Apex of Battle Royale
Apex Legends (PS4)
Genre: Action, Sports
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: 4 Feb, 2019
When Apex Legends came out of nowhere I originally just passed it off without even giving it a try. This is due to the description that my friend and many others had given me of it as “Titanfall battle royale but without wall-running or titans set in the same universe that is reusing old assets.” After all, what is the point of playing a Titanfall that has lost the mechanics which arguably made it stand apart from others of a similar play style? I later realized that I was gravely mistaken once I finally got to play it some days after and have been addicted to it ever since. Apex Legends is a great battle royale game that stands on its own merits and offers quality experiences to the players.
What is battle royale?
If you are not aware of what this particular style of game is, allow me to elaborate so that you have a better understanding of this new hot thing. Battle Royale, BR for short, is a fairly recent genre of video games that throw in a large number of players in a single map. Everyone starts with absolutely nothing and has to pick up weapons and equipment that are often spawned at random as you or your team survive and then work their way up until either they die or become the last person standing. Over the course of time, the playing field slowly converges to a circle that will be smaller than its previous iterations. This process will repeat for about 5 – 6 times until there are no longer any spaces left. Because the area outside the circle deals damage to anyone who dares stray away, the game naturally forces players to engage others as they try to battle their way to reach the elusive number 1 spot.
Being an FPS battle royale game, Apex Legends generally works like the description that I have described but with some differences. First off, the maximum number of players is only 60 divided into 20 teams of 3 players. Basic movement options consist of walking, running, and sliding which can get rather fast when performed downhill. There are also zip lines and balloon relaunch points placed on certain areas which enable the players to quickly traverse around. With these factors in play and the fact that there is no fall damage, you can really get into some unique gunfight situations here.
Certain items and weapons can have rarities tied to them and are usually better than their less valuable counterparts with gold being the most sought after because they come with special perks. Also when you or your teammates die, they can be revived by retrieving their nametags from their item boxes which can be submitted at any respawn beacon. However, what really sets Apex Legends apart is the constant team-of-3 aspect and the class system that goes along with it.
Legends, in Apex Legends, refer to the characters that the players have to pick every time before the game starts. In normal BR games, characters are just skins. They simply change your appearance and do not impact actual gameplay whatsoever. This is not so in Apex Legends as Legends act like classes and are capable of performing feats unique only to each of them. There are currently 8 different Legends, 2 of which will have to be unlocked. These characters are varied in designs, personalities, and most importantly, skills and abilities. That’s right, skills and abilities! While not exactly a new concept with the popularity of hero shooter games not unlike Overwatch or Paladins as of late, Apex Legends is perhaps the only battle royale game in the current market to feature such a mechanic.
All characters in Apex Legends come with a passive ability, an activated ability, and an ultimate, no exception. I must say, some of these Legends possess some of the most fascinating and interesting skillsets even if you were to hold it by hero shooter standards. For instance, the technological tracker Bloodhound has a passive ability that allows only him to see various traces and trails that the enemies have left behind within a couple minutes or so. Each of these will tell you information along the line of [a fight happened here], [footprints left behind], [a person was revived here], etc.. along with how recent they are. It never fails to satisfy me every time I manage to piece everything together and eventually pinpoint the location of hostile players. Another interesting passive is Pathfinder’s, the robot, ability to access any survey beacons he finds to find out where the next circle is going to collapse into. Activated abilities often have direct applications like being able to throw a smoke screen or using grapples to reach high places while ultimates can range from calling an airstrike, creating teleport portals, to creating on-demand zipline. It goes without saying that these skills are tied to cooldown timer with ultimates taking the longest to charge up.
Unlike other games of the same genre which the players can usually pick if you want to play solo or in a team, there is only one matchmaking queue, a team of three. Even if the player has no premade party and decides to proceed solo, they will still be placed in a team. At first glance, this seems like a backward choice which was my original line of thought but like my initial assumptions of Apex Legends, I was mistaken yet again. It is not immediately obvious at first but this is due to the existence of Legends. There are some Legends whose abilities are not suited to the solo experience and would have to be rebalanced from the ground up. Although I must say that, personally, I am quite content with the permanent team experience that this game provides as you can mix and match the characters and their unique abilities to create some interesting team dynamics and compositions. If you are worried that you might be unable to effectively communicate with the random players you are paired up with which could lower your odds of winning like in other titles, be at ease for Respawn has come with a solution to get around this issue.
Qualities of Life
In Apex Legends, Respawn has implemented the ability for players to mark/ping everything, and I mean everything! This does not sound like much but it is actually quite monumental. To be able to ping where you want to go such that your teammates are aware of your intention is fairly common but how about the ability to ping where you have last seen the enemies? or that you have found weapon attachments or ammo that your teammates might find useful? or that this location your team is moving toward has been compromised? This sounds like a lot already but I assure that I am just touching on the surface of how robust it actually is. The players can also point their aiming reticles to existing markers to cancel it or agree/disagree with teammates’ ping. In my opinion, this system is so effective so much so that this should be the gold standard for any future battle royale or FPS games.
Another well-implemented quality of life change that other BR games should take notes from is how Apex Legends handles weapon attachments. I must confess that I have not played many battle royale games. Call of Duty Black Ops 4‘s Blackout mode is the one I have the most time with. One thing that irks me to no end is how tedious it is to transfer attachments in those games with having to manually detach and reattach them one at a time. Here, these things are done automatically, all add-ons will be transferred to the weapon that you pick up if they are compatible by default or by simply holding a button on item management screen to transfer individual ones. This is a much welcome addition that saves everyone’s time.
Progression and microtransaction
As players complete games in Apex Legends, their account level will increase. For every level until about 30 or so, you will receive an Apex Pack which is basically a loot box and 600 Legend Tokens. Players with levels above 30 will only get an Apex Pack for every 2 levels while still receiving the same amount of the tokens at the same frequency. Loot boxes carry all kind of things ranging from character/weapon skins to voice banters to profile cosmetics. Legend Tokens is an in-game currency that is used to unlock other Legends and certain skins. There is also a premium currency by the name of Apex Coins which can be used to purchase characters, cosmetics that are on sale, and is also the only alternate way outside leveling to earn Apex Packs. Crafting Metals is a special currency that can be yielded from loot boxes and is used exclusively to craft almost any cosmetics. Outside niche Legends, everything else that can be gained from buying premium currency does not affect gameplay whatsoever so pay-to-win is definitely not anything to worry about.
Apex Legends is a fantastic FPS battle royale game that differentiates itself from its competitors by integrating elements of a heroes shooter in a team-of-3 format. While the game is certainly recycling some assets from Titanfall and has movements similar to it, one has to acknowledge that it is not a Titanfall game. It is a BR multiplayer spinoff game under the same setting, and a very well produced one at that. Not only does it set the quality of life standards that other games in the same genre should follow, but it is also filled with extras and unlockables that can be earned completely free of charge. I will not say that this game is free of flaws because it is not. There are definitely bugs here and crashes there but from what I have been following, the devs have been fairly attentive and regularly update the game with both fixes and new content so I am optimistic. For of a game of this high quality that is completely free, Apex Legends sets the standard for how a free-to-play game can be done right and will give you a bloody good time if you are willing to give it a chance.