‘Apex Legends’ is a battle royale for the tactical mind
Like a Silicon Valley tech startup, “Apex Legends” takes a simple idea and innovates the shit out of it. “Battle Royale”, a genre basically defined by Fortnite, has been in sore need of disruption. “Apex Legends” provides the change that many gamers have been looking for, however, that change comes with a steep learning curve that, at times, prevents “Apex Legends” from becoming the next genre-defining game to hit the market.
Just to get things straight, “Apex Legends” is a first-person Battle Royale shooter. This means that players drop in with nothing, and throughout the game, gather supplies and fight each other “Hunger Games” style in a map that increasingly gets smaller. “Apex Legends” only fits the Battle Royale genre conventions in game mode, meaning that the game differs significantly from other Battle Royales in the way that its mechanics heavily encourage teamwork and tactical gameplay. “Apex Legends” can only be played in teams of three. Prior to a match, each team member picks a “Legend” to play as. The legends act as a class system, giving players the opportunity to sample different “flavors” of the game, but does not alter the entire playing experience if you were to pick one legend over the other. It is clear what the game developer, Respawn Entertainment, was trying to accomplish with this feature — each legend would fulfill a specific role within the team, bolstering the teamwork aspect of the game. However, in practice, this idea does not translate to an optimized playing experience, as knowledge of when and where to use your legend-specific abilities has a learning curve that is not the kindest.
Despite being entirely team-based, communication is never an issue due to “Apex Legends”’ amazing “ping” mechanic. Weapons, enemies, points of interest and rendezvouses can all be signaled by a simple tap of a button. I found that even if a player didn’t have a microphone they could still be a valuable member just by pinging. It also makes playing with random people from the Internet all the more satisfying. Additionally, reliance on team members is crucial since players can be revived after dying. Furthermore, sticking together is made easier by the addition of a “jumpmaster.” Chosen randomly, the jumpmaster dictates where the team goes at the beginning of the game making disconnected teams an unlikely phenomenon. When actually, in combat the power of the team is not to be underestimated. In “Apex Legends,” a lone wolf will never be an entire team if they are working together.
In terms of the weapons used during the game, “Apex Legends” has a greater degree of variance than its main competitor, “Fortnite.” Organized by tiers, these futuristic looking and sounding weapons are deadliest when combined with the plethora of attachments littered throughout the map. Coming by your favorite sniper with the right scope and bullets is rare, however, when it does finally find its way into your hands, it gives you a new sense of appreciation not felt in most shooters. On the downside, “Apex Legends” only allows players to hold two weapons at a time. Couple that with the fact that it's often hard to know what weapons are better for what situation, choosing weapons can feel like a gamble that unfortunately sometimes leads to your death.
Set in the same universe as Respawn Entertainment’s other big franchise “Titanfall,” Apex Legend’s whimsically sci-fi aesthetic works for the esport culture it is trying to cultivate. Your stats are shown immediately to your other team members, identifying who is good and who is bad before the match even starts. Then when the killing begins a leaderboard tracking the person with the most kills is periodically announced adding to the gladiatorial nature of the game.
“Apex Legends” fixes and innovates many of the problems that make playing Battle Royales frustrating. However, it's not revolutionizing to the point where it will overtake “Fortnite” as the top dog. A steep learning curve and forced cooperation might deter casual gamers from switching sides, yet for those with a tactical mind, this is the game you’ve been waiting for.