Apex Legends is a battle royale game with a fun roster of fun an diverse characters. And then there’s Caustic. He is a fart cloud in the shape of a man who loves to kill people with fart clouds. I love him.
And I kind of hate that I love him because he is a pretty garbage hero (no, I’m not going to call them “Legends” like Respawn wants me to) both in terms of his personality and his gameplay abilities. Caustic is pretty two-dimensional, existing as the edgy kill-lord member of the cast similar to Reaper from Overwatch but without the fashion sense. All his ability kit is situational and revolves around a toxic gas that’s more annoying than deadly. He’s pretty easily outclassed by characters with less situational tools at their disposal, and some characters have abilities that can counter or neutralize his gas. Players can even just destroy his gas traps before they have a chance to do anything. Even his hitbox is larger than most characters.
So why do I love this gasbag so much? It’s because he’s so different when compared to the other heroes in this game! I’ve always loved weird or extreme playstyles in games even if they aren’t always the most effective. I’m that person who does “fists only” builds in The Elder Scrolls, mains Dan in Street Fighter, and stacks my Hearthstone deck with as many gimmicks as possible. Other character like Lifeline or Bloodhound may have more useful abilities in general, but Caustic forces you to play *like* Caustic.
Causic’s traps and gas are pretty useless in wide-open areas, but if he get’s a chance to set up he can be a real pain to deal with. That house over there? That’s Caustic’s smoke shack now. Landing on the supply ship? Caustic turned it into a crop-sprayer. Wanna check out Bunker for some good loot? Caustic welcomes you to Gas City, home of a Garfield statue that kind of looks like he’s smoking a bong. Causic’s abilities are fairly useless most of the time, but extremely fun once you get to situation where he is very good. Caustic is the closest I can get to that ridiculous feeling of min/maxing a character in an RPG.
His traps also have a goofy physicality about them in the game. They’re nearly person-sized and get in the way of everything. You can use them to block doors from opening. They can block ladders. They can block bullets. They block that narrow stairway going up to Airbase. You can tell when one has been activated or destroyed, so they block sneak attacks. They can block vision...literally! Enemies can’t see through his gas. Friends can’t even see through his gas either.
Which leads to one of Caustic’s weaknesses: he doesn’t play well with others. Caustic’s toolkit revolves around his gas and traps and that can get in the way of the people who are supposed to be your friends. His gas won’t kill teammates, but they will blind and slow them. Teammates tend to get very vocal when you blind and slow them. He likes to stay in one place and bunker down. Teammates tend to get very vocal when you won’t leave your safety shack to revive them. But that’s ok. While they’re cussing in my earphones to pick up their respawn banners, I’m in my corner laughing maniacally as an enemy Pathfinder goes down a second time while trying to breach my gassy fortress. Their squad eventually gets me, but for a good minute I felt major thorn in everybody’s side. I think that’s pretty much completely in line with Caustic’s character. Caustic isn’t there to make friends, he’s there to make people miserable.
Even among the antiheroes of Apex Legends, Caustic is easily the Worst One. Caustic throws around basic scientific jargon so much that it makes him sound like he doesn’t actually know anything about science, he just wants to sound smart. Caustic is the type of person who would explain the difference between “venomous” and “poisonous” at a cocktail party even though nobody said either of those words. Caustic has used the phrase “an insult to my intelligence” to describe a children’s cartoon he’s never watched. Caustic isn’t racist/sexist/homophobic because he says he “hates everybody equally.” Half of Caustic’s Twitter feed starts with “um actually” and the other half ends in “debate me.”
Apex Legend’s character cast is surprisingly diverse for a big AAA game, with Caustic as the only white dude in the roster. He is literally a toxic white male. It’s hard to believe this is coincidence given the game’s more progressive character choices. Heck, Caustic even has a direct reference to Donald Trump in one of his unlockable banner poses.
And I think it’s that little extra socio-political spice that makes Caustic such an interesting character in Apex Legends. Caustic is supposed to have edgy monstrous persona, but he’s some greasy 40-something-year-old dude with some weird inflatable toys. He thinks he’s some kind of scientific and tactical genius, but his one-trick toolkit relies on his enemies messing up or being unlucky as much as it does with careful planning. Caustic’s bio bills him as an unstoppable apex killer stalking the battlefield in a toxic fog of war, but the truth is his playstyle depends on establishing his own area and drawing enemies into fights where the deck is stacked in his favor. Caustic represents near perfect synergy between characterization, gameplay, and social awareness.
Sometimes I wonder though, is that who people see when I pick Caustic? I’m playing him because I love playing as characters with offbeat toolkits, but do they know that? Do they think I, a nearly 29-year-old dude currently writing in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pajamas and socks with my dog’s face printed on them, is trying to be edgy? I set my kill quip to a sarcastic “thank you” because it is literally the nicest quip you can get for Caustic.
Either way, I’m trying my best with Caustic which so far has only amounted up to about 15 kills to my name. If people think I’m trying to be an edgelord by playing as Caustic at least they know I’m a terrible edgelord.
Zachary Long occasionally writes on TAY and can be found on Twitter and pretty much anywhere else as InvadingDuck. Currently playing: Apex Legends (mostly as the garbage boy stink man from this article), Fallout 4, Hitman 2, Kingdom Hearts 2