There's More To Apex Legends' Ash Than Villainous Intent, Says Lead Writer
It sounds like Ash may skew a little bit more towards Caustic than Revenant on Apex Legends' antagonist scale.
Apex Legends Season 11: Escape has begun, adding Ash to the roster of playable characters as a new offensive legend. In terms of story, Ash is a narrative outlier--her condescending dialogue and cutthroat actions read as villainous, or at least antagonistic, towards the other legends. Respawn lead writer Ashley Reed has teased, however, that there's more to Ash than "villainous intent."
"Ash certainly comes off like a villain--she's cold, calculating, self-interested, and unforgiving," Reed told GameSpot over email. "She also has gripes with multiple other legends, some of whom don't even know she has it out for them. But there's more to her than just villainous intent--that's all I can say for now, but answers await in Season 11."
In terms of playable characters, Apex Legends doesn't have too many outright villains in its roster. Caustic was the closest the game had at launch, though his disposition softened when he became a fatherly figure to Wattson in Season 2: Battle Charge. Wattson--and to an extent, Crypto much later down the line in Season 9: Legacy--transformed how players viewed Caustic. He's not a good person by any stretch of the imagination, but he's not evil either.
Funnily enough, Respawn had in-game fans of the Apex Games competition undergo a similar change in perspective when it came to Caustic, with viewers noticing that Caustic had gone soft following Wattson's addition. So in the game's lore, that's one of the primary reasons the group that oversees the Apex Games, The Syndicate, uses for allowing Revenant to enter the competition--the games need a bad guy for fans to root against. And until Respawn writes in a compelling reason for me to think otherwise, that guy is actually super evil.
Ash presents as another Revenant, though perhaps more purposeful in her actions in comparison to his emotion-driven, murderous rampages. Her pet rat lends credence to this conclusion, driving home that Ash is results-oriented enough to keep a creature alive but not so warm or loving to give it a name. But it sounds like there's a lot more to this character and her antagonistic attitude than the cold simulacrum outer shell would imply.
Ash being a simulacrum was the other topic I wanted to discuss with Reed. In the Stories from the Outlands - "Ashes to Ash" trailer, we learn that the trauma of Dr. Ashleigh Reid becoming a simulacrum actually split her personality--the perfectionistic, results-oriented, power-hungry side of her became Ash while the intelligent but warm and vulnerable side of her became Leigh.
Reed confirmed that actor Anna Campbell voices all three, unifying the similar but largely different sounding personalities of Dr. Reid, Ash, and Leigh with one voice. And though Dr. Reid is (seemingly) gone, both the Ash and Leigh personalities are now in conflict for control of the mechanical form they both inhabit. Now that Season 11 is live and we can hear some of Ash's intro and kill quips, we can actually hear that while most have Ash speaking, a few have Leigh or both personalities speaking.
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For example, one of the intro quips has Leigh initially begging, "Listen to me, whatever you do-" before Ash cuts her off to say, "Don't get in her way." And one of the kill quips sees Leigh take over and angrily accuse the legend that Ash just killed, "You let her get you? You made her stronger!"
The last line in particular almost sounds like Ash is dissociating into the Leigh personality, like Leigh is an alter to Ash who can temporarily take over during especially emotionally triggering or traumatic moments (like, you know, a hectic gunfight during a blood sport battle royale). But even if that's the case, Respawn isn't giving Ash an identifiable diagnosis, like dissociative identity disorder (DID), based on her presenting symptoms.
"Ash does not have DID--that is a formal diagnosis, and she does not meet the diagnostic criteria for it," Reed said. "She has experienced a mental break due to her transformation into a simulacrum. Trauma can manifest in a variety of different ways, and we want to explore what that means, but don't want to claim to represent a specific condition."
Ash is the 19th playable character in Apex Legends, launching with five badass legendary skins. A close-range combatant, Ash's abilities make her a formidable hunter that can disorient and surprise enemy squads, especially if she's forming a simulacrum power couple with Revenant.
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