A lonely thief looking for revenge. A soldier that held said thief in contempt. A pilot falling for the thief at first sight. All of these tidbits are enough to send some fanfic writers into a furious overdrive, but Apex Legends goes further than that. Where meeker games would leave a love triangle like that hidden in the subtext, or as fodder for media outside of the game, Apex Legends puts its queer interactions on display during gameplay.
Beyond voice lines and interactions, Apex Legends has a bisexual character, a pansexual character, a nonbinary character, a gay character, and a lesbian character. More importantly, however, is that Apex Legends smartly weaves queer dialogue into the gameplay elements themselves. Blizzard suddenly announcing Tracer’s sexuality and expanding on it primarily through supplemental material to the game this is not. Rather than one throw-off line a character may have on one map, Apex almost requires players to listen to the chemistry between characters.
When using Apex’s patented ping system, every character has special voice lines to draw attention to something, and other players get the opportunity to agree with them or thank them as follow-up. Both Bangalore and Valkyrie have special interactions with Loba using this system, and she with the two of them as well. If you’re playing Loba and Valk, Bang and Loba, or all three together, you’re almost certainly going to hear at least one line–unless you refuse to ping at all.
While I’ve described their roles in passing, let’s dig in a little deeper, shall we? Loba, Valkyrie, and Bangalore–the three characters at the heart of this love clash–have a back-and-forth going throughout the storyline that occurs not only in the supplementary comics available in-game, but also through dialogue interactions available during actual gameplay. Apex doesn’t tuck queerness away somewhere where its core audience might miss it. Instead, Respawn weaves queerness into the characters while they fight for their lives, bickering and bantering with each other even outside of pings.
The main character at the centre of this whole emotional kerfuffle also happens to be my favourite: Loba Andrade, a charming thief introduced in season 5. I could sit here and tell you about the lore-specific thing she pilfered at the time, but with lines like “I’m a maneater and a ladykiller,” the real story is that Loba swiftly stole the fandom’s heart. While there are some criticisms about Loba as a hypersexual Latin character that I can see as valid, there’s also something wonderful about the way it’s expressed in game. Loba has a gamut of lines where she calls everyone beautiful regardless of how they identify, and she’s flirty despite who is on her team. You get to wield that power as a player; her effortless ability to flirt with men, women, non-binary characters, and even the robots in the game. Many interpret these enigmatic lines as asides on her orientation, something that a Respawn writer all but confirmed on social media.
You all are discovering all our secrets… 😈 https://t.co/m4bzaszHCW— Tom Casiello (@tommiecas) May 12, 2020
Perhaps Loba was always destined to command your attention: writer Ashley Reed shaped her to be a Catwoman-style character with Batman’s backstory. The idea was to mix tragedy with charisma. Like Batman, her parents were murdered when she was young. The killer happens to be another character in the game, but Loba has beefs with other characters too. The most vocal of these dissenters, and another vertex of the love triangle, is ex-soldier Anita “Bangalore” Williams. It’s a grade-A opposites attract situation when you compare Bangalore’s adherence to The Rules versus Loba’s self-serving ways. An old and arguably overused dynamic, but any time the two start fighting? The chemistry is undeniable. Thus began the fan shipping.
Another thing that started happening during season 5, transition loading screens would show Bangalore over-analysing Loba. These would appear when loading into matches, and immediately set a disdainful tone between the two. She didn’t trust Loba. Loba the charmer, with her perfect exterior–if these sound like a middle school journal, that’s because this is obviously a crush. At least, if you ask shippers.
Enter the season 5 event quest: The Broken Ghost. The storytelling rolled out between chapters as written passages and quests for players to complete, and these quests allowed a squad to go to King’s Canyon to play out an objective and recover a relic. Once all hunts were completed, a final would unlock.
The story explains this as Loba gathering everyone to help acquire an artefact, and offering them anything they want in exchange for it. Things escalate from there. One character gets blown up (and lives), while others argue over the consequences of their actions. Then, we’re given insight to Loba’s true goal: locating the source code of Revenant, the man who killed her parents, and finally ending his cybernetic existence.
Convinced Revenant knows of her plans and wants to put a stop to them, Loba is shown to set off after him alone. Bangalore, concerned, follows after her in secret. Responsibility weighs heavy on her shoulders, pushing her to help despite their differences.
Voice line interactions between the soldier and the thief changed after season 5. They pick up on each other’s mannerisms and speech patterns, with Bangalore adopting Loba’s penchant for flowery language (like agreeing to things by saying “beautiful,” or “lovely”), and Loba using military confirmations (like “solid copy” or “roger”). The two got closer after Bangalore helped Loba with Revenant, enough so that he even comments on it, at one point mentioning the bonding nights they have together. Four seasons pass with the two on friendly terms, bantering when they’re on a team and generally being nice to each other. Bangalore also constantly refers to her as “girl” when responding to her gratitude in-game. Her “you’re welcome” lines are replaced instead with her saying things to Loba like, “Don’t worry about it, girl,” and, “Hey, this squad needs you, no thanks necessary.” She drops her voice to deliver the lines, and I find the delivery pretty hilarious overall, if not slightly flirty.
Then, during 2021’s season 9 comic and gameplay, a catalyst appeared in the form of a new character: Kairi “Valkyrie” Imahara.
Plenty happens here, but the condensed version is this: the tone starts off light-hearted, with flirting and Loba’s quips about going on a date, but that shifts quickly. A plant causes Bangalore to fall ill, and without help, she’ll die in 72 hours. Naturally, Loba sets out to find the necessary ingredients to save her life with the aid of familiar legends–and one new one. After rescuing Loba from a fall, Valkyrie opts to team up with the thief and finds the necessary components with her aid.
Once the action dies down, the melodrama returns. On her way to Bangalore’s hospital room, flowers in tow, Loba overhears Bangalore insisting that Loba is just a friend. Crushed, she makes her way to Valkyrie’s side. Revenant looms here as well, of course, watching Loba and Valk and pondering on which girl will steal the thief’s heart–before Revenant steals their life.
This brings us to season 10. A new season means new interactions, and as a player that pings a lot of things to mark them on the map for other players, I heard the season 10 interactions constantly. There’s tension between Valk and Loba, where the former wants something serious and Loba initially seems content to simply flirt.
Meanwhile, Bangalore wonders where Loba is, why they haven’t talked, and the thief insists they’ll always be friends. She’s distancing herself from Bangalore after she got hurt, without telling her about what she overheard. It’s a classic avoidance tactic, and it’s hilarious to listen to these two pine and pout while trying not to be shot in the head.
Bangalore and Valkyrie have lines together as well, which are ostensibly about things like a rivalry and soldiers but mostly, the interactions come off like denials of something else entirely. Even Revenant gets in on the action, administering taunts to Valkyrie in particular whenever he can. (“Think Loba’d be mad ya helped me, girlie?”)
Apex Legends is currently in Season 11. Ultimately, it’s unclear where things will go from here. Tom Casiello’s last piece was the Antigen comic, dropping a bomb in-between what a lot of folks already viewed as a budding will-they-won’t-they crush. Revenant’s promise to kill those that Loba loves is a potential issue, but while Bangalore is aware of this, Valkyrie isn’t. Lucky for Loba, that information doesn’t seem to matter. On October 29, the official Apex Legends Twitter posted the following:
Ready for takeoff. pic.twitter.com/HJYjZbcq5I— Apex Legends (@PlayApex) October 29, 2021
While this naturally ignited some debates among shippers, I found it grand for the developers to post this on the main account. Regardless of how things go, this is still a AAA game exploring romance between three women, which is something unprecedented. It also seems like they’re genuinely pairing Loba with Valkyrie, and recently even posted a comic where it seems like Bangalore and Revenant may be working together after Anita feels side-lined.
An offer she just can't refuse… pic.twitter.com/LtAPgHbcJR— Apex Legends (@PlayApex) January 19, 2022
There may be an argument about how this part of the story shouldn’t matter in a game about grabbing as much equipment as you can and shooting people. But as a lesbian woman of colour, this is an element that’s gotten me further invested in Apex Legends. Representing queer courtship in all of its messy glory, regardless of how cliché and dramatic it may be, sets Apex Legends apart from other Battle Royales.
It’s also just really funny that the interactions are all but unavoidable when any of these girls are on a team together, unless you simply refuse to ever ping items or thank people for pinging something for you. Keep it up, Apex Legends. You’ve at least got one entertained spectator in me on your side.