My favourite thing about Apex Legends is the movement. Most characters have some sort of fun or interesting way they can zip around the world, and now Respawn have finally introduced the best way to do that: a jetpack. The developers revealed the new Legend Valkyrie last week: she's the daughter of Titan pilot Viper, and she uses parts of his old Northstar mech to jet herself around. I got a chance to try her out at a preview event, and she feels brilliant. However, she has a lot of abilities on top of that rocket-fuelled goodness, so I asked the devs to quell some concerns about power creep.
But first! Playing Valkyrie is brilliant fun. As long as you have some jet fuel in the tank (a little meter pops up telling you how much you have, and it refuels automatically when you haven't flown in a while), you just have to double jump and you'll be up in the air. It's super satisfying, and incredibly useful if you wanna do a little scout ahead without having to find some high ground to climb up.
Abilities-wise, her ultimate allows her to grab her two squadmates and zoom way up into the air. Once she hits the apex of the jump, it turns into a skydive, just like when you first launch out of the dropship in a battle royale match. It's excellent for saving your squad from sticky situations, or rotating to a new part of the map.
Her tactical ability is a simple one, and a throwback to her dad's Titan. She can launch a small barrage of missiles in a rectangular grid pattern, kind of like a mini Bangalore ult. It doesn't do huge amounts of damage, but can stun enemies (like a slightly less powerful arc star blast), and is helpful for spooking squads out of hiding places. The missiles also deploy really quickly, so they're pretty good to use as a distraction if you need to run to cover.
Then we get to her passives. Obviously the big one here is her jetpack. She uses the reworked Northstar mech to boost herself into the air to reposition, scout ahead, or simply have a lovely time in the sky. It's not the sort of thing you wanna use to get into a fight - Valk's flying pattern is predictable, and when she reaches the ground again there's a short delay on getting her gun back out. She can use the tactical missiles while in the air though.
I really enjoyed using Valk in the new 3v3 Arenas mode, because at the start of each match I would zoom into the sky to catch which part of the arena the enemy squad would be running to. You have to be a little cautious doing this, as you can boost pretty far from your own squad, but it's easy enough to quickly drop down and wait for them. Or just hover over them a bit longer like a badass guardian angel.
Now, you might be thinking, "hey, that's a nice amount of abilities, what a cool jetpack lady!" But we're not done yet. On top of all this, Valk is a Recon character, which caught me by surprise during the preview. This means that, not only can she scan survey beacons to find ring locations, but she has another passive that allows her to spot enemies from afar. While in a skydive (from a jump tower, her ult or dropping in at the start of a match) enemies in her direct line of sight are highlighted (similarly to how Crypto's drone spots people). Squadmates skydiving with her can see this info too.
They're all really great abilities, it just seems like a whole lot of utility for one character to have. In an interview with some of the game's developers during the preview event, I asked if there were any concerns about power creep. Lead game designer Daniel Klein tells me they're focused on making sure character abilities don't completely control combat, though it is important to ship Legends strong, so they can be toned down in the future if needed.
"Abilities should shape the battlefield, force you to move one way or another, give extra info and so on. But then your skill using a gun is what decides if you live or die," he tells me. "There's a lot on Valkyrie that was built backwards from requirements - we knew she had to be built around a jetpack, so she's gotta have an ability that she can use from high up, so how do we make that work?
"My theory is that, while Valkyrie brings a lot, there are both sharp strengths and sharp weaknesses to her kit. While she has the ability to move very freely around the map and fly basically whenever she wants to, the sound reveals her position, she makes a lot of her body available to be shot, and there's a delay for when her gun comes back up. I am hopeful that there is enough counterplay baked into all these that it's OK she has this many."
It's early days right now though, she won't arrive at the Apex Games until May 4th. It'll be interesting to see how she fits into the roster once players have had a chance to give her a go. I can see Valk becoming a pretty essential pick given that her movement, recon and damage capabilities combine those of a few other Legends (and do them better in some regards). But truly, can we expect anything less of the daughter of an Apex Predator?
For the more lore-focused Apex fans among you, the game's senior writer Ashley Reed also mentioned to me that Valkyrie was born from the team's love of Viper. They didn't want to just copy him from Titanfall 2 (in Reed's words: "because obviously he's very very dead") or have his daughter be a clone. Instead, they chose to explore how they could incorporate some of the bits people loved most about him - which, you know, the Titan. It doesn't sound like we'll be getting proper Titans in Apex anytime soon mind you, but a jetpack made from one is a nice start.
If you'd like to find out more about what's coming up in Apex Legends' ninth season, Legacy, I had a chance to play a few matches of the brand new permanent 3v3 Arenas mode. It's very different to anything the game has done so far, and it's bloody fun as well.
Apex Legends' next season, Legacy, kicks off next week on May 4th.