Previewing Vantage, Apex Legends’ first sniper character

With Vantage, Apex Legends’ newest character, the development team at Respawn wanted to really push the unique feel of a sniper-focused Legend — someone who can down another player at an unbelievable range. To accomplish this, respawn decided on giving her an ultra powerful rifle, not unlike the Kraber special weapon.

Bit of a problem with that though — Krabers are supposed to be ultra-rare in addition to being ultra-powerful. Krabers are so rare, it’s unlikely you’ll see more than one per match. If every Vantage had a Kraber, and every team had a Vantage, you’d see 20 Krabers floating around the map. The game would be unplayable unless you also played Vantage.

“One of the things the Kraber also has is potentially no warning,” Vantage lead designer Chris Winder said. “You could just be sitting somewhere, looking in a direction, and then be down. Or, if it’s a body shot, that’s quite a lot of damage. So we knew we had to do something about that.”

To facilitate some sense of fairness, the team experimented with a lot of different options. One attempt gave enemy players a voice line letting them know they were in a Vantage’s crosshairs. Another forced Vantage to require a lock-on before being able to fire.

“We tried a bunch of different mechanics around trying to communicate that ahead of time and give players a way to avoid that, or potentially mitigate that after the fact,” Winder explained. “Maybe it still does a lot of damage, but there’s a way to stop some of it after you’re hit in some way.”

Despite these attempts, nothing felt fair enough to non-vantage players. So they decided to switch things up — what if Vantage’s sniper rifles could only debuff enemies with slows, stuns or snares?

“You could imagine the debuffs we have, like slows and silences, and things like that, that we could try,” Winder says. “It could just debuff those targets and do some minimal amount of damage, but really just be about the debuff, and that’s the purpose of the Ultimate. I think some of those things worked from a gameplay standpoint – there was a loop around using it, and you understood why and your team understood what to do when those shots happened. But the thing we weren’t hitting at that point was the sniper fantasy. It didn’t really feel like you were holding a sniper rifle – it felt like you were holding a debuff gun.”

Heading back to the drawing board, the team struck what they feel is gold. Vantage’s current kit features the Ultimate ability ‘Sniper’s Mark’, which allows her to pull out a custom-built Sentinel rifle, fitted with a 3x/5x scope. Instead of waiting for full charges while scoped in, Sniper’s Mark has an ammo counter that counts up from one to five, letting the player choose when to fire. There also is a visual indicator on the scope that accounts for bullet drop, helping players aim this ultra-powerful weapon.

Sniper’s Mark deals 50 damage for a body shot, but any follow-ups that connect deal 100 damage, regardless of where you hit. The weapon also can benefit from headshot multipliers and rampart shields.

“The idea is that the first shot does some lower amount of damage – and we played around a lot with that number or what that initial damage should be – and that second shot is where you get that larger amount of damage,” Winder explains. “And again, we played around with that number.”

Practiced players will be able to capitalize on the first shot, but the way the damage works out allows players on the receiving end to respond, either via counter-attack or sliding out of danger. That may seem frustrating to people wanting to pick up Vantage, but don’t worry — Sniper’s Mark has a few tricks to it than just solid damage.

Anyone tagged by a shot from Sniper’s Mark will be, well, ‘marked.’ It’s not a visually obvious ping like Bloodhound’s scan, but it’s apparent enough to let your teammates know who to focus fire. Any shots landed from your teammates on the tagged enemy will deal 15% more damage — encourage pushing as a team.

Vantage as a whole seems designed for pushing and aggressive play when you examine the rest of her kit. Her Tactical ability, ‘Echo Relocation’, allows her to position her bat friend anywhere on the battlefield. So long as she maintains line of sight to Echo, she can soar to their location. Vantage can also cancel the relocation or double jump off the end of it. This opens up lots of new possibilities for aggressive and guerrilla tactics — hit and runs, flanks, and straight-up dogpiling onto opponents.

Her passive, Spotter’s Lens, allows her to view detailed data on enemy shields — rarity, team size and range. Vantage can then share that info with her teammates, allowing calculations on when exactly to push to be run a little more effectively.

“The original goal was really around encouraging long-range engagements,” Winder says. “Can we make a character who’s based purely around long-range? So the first versions of the kit didn’t have any movement, there was no echo, there was no tactical movement. You can end up too far from your team, or getting to high ground to make those shots can be a chore.

“Catching up or closing on a team when you have done those first few shots of damage is really difficult if you don’t have a character on your team that can help you do that. So that created that need to solve this problem, and Echo was it.”

Season 14 is titled ‘Hunted’, and with Vantage and Ash, we can see why. With a built-in enemy scan passive alongside Ash’s passive letting them know where death boxes are, we predict that this is going to be a very aggressive season in Apex Legends. Combined with the whole host of changes to King’s Canyon making areas more tight fit and close-quarters, as well as laser sight attachments announced for several close to mid range weapons.

So who does the development team see working well with Vantage? They have some thoughts on team composition: “A rampart setting up some shields for her to shoot through to amp that damage even further,” Winder says. “Ash is a good one, as you mentioned, or any other movement Legend – Octane with the jump pad or Pathfinder with his grapple and the zip line itself. As she is now, she doesn’t really need the mobility from other legends to get there. But the fact that those legends have the mobility to pounce on a team, those are going to be good combinations.”

With such aggressive kits, however, there will be a need to compensate. Shield-based and mobility-based Legends can also isolate and take out a Vantage easily, and we’ll definitely see a rise of shield Legends this season. In internal playtesting, the dev team already spotted some fantastic Vantage plays — taking out Octane while he’s soaring through the air, or popping enemies off of ziplines from a distance.

“I think that most impressive are the ones where they’re very deliberate in the flanking,” design director Evan Nikolich explains. “Like, you get suppressed, then you lose track of Echo, and then all of a sudden you’re getting shot. It’s like, ‘Oh, no, I have to reposition.’ So it’s like learning that new skill of knowing where Vantage is on the field. Now I have to respect her, but also where Echo is – where she could possibly be coming from. So yeah, some high-skill plays there.”

Apex Legends Season 14 hits the field August 9 — check out our hub article for every detail.

Written by Junior Miyai on behalf of GLHF.

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