First Impressions: Apex Legends Brings New Life to Battle Royale

My fellow fanatics, if you have been following gaming trends at all it should be no surprise that battle royale is really hot right now. Fortnite has so many players and lawsuits behind it that it’s a mainstream household name. The latest Call of Duty completely eschewed a single-player campaign in favor of their own version of the popular game mode. Now we have Apex Legends by Titanfall developer, Respawn Entertainment.

Their creative spin on the formula? A combination of mechanics and ideas from MOBAs, hero shooters, and a free-to-play economy that doesn’t shake you down for cash. Naturally, a lot of us are quite hooked.

First, I want to address some of the fervor and apprehension towards this game upon release. According to a report by Jason Schreir at Kotaku last week, it was revealed that instead of working on Titanfall 3, Respawn was actually working on a battle royale game that seemed to actively go against the brand they established with their energetic giant robot action series. No giant robots, no wall-running action, just the supplemental elements of the franchise – the weapons, character designs, art direction – merely grafted on to yet another battle to the last man standing. It was implied in these reports that Respawn were effectively being pushed to move Titanfall 3 development to a new game engine for fear of visual or production quality decreasing, and what assets or ideas they had leftover were effectively getting stitched together into a slapjob project while production of their major project got pushed back.

However, I must officially retract these statements that I made on the latest TGF podcast as pure conjecture. In a follow-up report, it was revealed by Respawn that Apex Legends was always their main focus after the release of Titanfall 2 in 2016. They actively wanted to work on this project, and that it didn’t come at the expense of Titanfall 3 getting a proper release date. Although they didn’t confirm or deny any release date or concrete production schedule for the project.

And this dedication to polish and quality absolutely shines in the finished product. Apex Legends is a fantastically made shooter that takes full advantage of Respawn’s strengths and is just a blast to play.

The basics are still there. Giant map, sixty players get dropped in, scrambling for weapons and armor and keeping your head on swivel for any enemies coming after you, last man standing wins. All classic staples, but the devil is in the details. First and foremost is a newfound focus on teams. Every time you start a match you are put into a squad of three and you pick one of several Legends to play as. These unique characters all bring their own skills and powers to the battlefield such as being able to track enemy players, throwing down protective shields, or calling in air strikes.

From here, Apex Legends practically begs you to stick to your squad thanks to the way each Legend works perfectly with one another. Being able to track opponents with Bloodhound while Wraith opens up portals for a surprise attack. Gibraltar dropping down a shield to protect the team from an ambush while Lifeline sets down some crucial healing drones. The list goes on. Then there’s a novel take on respawning. If one of your squadmates dies, you can collect their banner from their body, and if you or a teammate makes it to a respawn station peppered throughout the map, you can bring back your teammate. It helps keep you engaged in the match even if you’re taken out early and adds an exciting sense of risk and reward when it comes to the stations since you won’t be the only one using them.

Also in a surprising out of character move by publisher EA, the in-game economy and microtransaction system is the most tame and accessible it has ever been. Leveling up gets you lootboxes full of funky skins for your Legends and weapons, but it is impossible to get duplicates of things you already have. There is a premium currency for other items to help you stand out, but they are all strictly cosmetic. And the in-game leveling system doesn’t feel bloated or grindy, letting you earn your own rewards at a brisk pace. In fact, it was such a refreshing and pro-consumer economy I happily picked up the Founder’s Pack in solidarity. This is how you do free-to-play, and Respawn should be rewarded for it.

All of this leads to an experience that is just easy to jump in and play. The gunplay still feels weighty and punchy, each Legend stands out, and the shear number of attachments and weapons available can make each match feel different from each other.

As for whether or not Apex Legends will stay in the spotlight for long, that is anyone’s guess. But for my money, I say it’s what Respawn and EA really needed right now. It’s not Titanfall 3, but I will gladly put my time and money into it.

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