Well… this was a bit of a surprise!
With developer Respawn Entertainment working on a new Star Wars game and fan hopes of a Titanfall 3 in the future, seeing them come out with the announcement of Apex Legends, a Battle Royale game that’s free to play and available NOW was a bit of a big deal. It seems to have caught on a bit too:
I’ve still got to spend some serious time in this game to really know how I feel about it for the long term. The pace is much quicker than PUBG with all games being team oriented (3 per team, 20 teams total) and some clever tricks (the Jumpmaster and markers) to help steer everyone into the high loot areas. There’s a lot to appreciate already:
The presentation is really slick – this game looks AAA from launch. From the outset it looks and sounds great, and network performance was spot on. I’ve not yet played Black Ops 4 but if it played this well out of the gate I can see why PUBG took a hit on the player count after it launched last year. I also like that it spins off from Titanfall and you’ll recognise things like the robots, weapons and building designs which likely means there might be some further narrative ties.
You’ll quickly get comfortable with the controls. It might not have wall running but everything else feels a lot like Titanfall which means we’re talking about a tightly controlled shooter that’s got a good pedigree coming from the developers of both that and Call of Duty.
Being dead doesn’t mean staying dead. Like many other team based games, players can be downed and then revived but if they finally kick the bucket that still doesn’t mean game over. If a teammate is able to recover your banner from the dropped loot box and take it it to a respawn station you can be back in the fight. It’s a cool way to encourage your team to stick around (ie. not leave for the lobby) and not simply give up.
The ping system is awesome, letting players tag almost everything on the map contextually. Players not wanting to jump into parties and chat with randoms can still be effective without having to talk. It makes teaming up with randoms an easy (and safe) experience.
The contextual popup menus are such a great idea. During play when you start picking up gear they game will pop up information over items to give you an idea of their use. For example, it will indicate what weapons you are carrying will work with particular ammo or add-ons like scopes and stocks. With that you can be more selective with what you pick up and reduce your need for inventory management. Another great idea is that the game will prevent you picking up gear that downgrades your character, such as weaker armour or smaller backpacks.
Rewards system seems generous. Even if you’re not going to spend money on in-game credits to purchase cosmetic items there’s still plenty of chances to earn stuff like weapons skins, character poses and quips through regular play and it appears that there’s some guarantees on ensuring you will eventually get rare items if you have an unlucky streak.
The map encourages riskier moves. With players not suffering fall damage there is a lot of incentive to just throw yourself around the map and get around fast; whether it be jumping from a big height or taking advantage of a red balloon to glide to your next destination. I admit to still having to get used to the idea of taking these big jumps without fear of dying.
The Jumpmaster makes coordinating the jump simple. After players take turns choosing their (unique) character one is randomly chosen to be the “Jumpmaster” who then taken control of the whole team from jump to landing. This lets a team be able to hit the same spot easily. Players can even ping map locations to help guide the Jumpmaster. You also have the option to decline the responsibility (and let someone else handle the task) or can peel off from the group to manage your own landing.
Competition in this space is pretty intense with Fortnite dominating and others like PUBG and Black Ops 4 taking their own cut. But Apex Legends has just as much a chance as any to get its fair share of players and it’s launched in a state that already feels like a well established game so I’d imagine it’ll hold onto those players too.
Apex Legends is out now for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.