Several years into the new millennium, the gaming landscape was saturated with online first person shooters, each attempting to topple the other with fast paced action and new mechanics in an attempt to sway the mass of fans in their direction. Today that torch has been handed to the Battle Royale market, with ‘PUBG’ and ‘Fortnite’ ushering in a new format that has seen so many varied releases through new or existing IP’s, the dead horse hit by the stick is essentially puree by now. Creating a new first person shooter? It’s gotta have a BR mode!
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with battle royale titles. It’s made up a fairly large portion of my gaming in the last twelve to eighteen months, none of which I’ve regretted. There’s also no problem with new titles spamming the Steam store either. The core problem is what ‘World Of Warcraft’ was to the MMO market; everyone tries to copy a popular format and fails miserably doing so. ‘Fortnite’ is such a global phenomenon that even attempting to clone and steal a fraction of their player base is asking for trouble.
I mean, what we really need is a first-person Battle Royale game that uses an existing successful engine, references but doesn’t copy current successful titles, isn’t focused on micro-transactions, involves a unique gaming system and is free to play. ‘Apex Legends’ by Respawn Entertainment, the team behind the incredibly underrated ‘Titanfall’ franchise, is the answer we’ve been waiting for. To put this into perspective, the game surpassed 1 million unique players in its first eight hours of launch, which grew to 2.5 million within 24 hours.
It then reached 10 million unique players, with a peak of 1 million concurrent players. In 3 days.
Maybe there’s still life in the battle royale market after all.
The games universe is set 30 years post story in ‘Titanfall 2’, which makes sense considering Respawn and EA recently announced they’ve scrapped plans for a third due to it’s predecessor’s poor sales numbers. So instead of a new single player campaign, we’ve now got ‘Kings Canyon’ where squads hurl themselves into from a dropship and fight to be the last to survive.
The map isn’t anything to write home about and is really the worst thing about this game. There’s neat features like horizontal and vertical ziplines as well as some actual depth to the landscape, but it’s simply not special which is attributed more to the format rather than the game itself.
There are a few varied features designed to mix it up, like an accessible loot-riddled ship that flies around the map and biomes that are uniquely themed, as well as a pleasantness that comes with just exploring the game.
Having a fair amount of hours now under my belt, I’m still not tired of a specific area or try to avoid certain locations because their either repetitive or useless. ‘Apex Legends’ handles this problem by randomly varying the quality of loot in each location with the start of a new game. You may have had standard pistols in the Airbase last round, but you could find ‘High Tier’ rifles in the next.
As previously mentioned, not only is ‘Apex Legends’ a free to play title, but you’re also given a leveling system and free loot boxes to boot. This system operates almost identically to ‘Overwatch’ which is another notch in Respawns belt given they’re replicating the best system out there. ‘Apex Legends’ doesn’t sell gameplay advantage items, nor does it beg you to do so.
Between the 1-100 level cap, players will unlock 45 free ‘Apex Packs’ that contain weapon and player skins, voiceovers, banners and finishing moves. Don’t want more? Don’t buy more and you won’t feel punished for doing so. You can even unlock other characters by earning ingame credit which isn’t a stretch to accumulate either.
Classes are also heavily influenced by Blizzards IP shooter. Players are grouped in 3-man squads with the ability to select a damage, heavy or heal class that each have three unique abilities. ‘Apex Legends’ takes a step up though by giving each player ten seconds to select a class in a random order, instead of getting lucky by being the first to click the character you’re after. For a new IP, the classes also seem remarkably balanced.
Speaking of balance, the weapon system is also incredibly impressive. Loot seems fairly spread and there’s very few matches where I’m left scrounging for any type of gun which has always been a BR flaw. Weapon damage should and will receive tweaks moving forward, but the varied rifles, shotguns, pistols and snipers at present are all great fun to use. Some are better than others, but the differences are fairly small if you manage to secure some quality attachments.
It’s a battle royale, so you have to wait in a lobby, jump out of a ship and parachute down forever, right? Technically, but Respawn have taken a hard look at this system and drastically improved it.
Firstly, their servers are top notch meaning there’s no frustrating sixty second lobby whilst players are trying to connect. Once the map fires up and you’re free to leave the ship, one random player will then control the entire flight for the squad. You have the option to break away if you so wish, but I’ve found that as long as drop locations are marked, then there’s really no reason to do this. It’s a standard rule in these games that you should always land with your team incase combat is immediate and Respawn decided to take care of this for you. When you see no parachute firing out and the squad slams directly into the ground, you also discover that ‘Apex Legends’ has no fall damage which makes for the most gratifying beginning I’ve ever experienced in a battle royale.
From here it’s more or less the battle royale you know, but the tweaks still continue. Resurrecting knocked players is still a standard, but the dead can actually be revived if a fellow teammate grabs their virtual corpse and revives it at stations located around the map. Attachments are not only automatically equipped to a weapon you’re holding, but will switch out to equip a better one and will fully switch to any new gun if you decide to pick up a new one. Flight balloons will allow players to gain a small distance boost if they need to gain some ground to the circle and screens played throughout the game will show who the kill leader is for the match with details about how they’re going.
However one of the most impressive achievements by Respawn is located in their scope system. We all know that shooting from a height requires you to scope up on your target so bullet drop is factored in. However the mil dot in ‘Apex Legends’ will move dynamically depending on the elevation of your target, meaning the guess work of how high you need to aim above your target is replaced by a system that does the guess work for you. It’s stunningly impressive and to my knowledge, has never existed in a shooter before.
Speaking of impressive…
For all of ‘Apex Legends’ modifications, the ping system Respawn have built into their game is by far and away the most impressive. ‘PUBG’ allowed players to target an area for the rest of the squad to see, but required voice communication to make clear what that marker was for. Then titles like ‘Rings of Elysium’ took it slightly further by allowing different kinds of markers to represent what players wanted to indicate, but still made Discord a requirement. ‘Apex Legends’ goes the distance by generating a ping system so elite, that it literally eliminates the need for any voice communication. Period.
To put it simply; whatever you point at and ping, the game will indicate automatically what you’re referencing. Not only that, but it also comes with full character dialogue to distinguish every marker to teammates and allows you to throw down multiple markers at once.
Ping a random location? “I’m heading over this way.”
Ping a piece of armour? “There’s a level 2 helmet over here”
Ping an enemy? A unique looking marker will show up and verbally tell your squad that a hostile is in that direction. There’s even a wheel you can use by holding your ping button down which allows you to use specific commands if necessary. Joining on random players is always less fun if you can’t speak to them and ends up depleting the experience when you all have no idea what you’re doing, but the system in ‘Apex Legends’ does the exact opposite by encouraging you to join with others and avoiding voice chat if you wish, without diminishing your experience. It’s a game changer and whatever ones feelings are on this title as a whole, it’s impossible to downplay what Respawn have achieved here.
All in all…
My attention could only last so long with these titles and just as it was waning in the face of repetition, ‘Apex Legends’ decides to kick in the front door. At its core, it’s a battle royale and inevitably the same feelings will seep back in, but the impression Respawn have stamped into their title will last forever. Love or hate this game, your hat tips to a developer that actually decided to sit down, think and create a title that will inevitably rival Fortnite.
If it hasn’t already.
Apex LegendsFree To Play
- Incredible ping system
- Inproved tweak on dropping in
- Low focus on microtransactions
- Excellent weapon and attachment system
- Well balanced classes and abilities
- Audio is either too loud or quiet
- Map isn't overly impressive
- It's still another battle royale game