What is Apex Legends?
If you’ve been paying attention, you will have seen the name Apex Legends mentioned more than a few times over the past few days. Developer Respawn, responsible for the Titanfall series and the forthcoming Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, surprise released a free-to-play battle royale shooter on Monday.
How It’s Different
AL forces you into a squad of three players, with no lone wolf option, setting it apart from other battle royale titles. This decision has been integrated into the game’s thoughtful design with many features emphasizing communication and keeping squads together. These mechanics are a master class for the genre and make jumping into AL easier than anything else on the market.
When launching on to AL’s island, a member of each squad is assigned the title of Jump Master. This player gains the responsibility of picking where the team is going to jump and guiding them to that point. Other players in the squad can ping locations they would like to drop, or choose to follow their own path, but by default, the squad drops in a tight formation, with the Jump Master controlling the fall. This title can also be relinquished for players who don’t want the responsibility.
The ping system in the game also makes communication fast and easy without the need for a mic. Squads with microphones will have an easier time of it, but players who would prefer not to communicate vocally can still be incredibly effective. Players are able to ping ammo, attachments, and enemies easily without having to use different keybinds, providing detailed information to their squad with no verbal queues. The game knows what you’re pointing at and communicates it to your teammates. Additionally, you can acknowledge another player’s ping by pinging it yourself.
Finally, Better Looting
Optimizing load-outs, sorting ammunition types, and prioritizing attachments has never been easier. Swapping a fully-kitted weapon out for a better base with no attachments? No problem, AL will automatically keep the attachments you can use on your new item and discard the rest. The game also stops you from picking up items that are worse than what you have equipped in most cases.
It’s also very easy to see what type of ammo your weapons are currently using, and the game will put a red X through ammo you are carrying but don’t currently need. The ammo types are fairly standard, heavy, light, energy, and shotgun, but are well balanced. Light ammo snipers fire with less drop off, but do less damage than a heavy ammo shot. Overall, it’s much easier than something like PUBG where those extra seconds finding out if your gun takes 5.56 or 7.62 could get you killed.
At the beginning of a match, players begin with a specialist draft. In a random order, each player will choose a specialist to play as. Each of these characters come with a passive, active, and ultimate ability. These abilities have a high degree of variability and allow players to pick a play-style that matches their preference. For example, take Bloodhound, a tracker class. His passive ability allows him to see clues left behind by players, letting him know when a building has already been entered and looted. He can also ping these clues to communicate to the squad. His active ability scans the surrounding area for enemies and pointing them out to the entire team. Finally, his ultimate ability allows him to gain speed, see enemy player footsteps, and highlights enemies in red from close to extreme distance.
The specialists don’t feel like a gimmick and genuinely add something new to the battle royale formula. None of them feel particularly overpowered, and each has something to bring to the table that is useful. Careful planning of what specialists are in a squad can help turn the tide of later battles in a match.
60 Player Matches
AL maxes out at sixty players per match, a full forty lower than most of its competitors, but this is offset by a robust revive system. The traditional mechanic of raising a downed teammate is still there, but even after a squad member dies, they’re not completely out. Players can recover that player’s banner, which can be used at respawn stations around the map to bring the player back into the game. This allows the player count to fluctuate significantly, and also makes for interesting gameplay around holding/camping the respawn areas. Low player counts also make for quicker matches, which can be a preferable alternative to the twenty-thirty minute matches in PUBG and Blackout.
How It’s The Same
AL is a free-to-play battle royale shooter with lootboxes, a forthcoming battle pass, and enough cosmetics to bankrupt a small country. Almost everything can be earned through playing the game as well.
The basic map structure at launch isn’t anything to write home about. Apart from a few distinct structures that really pop, the map can feel almost bland, despite being set in a futuristic, war-torn, colorful landscape. The buildings particularly feel like they’ve been copy-pasted around the map without much to set them apart.
Is it Going to Stick Around?
Here we’re going to get into some wild speculation. Battle Royale games come and go on a weekly basis (or at least it feels like it), and most of them are just a flash in the pan. It’s rare that a title can stick around in this genre and stay relevant, but from first glance, this game feels like it’s got legs. Respawn has already revealed a promising roadmap for the coming year with four new specialists, new weapons, and plenty of loot to go around. Is it going to hit the heights of Fortnite? No, I don’t think anything in this genre ever will and making the comparison is inherently flawed. Fortnite is a force of nature at this point and is going to be around for a while. That being said, I think there is a place for Apex Legends in the genre, and I expect we’ll see it stay for a while.
Where Can I Play It?
Apex Legends is currently available for free on PC through Origin, Xbox One and Playstation 4.