside the Outlands is a huge task, and it all comes down to the Respawn development team.

While blogs and patch notes provide a glimpse into their minds and the direction of the game, sometimes it's better to speak directly to the people who bring Apex to life.

At the Year 4 Split 1 Playoffs, I got a chance to sit down and chat with Lead Weapon & Loot Designer Eric Canavese and Game Designer John Larson about the potential for future Ash buffs, the R99's fall from grace, Solos finally coming to Apex, and who they believe is the most underrated character in the game.

Is Ash underpowered in Apex Legends?

Ash Apex Legends
Click to enlarge

We kicked off with none other than the Incisive Instigator, as Ash mains have been very vocal that they believe she's severely underpowered. Their biggest frustration is that in their eyes, she's only a step away from being brilliant, as long as the devs are willing to make the right changes.

So, I asked the devs whether they agree that Ash is a little underwhelming and whether they think the suggestion to increase the distance of the Ultimate is a viable buff.

"Yeah, I do agree with a lot of it, I don't agree that the answer is just make the range bigger on her Ultimate, I think her Ult needs to be snappy and it needs to behave how you expect it to behave when you're trying to close a gap quick on someone whose caught out or someone you've got low... there are cases where the targeting fails you," explained Larson.

"I think the Ash problem is more around improving consistency around a successful tether or around a successful Ult use case, I don't think it's just 'move the numbers up and pray', I think there's still some fundamental improvements that need to be made."

It seems like before any heavy-hitting buffs are applied to Ash's kit, the devs want to ensure every single one of her abilities is polished to see if that affects her power. If that isn't enough, maybe bigger buffs will be applied, but the idea of extending the range on her portal is not favoured amongst the Respawn team.

Was the R99 hit too hard with nerfs?

Apex R99 inspect
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A true classic in Apex Legends and a weapon that has completely dominated in past seasons, the R99 is one of the most iconic guns in the Outlands. However, the once king of the SMGs has been tossed to the wayside by players after a string of hefty nerfs.

Countless members of the community have deemed it unusable and useless now, so I decided to ask the devs whether they believe the R99 changes were a little too hard, and if they think it's still a solid choice for close-quarter skirmishes.

"It was meta for a long time, like it was the only SMG you could run and so, I think it's ok, it's a live game and we know it's not strong right now - I wouldn't say it's unusable, if you land on R99 on drop with light armour it's serviceable, but I am dropping it even for an Alternator," said Larson.

Canavese elaborated by saying "I'm happy with where it's at, not because I think it's the perfect balance but I'm happy with the ebb and flow of how our weapons rise and fall in terms of having an organic meta and again, if the R99 is same amount of good every season, you just get bored of running the R99, so yes I'm happy where it's at, does that mean it's going to stay where it's at forever? Absolutely not.

"We'll find the right times and the right ways to push it and pull it in the meta, so that it feels fun and engaging to run the R99 again, not oh they put two more damage on it now we have to run the R99, that's a really shallow way to get people to play with the different weapons, and we want to give them more organic ways to discover and find synergies with these weapons."

Newcastle is the most under-appreciated Legend on the roster

Newcastle Apex Legends running
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As a developer at Respawn, I imagine there are times when they're looking at the meta or the pick rates, wondering why a specific Legend isn't utilised more. We hear and see a lot of experimentation from the pros in the ALGS with unique Legend picks, but it's not very often that you get to hear which characters the devs think are heavily underrated.

I wanted to know which character they think is going under the radar and still has a lot of untapped potential heading into Season 21.

"Newcastle, Newcastle is tough to play so it's rare to find somebody who really understands the ins and outs of Newcastle, who can push Newcastle to the fullest extent of his kit and because of the difficulty around that expression, it's tough for him to get the respect that his name deserves," explained Canavese.

So, while the Heroic Defender was Canavese's pick, Larson opted for Ballistic and believes if the Bang and Bloodhound meta eventually fades away, there's a spot for the Refined Gunslinger at the top of the meta.

"If we see some Bloodhound and Bangalore stocks decrease, I think Ballistic can be primed to take on the Bloodhound role as the entry fragger and like pushing the pace of fights... I think he's a little slept on and held back by what players are familiar and comfortable with," said Larson.

Why was it finally time to bring back Solos to Apex Legends?

Wattson pink skin
Click to enlarge

For the longest time, Solos were deemed unfit for Apex Legends given the kit designs of the characters and the overall pace of matches in the Outlands. Despite countless requests, it was widely assumed Solos had been left in the dust and there was no chance of it making a return.

Well, that was until Season 21, where out of the blue the devs dropped the bombshell that a solo competitive experience would be coming back to the Outlands. So why is Solos back now and what changed behind the scenes for the dev team to pivot on their previous stance?

"Players want it, there's a hunger out there to try Solos, so I just think enough time has passed and we have matured as a team and the game has matured that it's like, let's see what it looks like now, why not give it another shot?" said Canavese.

"This does not signify a change in philosophy for how we're going to be designing our Legends or designing other parts of the game, it's always going to be Trios first, it's always a three-squad game, so even if Solos is a thing, we will never compromise that aspect of the game."

It's always amazing to get a chance to speak to the team that brings the game to life and to get their opinion on interesting topics, as well as changes the community want to see.

There's plenty to look forward to as Season 21 is just around the corner - let's hope Alter and the Broken Moon map changes to deliver on May 6.

Alex Garton
About the author
Alex Garton
Alex is a Senior Writer at GGRecon. With a BA (Hons) in English, he has previously written for Dexerto & Gfinity. Specialising in Call of Duty & Apex Legends, he loves (attempting) to improve his aim in competitive shooters and will always make time for a single-player RPG.
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