From deep within the overly-saturated field of battle royale games comes potentially the peak of the genre so far, improving vastly on an otherwise stale formula in almost every way.
I don’t know that too many people were clamouring for a Titanfall battle royale; it seemed that after big name developers like Dice and Treyarch attempted to jump on the bandwagon that the genre had reached its natural end. But Respawn, almost immediately after being snatched up by EA of all people, decided to try their hand at making a game of a similar style built on their incredibly well-received Titanfall engine, featuring many similar mechanics and features as their previous titles. In all honesty it’s hard to create a battle royale game in this day and age without being compared to, or otherwise accused of stealing from, Fortnite and it’s frankly explosive success rate, so the fact that Apex Legends has not only attempted but actually massively succeeded speaks volumes about its future.
Most of the time it’s pretty easy to call how a battle royale game is going to do from the get go; after all if you’ve played one you’ve played them all right? Well to a certain extent yes, and to many people it’s the genre that possesses key problems not the games themselves. Apex Legends then does a fantastic job of differentiating itself from the competition in the small nitpicky aspects, so while it is definitely comparable to the titans of the genre like Fortnite and PUBG, it does a few key things to tidy up the rough edges. It is still the basic formula; drop from a flying ship of some kind onto a massive, set map with nothing to your name but your abilities and your frail limbs, scavenge for any semblance of a weapon you can find and attempt to fend off the other nineteen or so squads of three that want you dead.
The main thing that sets Apex Legends apart is the fact that it’s a hero shooter, in the same vein as games like Overwatch. Instead of a bland, faceless avatar you instead have the choice between eight different characters, (at the time of this writing), each with their own set of a Passive, Tactical and Ultimate abilities. Passive, as the name implies, is enabled automatically and can range from quicker revives to a bulletproof shield when ADS-ing. Tacticals are usually the bread and butter of your gameplay; they are available on a usually fairly long cooldown, but they definitely have weaknesses and should not be spammed as soon as they become available. Your Ultimate is often your strongest ability, and while some may seem weaker than other more flashy ones at first, they are all integral and have the potential to be game changing. Ultimates can only be used when they finish charging to 100%, very similarly to the ultimate abilities of Overwatch. They can only be charged with time or by using an Accelerant, a somewhat rare pickup that pushes your Ultimate charge forward by 20%. Apex Legends also adds new mechanics like respawning an already defeated teammate, (at great risk to yourself and the rest of the squad), and the variety of different pings you have access to at any time, which will have your character call out what you are thinking to your team. These ideas seem so simple at first glance, but they go so far towards removing unnecessary frustration that one can only wonder why other battle royale games haven’t implemented them before.
The game’s greatest asset however is one that also belonged to Titanfall; it’s mobility. In most other battle royale games you are often very limited in the ways you can move, and a few even have boring things like fall damage. Game devs should know by now that we as gamers want to fling ourselves from enormous heights and land with the grace of a cat, entirely unharmed. Thankfully Apex Legends knows this, and as such you’ll be able to leap and climb and slide all over the map like your own personal jungle gym. The movement was obviously designed from the ground up to be fast, rewarding and, more importantly, a metric ton of fun. It may sound like I’m praising this one part of the physics too highly but I genuinely believe this lends itself to giving this game a huge amount of longevity. Coupled with the, (hopefully), regular updates adding more weapons, characters to play and cosmetics, and acknowledging that the game is entirely free-to-play, I think it’s safe to say Apex Legends has managed to carve itself a niche in a battleground once thought un-carvable.
My one concern is the whole “lootbox that gives you loads of otherwise useless cosmetics” approach that Respawn are taking, alongside the Battlepass system made popular by Fortnite. The fact that these microtransactions and random drops exist is fine, though some part of my moral compass wants to fight against it. My issue here is that I don’t want Apex Legends to become another Overwatch fiasco; a mechanically great game with interesting ideas and a bright future that squandered its potential by focusing too much on cosmetics and a competitive scene that most of the fanbase don’t even follow. That latter one shouldn’t be a problem here I don’t think, battle royale eSports doesn’t seem like it’ll work that well anyway. But broken balancing and poor response times lead to a stale meta, which can single handedly kill a game.
Apex Legends (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
A great addition to a genre that most don’t even bother developing for anymore in the shadow of the titans, defying that trend and standing out as a serious competitor. Great mechanics built with an already well-received engine make the game genuinely fun to play, and the variety of small additions really add up to make it feel like a whole game, which others of the same genre struggle with. It’s still a battle royale game, so it won’t be for everyone, and there are a few concerns with balancing and new content, particularly for the future. But seeing as how it’s free you have no excuse not to download it and give it a go.