On Feb. 4, EA Games launched Apex Legends — a new battle-royale first-person shooter — without any pre-release promotion. Since then, the game has become a huge word-of-mouth success threatening to topple Epic Games’ Fortnite Battle Royale, the undisputed genre king.
Respawn Entertainment — the team behind the Titanfall franchise — worked on the game in secret while exploring potential directions for Titanfall 3. The team was founded by Jason West and Vince Zampella, the creative duo behind Call of Duty. Apex is another exciting new development befitting the team’s legendary pedigree.
Apex Legends presents a remarkable update on current gaming trends. The game has all of the calling cards of the battle-royale genre: randomly distributed items, a massive and sprawling environment, and the ever-present threat of “the storm,” which slowly encloses the playing field. This should all be familiar to fans of Fortnite, but the game quickly departs from convention.
Apex’s greatest achievement is the ingenious non-verbal communication mechanics. Respawn has built a wonderful ping system that allows players to highlight objectives, items and enemy locations. The system is seamless and comes ridiculously close to eliminating the need for verbal communication altogether. Playing random matches in Apex is a dream compared to most other games.
The game also has a wonderful sense of verticality and momentum. Players can slide down entire mountains, use ziplines for quick movement and climb nearly any structure in the game. By dropping Fortnite’s bafflingly archaic building system, the developers landed on much simpler — and much more fun — ways of getting around.
I’ve also really enjoyed the gear system in Apex Legends. While the first few days I spent with the game resulted in a lot of matches that ended before I could even arm myself, I was quickly kitting myself out, bartering for better loot with teammates and looking for unique weapon builds for different situations.
Apex Legends is accessible, but it also contains additional systems of complexity found in the game’s eight unique playable hero characters. Each character has two unique skills and finding out how these abilities work off of each other is part of the fun.
I’ve spent most of my time in Apex as Lifeline, a medic who can heal teammates and call in care packages as a timed special. I quickly found that, unlike most characters, Lifeline doesn’t strategically save her special for the optimal moment, and I convinced my teammates to give me items to reduce the cool-down time. This meant I could airdrop boxes of high-tier loot four to five times per game.
Finding efficiencies and developing a unique play style is a huge part of Apex Legends. There are ways to contribute to your team without racking up kills, which is great for players drawn to support roles. It makes for a smart, accessible game that is great for new players but still retains a high skill ceiling for the truly dedicated.
As someone who lacks the time to play videogames like it’s my day job, Apex is my preferred battle-royale game. Fortnite always seemed like something I might like, but watching enemy players wholesale fabricate entire defence structures out of thin air was intimidating. The act of playing Fortnite looks more like casting sigils than inputting button presses.
Apex streamlines the important stuff, like movement and communication, and adds depth and complexity in ways that are more forgiving to new players. It’s a polished and thoughtful take on battle royale that should serve to delight both old and new players alike.
Cole Chretien / Culture Editor
Graphic: Jaymie Stachyruk