Apex Legends Mobile Season 2 has been going well, in large part due to the battle royale game's latest playable legend, Rhapsody. Like Fade, Rhapsody is described as a "mobile-first" legend, which means she's exclusive to the mobile spin-off of Apex Legends--at least for now. As a full-time DJ and part-time hacker, Rhapsody is an incredibly fun support legend, possessing powerful sound-based abilities that disrupt opponents and enhance her allies.
At the start of Season 2, many players--myself included--believed Rhapsody was put into Apex Legends Mobile as early as she was for her ultimate ability, Rowdy's Rave, which erects a flashing wall of light that blocks an opponent's sight and scans. It seemed like Rhapsody was a preemptive measure to keep Apex Legends' scan meta from popping up in Apex Legends Mobile. And although that meta did play a part in Rhapsody's design, that isn't the entire basis behind her design.
For context, the scan meta has been a hot topic in the Apex Legends community for years. Several characters have abilities that allow them to scan enemies and reveal their position through solid objects--it's essentially built-in wallhacking, and there's no means of countering it. As you might surmise, being able to see your enemy through a wall unopposed is an incredibly useful skill in a first-person shooter, encouraging squads to have at least one legend who can scan--like Bloodhound or Seer--in order to have a better chance at winning.
Dealing with the scan meta has become a complex issue, as scans have evolved with the addition of new characters. Ash's ability to reveal the position of a player's killers is considered a scan, for example, as is Fuse's ability to highlight all enemies caught in his ultimate ability, The Motherlode. Even two of the abilities for Apex Legends Season 14's new character, Vantage, are considered scans, though neither works through walls like most other scan legends. With no singular definition of what a scan is, a hard counter in the console/PC game for all scans would be grossly overpowered--explaining Respawn's hesitance to add an "anti-scan legend" to Apex Legends.
But in Apex Legends Mobile, where the only scanning legend as of Season 2 is Bloodhound, Respawn has an opportunity to dissuade that strategy from ever taking prominence by curating what type of scanning legends eventually make it into the game and what strategies are in place to counter them--counters like Rhapsody, the first true anti-scan legend.
"Rhapsody's ultimate is definitely some nice counterplay to many of the scan-based abilities out there," Apex Legends Mobile senior gameplay designer Jason Shifter told GameSpot. "We love when players find new ways to play in our game, so when we think of opportunities for new legends, we always look at current, past, and potential future metas. When Rhapsody was created, we wanted to fulfill the power fantasy of controlling sound. So the logical next step was to evaluate how her abilities would fit into the current dynamics and then decide how far to take it."
The Apex Legends Mobile team likes how Rhapsody has performed so far, embodying their philosophy of creating characters that make players feel powerful and clever. "She landed in the space that we felt was a healthy addition to the current meta," Shifter said.
The character has surprised Respawn too, as the team has seen data suggesting players are adapting her primarily outdoors-focused ability kit to fight indoors. And despite her role as a support legend, some players are using Rhapsody's abilities more offensively or to compensate for Apex Legends Mobile's current lack of recon characters.
"Players also utilize [Rowdy's Rave] to create a flanking opportunity to get to a more advantageous position," Apex Legends Mobile lead game designer Chad Wilson said. "We have seen teams coordinating with her to create a high mobility team paired with Octane's jump pads. We have also noticed players utilizing her [passive] ability to successfully track legends and becoming a low-key 'tracker' character. One cool tactic I've been seeing more and more is using her ultimate as a diversion tactic. Since players can't see if you're behind the wall, they'll often shoot through it thinking you're there even when you're not. It's the perfect way to get opponents to reveal their locations and catch them off guard when you appear out of nowhere."
I really like Rhapsody too, but I'm biased. I've wanted a sound-based legend in Apex Legends for years, though I always imagined they'd be more like an auditory variation of Mirage, tricking opponents with noise as opposed to holograms. It didn't take the Apex Legends Mobile team years to design and create Rhapsody so I sadly can't take credit for manifesting her existence, but it did take a while--the process of her creation took months.
"Each one of these legends takes a while to create, however, the exact length of time is determined by the number of new mechanics and ensuring there's enough time to iterate and refine them to ensure our mobile-first legends feel just as good as the other legends in the Apex Games," Shifter said. "But creating a new legend goes beyond just developing the character mechanics. We also need to create all of the supporting content our players expect for new legends: Perks, [cinematics], their backstory and lore. All of that work combined is easily over 10 months for each mobile-first legend."
When creating a character like Rhapsody, there's also the third-person perspective to consider. Apex Legends Mobile supports third-person play, and that means character models and abilities for new characters need to be designed in a way that players understand what they're doing and what's happening to them whether they're playing in first-person or third-person.
"Third-person [mode] plays a huge role," Apex Legends Mobile creative director Kevin Childress said. "It's a special Mobile-first feature that we need to celebrate, as it allows players to see themselves playing in the cool world we are building. [Rhapsody's drone] Rowdy was especially important here to establish third-person visual language and offer players something awesome to look at while running and gunning. We are always asking ourselves, 'How does it look in third-person? It needs to be awesome there too!' Not only are we reviewing the abilities--it includes everything from run animations, slides, idles, and even how each legend holds guns in unique ways based on their personalities."
Rhapsody also stands out in the Apex Legends universe's playable roster (composed of 24 faces if you count all the legends across both the PC/console game and mobile game) in terms of both her color scheme and abilities. Whereas many of the playable characters feature muted colors for their default skin, Rhapsody rocks a vibrant purple. Her abilities are also all incredibly flashy and noisy--it's hard to miss her presence in a match. Apex Legends has featured characters with outgoing personalities and obnoxiously obvious abilities before, but nothing quite like Rhapsody.
"Rhapsody's hometown is Kómma, which has strong cyberpunk designs and colors--purple being one of them," Apex Legends Mobile lead artist Bernie Kang told me. "We also wanted her color scheme to stand out amongst the existing legend lineup, so purple was an obvious choice for the team."
"Rhapsody's background is about performing concerts in an infamous nightlife city, which is both an auditory and visual experience, so we wanted players to feel like she could drop a massive party anywhere on the battlefield with loud music and dazzling lights," Apex Legends Mobile lead writer Mike Rosenthal added. "She bombards the senses as a strategy."
To ensure Rhapsody would be the best she could be, the Apex Legends Mobile team sought consultants while creating her. Written as a Vietnamese woman, the team wanted to ensure Rhapsody was designed accurately, and so Respawn formed a Community Council--which included, among others, the likes of G4TV host Gina Darling, Apex Legends streamer SamanthaKronos, ZA/UM writer Elise Trinh, and Respawn lead environmental artist Leah Augustine--to provide feedback on the character's look, mannerisms, and lore.
We hosted a Community Council while polishing off our latest @PlayApexMobile Legend Rhapsody—one of the many ways we try to ensure proper representation. Grateful for the feedback from Vietnamese women in our gaming community!— Karen (@kalyrical) July 13, 2022
Snippet from Gina on her experience from @G4TV ❤️ pic.twitter.com/5BXsw4L7o0
"Getting the cultural background right for a character is essential for us, and the most effective way to do that is to reach out to those with first-hand experience," Rosenthal said. "Our UXR team organized a council of Vietnamese women from the Apex community to provide insight into how to develop Rhapsody. Vietnamese members at EA gave us guidance as well. We also hired an incredible voice actress with a Vietnamese background [Xanthe Huynh] who really brought the character to life."
And, of course, the Apex Legends Mobile team works with the Apex Legends team in order to ensure the lore and backstory for the characters of both games can coexist in a way that makes sense. "We share our work and seek feedback during every step of development," Rosenthal said. "This helps ensure our new characters fit well within the established Apex universe."
Only Respawn knows whether that means we'll eventually see Rhapsody cross over into Apex Legends for console/PC, either as a playable legend or a character in a Quest. For now, she's a musical delight in Apex Legends Mobile and a bulwark against the scan meta.
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