Well, who saw this coming? It was a normal day, like any other when I went to bed on Monday. I had totally ignored Vince Zampalla’s tweet about a new game being revealed, as many games are teased before being revealed.
Never would’ve I thought that I would wake up in a world where a new game is shadow dropped, a Battle Royale game no less, from ReSpawn the makers of the original Modern Warfare and Titanfall , one that is a properly refined, full release without the open beta or early access nonsense, and one that could truly dethrone Fortnite. All of this with an – as of now – fair, non – intrusive and acceptable store for Micro transactions and published by EA. If someone had even come up with the above, even as a concept, on Monday morning I would’ve laughed it off. But here we are.
Apex Legends is set out to be all of the above and more. Or in my humble opinion, at least has the potential to be so. This game oozes promise and refinement in game mechanics, which is often missing in new releases these days. ReSpawn have been working on this over the last two years and while some shortcuts have been taken in building this game, the core gameplay and the fun factor seems to have been the focus for the devs. I was able to spend about 6-8 hours with the game, and here is my hands on impression. While this time is enough to see what the game offers content wise, it would take a lot more to experience what the game fully has to offer and to understand the little nuances in its gameplay mechanics. So please note that this is not a complete review, but more of an opinion on how Apex Legends works and what is has the potential for.
Call of Duty – Black Ops 4’s Black Out mode showed how a well done and refined Battle Royale game can be. Apex Legends takes that refinement and adds in elements of conventional multiplayer game modes to the BR genre while emphasizing on squad based gameplay. The result is a glorious mish mash of various FPS genre tropes in the best way conceivable. Set in the Titanfall 2 universe, ReSpawn’s latest will be very familiar to the ones who have experienced their previous games. Much of this is due to the fact that the arsenal at our disposal largely consists of the weapons featured in Titanfall 2. There is a wide variety of weapons to choose from in multiple classes ranging from pistols and shotguns to sniper and heavy automatics. It is the quintessential mix of firepower that you can expect in a title that has received so much care and attention. Indulging in these weapons will be one of the eight different character, or legends as they are called here, who you get to choose before you start a match. Six of these eight legends are available for play and the other two need to be bought/unlocked, which we will get to in a little while. Each legend has their own skillset in three categories, Passive, Tactical and Ultimate. The variety in here is good enough to keep things interesting and the novelty does not wear thin after a while.
The game plays out in squads of three and a legend cannot be chosen twice in the same squad. This encourages you to explore all characters and chose the one that suits you best. Or second best, or in worst case scenarios the third best. The reason, and this one of the few gripes I have with the game, is that you are not always allowed to choose who you want first. Instead, the parties in the squad are given turns to choose their character. So more often than not, one may find themselves getting the second or third turn and may result in their choice being chosen already. Of course this mostly happens only in random matchmaking and one would eventually be good at most characters.
It is once you enter the match itself, when you realize why AL is so gratifying. The game plays out like a super polished AAA shooter. You are dropped into King’s Canyon as one of the 20 squads competing for the top spot. The movement is fluid and fast paced and there more than a few tools to traverse the varied landscapes of the map, thanks to the various abilities shared within your squad and some fun mechanics built into the map. And once the guns start blazing, combat is refreshingly fast paced too, something that is a welcome shift from the slower paced BR games we have seen so far. Teamwork is key and the game adds a tremendous amount of accessibility towards teamwork with its simple yet functional ping system. With the push of a button you can notify your squad mates of different loot, enemies and areas of interest. This means that a microphone is not really essential and one can cut out all the verbal fluff that goes on through a multiplayer match session.
Apex Legends still has the basic DNA of a BR game, with scavenging and inventory management as part of the experience. But ReSpawn have tweaked the health and shield system such that the gunplay and enemy encounters in general, while fast paced, lasts longer than your conventional BR game. Assuming one’s luck in the loot, there is a considerable amount of health to chip away during gunfights and even when you are down the prospect of revival and a potential respawn after death keeps each squad encounter fresh and exciting.
Micro transactions are built in to AL, as one would expect from a free to game play. Thankfully these are restricted to cosmetics only and all purchasable items can be unlocked through in game grind as well, via apex packs or this games version of loot boxes. Battle passes are also available for seasonal events should one choose to go down that road. EA appear to have been thoughtful in their approach on micro transactions with AL, perhaps after the backlash from Star Wars BF2. There are videos in the wild explaining and emphasising that micro transactions are completely optional, and that there are no pay to win mechanics. How this is going to be tweaked in the future is yet to be seen. But I hope that EA let ReSpawn do the thinking when it comes to monetization, just like they did with the rest of the game.
Overall there is plenty of fun to be had with Apex Legends and I highly recommend it. This is a stellar game made by a prolific developer and the results speak for itself. The game hit one million unique players within eight hours of it’s launch and for something that has had zero marketing push, it is saying something. Apex Legends has something for everyone. Whether you are BR veteran who has poured in hours into PUBG and Fortnite or it is your first foray into the genre, there is a lot to like in here. This game has the potential to be the next big thing and if it gets nearly as much support as Fortnite did, in terms of extra content and updates, there is no stopping this game in breaking new records. Go play Apex Legends.