Gaming’s next big Battle Royale title, Apex Legends, has only been out for a week and it already held a $200,000 USD cash prize Twitch tournament with pro gamers like Ninja competing. It gained over a million users on its surprise first-day launch and about 25 million more in less than 7 days. Whether or not the title proves to be a short-lived phase or not, Apex Legends and its mechanical emphasis on teamwork has already set a new standard within the genre.
Although it’s less pick-up-and-play than Fortnite due to its Solo play capabilities and platform accessibility (it’s available everywhere), Apex Legends targets the heart of the Battle Royale demographic who look to drop into matches with their friends after work or school and trash talk over the mic. With this in mind, as well as its unexpected arrival and novel appeal, AL has outshined Fortnite in its first week, in terms of garnering early adapters and having more views on Twitch.
The success of Fortnite opened the floodgates for every independent and AAA developer to recreate its triumphs with a Battle Royale title of their own. The current climate is reminiscent of the heyday of multiplayer games like Halo, which led to an oversaturated market of first-person shooters, with only a few titles like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare gaining prominence outside all the other cookie-cutter FPS being produced at the time. COD‘s realistic take on the genre was something you couldn’t find in the science fiction-heavy Halo titles, a hook that made mature gamers gravitate to it in favor of Halo.
About a decade later, the roles have reversed, with the most recent Call of Duty installment including a standard Battle Royale mode alongside its bread and butter Multiplayer and Zombies modes. Its Blackout mode is like PlayerUnknown’s Battleground if PUBG had a billion dollar entity like Activision backing its expenses. And although PUBG is credited as the cornerstone of the Battle Royale boom, its buzz quickly diminished once publisher Epic Games poured millions into developing Fortnite. Not only did it have a budget that allowed for great graphics, free-to-play accessibility, and (somewhat) smooth functionality Fortnite‘s building mechanic brought something unique to the Battle Royale formula outside of collecting supplies and shooting each other in a more and more confined space over time like the aforementioned titles.
“It has yet to descend into the over-implementation of emotes and overpriced skins like other titles of its ilk, leaving it to carve out a lane for itself more than it already has with its unique playstyle.”
The market for a cooperative FPS wasn’t as oversaturated as others that focused on Deathmatches like Halo and Call of Duty during the late 2000’s, but it had a similarly-dedicated fanbase in Valve classics like Team Fortress and Left 4 Dead that’s only been somewhat satiated with newer titles like Blizzard’s Overwatch since then. Those titles adopt FPS gameplay and combine it with character functions and Classes more commonly seen in role-playing games. But as Overwatch‘s popularity has begun to drop and the free-to-play model rises (a business model Blizzard has been slow at adopting), Apex Legends bridges the gap as a happy medium for team-based FPS fans and Battle Royale fans alike, and that’s the game’s hook.
Apex Legends is a polished, smooth-functioning Battle Royale title from publishing giant EA Games and Titanfall developer Respawn that showcases a sharp focus on teamwork. Although teamwork makes a lot of matches easier to come out on top of in Duos and Squads modes, nothing about the gameplay in Fortnite necessarily encourages teamwork. Apex Legends is all about working together, right from the start of a match where you or a teammate can decide where you’ll all drop on the map. Those responsibilities can be passed to another teammate or you can all drop independently, however, the game encourages that squads stick together, redeveloping your usual approach toward Battle Royale titles right out the gate.
Its ping function is perhaps the most crucial mechanic of the game. It allows players to notify their teams of loot, weapons, locations and enemies within the area with an on-screen landmark that also appears on the mini-map. Characters even verbally detail the objects and enemies you target. It’s a pinpoint-accurate function that allows players to share a wealth of information on the fly in a way that’s sometimes better than speaking over a mic. This function shines even more when you’re playing with strangers in casual pick-up and play matches where you may not have access to a mic. However, the game encourages that you play with friends, so much so that you gain points post-match if you were playing with them.
Each character also functions as a specific RPG-like class, some of which include a tank, a healer, a scout, and offensive character. This, alongside the pinging mechanic, introduces an entirely new and unique experience to the Battle Royale genre and a unique teamwork element that’s been previously unseen in similar titles. The best part about it is how seamlessly these aspects work alongside one another. Everyone has a role to play, the pinging system coordinates those roleplayers at any given moment, which emphasize strategy and effectiveness within a squad. Couple that with the ability for squads to bring back dead teammates, even after they’ve been killed while downed, and you’ve got a title that perfectly meshes together Battle Royale gameplay with the revitalized mechanics of a team-based FPS like Team Fortress 2.
“Apex Legends bridges the gap as a happy medium for team-based FPS fans and Battle Royale fans alike, and that’s the game’s hook.”
The great thing about Battle Royale games is that they’re always evolving, adding new things and tweaking mechanics. Apex Legends may evolve into a title with more than a single mode, ones that work even better in tandem with its cooperative mechanics if such a feat is even possible. Its first season is due to drop sometime in March, which will introduce a ton of new things like the debut of its Battle Pass, new Legends to play as, weapons, loot, and more. It has yet to descend into the over-implementation of emotes and overpriced skins like other titles of its ilk, leaving it to carve out a lane for itself more than it already has with its unique playstyle. It could very well maintain its approach of rewarding loot boxes and its inclusion of finishing moves to become something that resembles Fortnite less and less as its lifespan goes on, unlike most other Battle Royale titles looking to out-Fortnite Fortnite. At this juncture, the popularity of Apex Legends is Respawn and EA Game’s to lose.
Apex Legends is available now for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Origin, and PC for free. Purchase it now at ea.com.