First Thoughts: Apex Legends

It’s been a while since I’ve wanted to play a single game all weekend, but that’s what I spent most of my Saturday doing with Apex Legends, the new battle royale game set in the Titanfall universe. It’s the combination of Titanfall’s terrific gunplay and fast-paced movement – despite the game lacking the series’ signature wall running mechanic – and interesting mechanics and map design that kept me going back.

Let me recount a scenario that encapsulates why I’m loving Apex Legends.

In one game, my team of three was perched on a rooftop, planning our next course of action when we spotted another squad below us, between a couple of shacks. One of my teammates started trading sniper shots, so my other teammate and I dropped down the side of our building, into the river to the right of the shacks. As there was no fall damage, we didn’t hesitate making the leap to quickly get us to ground level. Using the rocks for cover, we began a flank on the shacks.

As we approached the shacks, I hit RB (on Xbox) to ping the shack to confirm I was looking at the one the enemies were in. My teammate who was still sniping confirmed, and we began our approach.

Nearing the shack, I used Bloodhound’s ultimate ability to increase my movement speed and see the enemy’s footprints, just in time for us to realise they’d moved slightly back from the shack, behind a giant rock to our left.

The next minute was a chaotic blur as both squads danced between the rock and the shack, trying to take each other down. Grenades were thrown, healing abilities were used, artillery strike ultimate abilities were deployed and suddenly two of the three of us were knocked down. However, in Apex Legends, you’re down, but not out.

We quickly reminded our alive squad member that, now outnumbered, they should hide and wait for a chance to run back in, recover our banner cards from our dead corpses, and take them to a respawn beacon to bring us back in the game. Unfortunately, our final player couldn’t escape, and we were eliminated. We may have got the jump on them, but at the end of the day, having better shooting skills still trumps all else.

This sequence demonstrates some key elements of Apex Legends that have made it stand out: fast paced gameplay, unique characters called Legends each with different abilities; a detailed, context based ping system, and a unique respawn mechanic meaning you’re not truly out until your whole team has been eliminated.

Source: EA

Keeping pace

While it ditches Titanfall’s signature wall-running mechanics, Apex Legends maintains the fast paced gameplay the series is known for. The ability to slide from a sprint allows players to be more evasive, and it also increases speed when sliding downhill. Couple this with zip lines, no fall damage and the ability to clamber up most walls, traversing Apex Legends’ map feels quick, and liberating.

Become a Legend

Apex Legends draws from the popularity of class-based shooters, giving each of its eight playable “Legends” a unique passive, active and ultimate ability.

I like that you can approach situations differently depending on which Legends your team picks. Maybe you want to pick offensive Legends and use smoke grenades to blind the enemy, while using Bloodhound’s sonar ability to locate targets in the smoke. Or maybe you’ll use Gibraltar’s shield and Lifelink’s healing to avoid unnecessary confrontation and live to fight another day. Each Legend’s abilities feel useful in specific situations, and there’s no ability that feels game-changing enough that they are a must pick.

Source: EA

Use your words pings

I love the contextual ping system in Apex Legends, allowing you to communicate information to your team without the need to verbally communicate.

Players can use a context-based communication where to ping to point out enemies, highlight items their teammates may want, identify when areas have been looted, let teammates know that they are moving somewhere else, and much more. Apex Legends, like other games in the genre, is a team-based game, and being able to communicate in-game without talking to strangers is a fantastic edition. It’s even a helpful tool when you are talking to your teammates.

Down, but not out

Apex Legends’ respawn system means you’re never truly out. As with standard battle royale games, if you get knocked down you can be picked up by teammates. However, should you be completely killed, your teammates can still bring you back into the game by picking up your banner card from your box of loot, and taking you to a respawn beacon where you’ll drop from the sky and be back in the game, minus any loot you had.  

It completely changes how you approach situations. If you’re suddenly the last player left, temporarily retreating and hiding is a viable option, allowing you to run in when the coast is clear, pick up your friend’s cards, and leg it to a respawn beacon to get them back in the game.

In other games in the genre, going down in the early stages meant you’d usually quit, or have the other player rush in, maybe picking up some kills before being killed, and start again. In Apex Legends, there’s a thrill to being the last alive, surviving amongst a sea of stronger squads as you rush to bring your squad back in the game.

Source: EA

The smaller things in life

Apex Legends has opted for a smaller map and player count compared to other games in the genre, and I love it for doing so. There’s less empty space, and it feels like you could run into another team at any time, which keeps you on your toes. Limiting the player count to 60, split into 20 teams of three, means you enter every game feeling like you have a decent chance of getting a win. In a game of 100 players, split into teams of four, you’ve got a one in twenty five chance of winning, with Apex Legends, it’s one in twenty. The winning chance is only four percent vs five percent, but psychologically it matters.

The elephant in the room

As a free-to-play game, Apex Legends features real-money microtransactions in the form of two new characters (which can be unlocked by playing), and a slew of customisation items which are unlocked using crafting materials or through loot boxes (you also earn one lootbox per level up). It’s fun unlocking new skins for weapons and characters, and Respawn and EA have been very transparent in detailing the odds of receiving items in lootboxes. Apex Legends will also introduce a Season Pass in March, similar to that of Fortnite, which you can expect to include exclusive customisation unlocks.

In the short week I’ve had with Apex Legends, it’s terrific gunplay and unique gameplay mechanics have kept me coming back for more. I love the Titanfall franchise and am glad it is surviving in some form. Only time will tell whether Apex Legends succeeds in maintaining a dedicated player base, but so far it’s been a fun, fresh take on the franchise and genre. I’m eager to jump back in.

Have you had a chance to play Apex Legends yet? Let me know what you think below.

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