Hot Drop is GameSpot's weekly Apex Legends column, in which Jordan Ramée takes a closer look at Respawn's battle royale to provide additional insight into the game's evolution, as well as dive deeper into its episodic storytelling and characters.
Apex Legends Season 14 is fast approaching, scheduled to launch on August 9, and add Xiomara "Vantage" Contreras to the playable roster. It confirms my long-held theory that Vantage would be the next playable character after Newcastle. Seeing her added to the Apex Games should make me happy--I was right after all. But if I'm being honest, I now wish I had been wrong. As cool as Vantage seems, I've since discovered there's someone far more interesting: her mom.
As seen in Stories from the Outlands: Survive, Vantage has been stranded on the planet Pàgos for her entire life, trapped in the snowy tundra alongside her mother, Xenia Contreras. Though Vantage is led to believe that she and her mother are both native to Pàgos, her trip into the bowls of a crashed ship called the G.D.S. Vantage unveils a startling secret: Xenia was a prisoner aboard the vessel, with G.D.S. standing for Gaean Detention Ship.
Ignoring, for a moment, that with Xenia and Vantage being Cuban-American, the Apex Legends team has written yet another Latina character to be a criminal--a too long-standing issue in video games, especially when it comes to hero shooters--Xenia is (so far) just a more interesting character than her daughter.
As Respawn describes in a press release, Xenia is a "wrongfully-convicted criminal." That's not all that big a deal when it comes to Apex Legends--we already have legends who were falsely accused for something, like Crypto and Seer. But Respawn has noticeably gone out of its way to not specify what Xenia was convicted of.
Every other criminal in Apex Legends' lore has had their crimes--whether they actually committed them or not--revealed pretty much immediately. And there's some heinous stuff in there between Caustic willingly gassing an entire room of scientists to test some pesticide, Revenant dropping a father down an elevator shaft so that he'd crumple into a bloody mess in front of his daughter, and Ash leaving a colleague to rot in a black hole for 88 years just to make a quick buck. There are a lot of bad people in Apex Legends' lore.
And yet, Respawn doesn't want us to know why people think Xenia is among them. What's so detestable about Xenia's crime that we've seen her in two trailers already (which is wild for what's currently amounting to be a side character), and the only hint as to the conviction's ramifications is Vantage asking her mother--in the Season 14 launch trailer--about it, saying, "Is...is it true? Did you do the things they said?" with a face that's been twisted with pain, repulsion, and fear.
There's clearly something there, something that Respawn wants to keep hidden for now. Already, my mind is racing through possibilities--many of which seem too far-fetched, but there are a few that could be promising.
My favorite theory has to do with where Xenia was imprisoned. Since Xenia was held on a Gaean ship, does her crime have any connection to Caustic, Crypto, or Rampart, all of whom also call Gaea home? There's a lot of interesting potential there, especially if Xania's story somehow links back to Rampart. Could Xenia have some sort of connection to Big Sister, the masked gang leader seen in Stories from the Outlands: The Endorsement, which first introduced us to Rampart? Though Xenia was seemingly wounded on Pàgos long after the events of The Endorsement, it is striking that her scratched-out eye now makes her face mirror the mask worn by Big Sister, perhaps implying some sort of unseen narrative connection. I think it's safe to say that it's impossible that Xenia is Big Sister--how could she have been at Rampart's shop on Gaea and stuck on Pàgos at the same time--but the similarities in their two "faces" is hard to ignore.
I could very well be wrong about that, obviously, but the fact remains that Xenia has a history that's interesting and mysterious and unknown and full of potential--there's a lot we don't know, and I personally want to figure it out. I'm not convinced the same can be said for her daughter, who can seemingly be summed up as, "a girl who was born in a snowy wilderness and has never met people beyond her mother before." Granted, you can make some fun storylines with that--it's like a kid who's home schooled being put into public school for the first time as a high school senior--but there's not much in the way of mystery or intrigue there. Vantage's past doesn't create a character who I desperately want to get to know.
And it's not just the past--Xenia's story has more potential to go in interesting directions in the future, too. As seen in the Apex Legends Season 14 launch trailer, she's being held in the same detention facility as Mad Maggie, who's currently working with Lifeline to bring down Torres Silva, Octane's grandfather, and the Syndicate, the governing body of the Outlands and overseer to the Apex Games. Could future seasons see an alliance between Xenia and Maggie?
Again, I could be totally off base there, but there's at least that possibility of something interesting happening, and that's something that Vantage's future seems to lack. Even if we don't know what it was, Vantage already knows about her mother's crimes so there's no mystery for her to solve there. And we know she won't stop competing in the games to raise awareness for the injustice of her mother's imprisonment because no legend's story can develop to the point that they leave the games and thus would need to be removed from Apex Legends' playable roster. The most intriguing thing to look forward to about Vantage--so far anyway--is seeing her fish-out-of-water storyline play out, though I suspect it will be reminiscent of Bloodhound's tales of their early life, given they were also a person largely secluded from the outside world who eventually joined the Apex Games.
Xenia is just being set up as the far more interesting character. And I have to believe that she'll develop into someone meaningful for Apex Legends' story because I refuse to think that Respawn hired someone like Krizia Bajos--who's lent her superb voice acting chops to shows like Arcane (Ximena Talis) and Carmen Sandiego (Lupe Peligro), as well as games like League of Legends (Akali), Batman: The Telltale Series (Renee Montoya), Legends of Runeterra (Silent Shadowseer), Eliza (Nora), and Prey (Mariana Arias)--to voice some character we're never going to hear from again. Bajos is amazing--she's the caliber of actor that Respawn typically brings on to voice a legend, not a one-and-done character. And the possibility of Xenia pulling an Ash or Maggie or Newcastle and going from side character to playable legend is far more exciting than anything I've gotten out of Vantage's characterization so far (Natalie Cañizares' delivery for Vantage is also stellar--all I'm saying is that Bajos is similarly talented).
And let me be clear: Vantage's abilities seem really cool and I love her bat-like companion, Echo. But being a cool legend to play does not an interesting character make, and I worry that Vantage is already a bit overshadowed by her mother. Everything that's interesting about Vantage from a lore perspective ties back to Xenia: Vantage grew up secluded from the outside world because her mom was a criminal in hiding, Vantage joined the Apex Games in order to bring awareness to her mother's wrongful conviction, and Vantage's big secret is hiding whatever her mom is accused of doing.
It's hard to grow invested in a character when the things that are most interesting about them are how their story is tied to the mysteries of another character. It's not like Loba's past with Revenant was the only interesting thing about her at launch--she accidentally destroyed Skull Town and then was hired by the Syndicate to travel to another dimension for some mysterious heist. And despite Newcastle being related to Bangalore, he had a story of his own too--he was secretly taking the place of the original Newcastle and joined the Apex Games to make enough money to pay back a gang threatening his hometown and family. Every previous legend was able to stand on their own two feet as someone who's interesting--the main character of their own personal story.
But not Vantage. Ahead of the launch of Season 14, she feels like a side character in her mother's story, a channel by which fans can learn more Xania lore. She doesn't have a story of her own. I assume Respawn has written one for her and we'll learn about it over the course of Season 14's Quest, but this is the first time I've ever gone into a new season where I wasn't excited to play as the new character and learn all I could about them because Respawn has done too good a job of making another new face far more interesting.
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