In less than a day, Apex Legends broke through the 1 million unique player mark and became the highest watched game on Twitch. As a surprise launch, I think you could call that a success. What’s most impressive about Apex Legends is that without a Beta or Server Stress test, the game ran like a dream on day one. After spending a number of hours with the game since release, it’s also apparent that Respawn have been very savvy in the way the game has been designed, breaking some genre conventions while evolving others. With that in mind, and having spent the wee hours of the morning playing it, here’s a list of 5 Thing Apex Legends Does Better Than Any Other Battle Royale Game…
Unlike any other Battle Royale game, Apex Legends allows players to drop on to the map in groups. At the start of the match, a “Jump Master” is chosen who then guides the decent of the entire team to their chosen location. This is a smart design choice that encourages group play and co-operation. It also means that you’re not having to hope that other random players in your team see a map marker than agree to land there (because how many times have you played Squads on Fortnite and had all 4 members of the team land in opposite corners of the map? I’d guess at least a dozen, even for novice players). Of course, the option is there to go it alone; by holding down a button press, a member of the group can branch out and head their own way should they wish too (but it does mean you’ll be at a significant disadvantage by going it alone).
Context Sensitive Chat
Not content to have the usual visual clues on screen that tell you about the ring and when it’ll be moving next, Respawn have added context sensitive audio cues too. If one of your team is outside of the ring and the ring is closing, you’ll get a chat vocal from other characters telling you that not all your team are in the ring. Likewise, if you’re heading towards the ring and the clock is ticking down, you get messages like “30 seconds to go, the ring is close”. You also get vocal nods when another team mate pings an item or an enemy. This works twofold. First it gives you another warning about the ring location. It’s easy to get wrapped up in hunting for weapons in a Battle Royale game without noticing the ring is approaching so this audio reminder works well. Secondly, it adds tension. If the ring is closing in and a character is encouraging you to go quicker, it somehow heightens the excitement.
In the vast majority of Battle Royale games, once you’re dead, you’re dead. Do not pass go, do not collect £100. It’s back to the lobby with you and you’ve got to find another game. In Apex Legends, it’s possible to return to a game if your team mates are savvy enough. Upon death, you drop a loot crate which can be looted by your team mates who can recover your emblem. If they then take this emblem to a respawn beacon, you can then return to the game. This is revolutionary for the genre. It’s now worth spectating your team after death because there’s a possibility you’ll be jumping back in to the action. Unlike Realm Royals chicken respawn (which is little more than a downed state in other games), this encourages team play and co-operation too.
Integration of “Heroes” or Classes into a Battle Royale isn’t something new (and is something that Hero Shooters turned BR have been doing for a while) but none have balanced it quite as well as Apex Legends. Each hero in Apex Legends has their own strengths and weaknesses but, again encouraging team play, complement one another if chosen well. Having a team full of offensive Heroes with attacking tactical and special abilities isn’t always the best option. Having a more defensive player (able to throw up shields) or a medic (does what it says on the tin) can often enable you to last longer in a match. What’s more, your team can’t all choose the same character so there’s no chance of a triple Wraith team warping all over the map.
While the title for best aerial traversal in the Battle Royale genre is still a heated battle between Realm Royale and Fortnite, Apex Legends comes in with a damn fine example of making ground traversal feel fluid yet weighty. Momentum based sliding down hillsides is as exciting and as tactical in Apex Legends, as is upwards wall running and climbing which is purposeful yet quick. Movement across the ground in this game feels excellent, more so than in any other Battle Royale game we’ve played to date – something you’d probably expect from the people behind the excellent Titanfall 2.
Bonus: Stability and Gunplay
As I mentioned earlier, for a new Battle Royale game to launch without any type of Beta phase or server stress test and to pull off a day and date announcement then launch is unheard of. Apex Legends managed to pull that off flawlessly. Some minor gropes about loading loops for a small percentage of players, Apex Legends had a technically sound launch. What’s more, the game played without stuttering or slowdown of any kind.
Lastly, the gunplay. This is probably entirely subjective (as we all learnt from the TTK and TTD debate surrounding Battlefield V) but the ballistics and hit detection in Apex Legends has impressed us. Rossko has even gone as far as to say “The Gunplay in Apex Legends is the best in any Battle Royale game”. High praise indeed from a man that had to delete Fortnite from every device he owned because he was so addicted to it.
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