Hats off to Respawn Entertainment, I can’t name many titles that are as polished or as fun when their announcements and release coincide. It’s the best type of surprise. Even though it isn’t Titanfall 3, that doesn’t mean you should overlook this really fun entry into the Battle Royale genre. It’s almost as if Overwatch and Titanfall had a baby and this was the end result. Plus, it’s free, with none of the microtransactions having any effect on the outcome of each match.
Apex separates itself from its competitors by being a squad-based, hero-shooter in which each of the eight selectable characters have special and ultimate abilities that can help your team gain an advantage in the arena. There are only three players to a squad and you’re unable to select the same character twice. Which means that if you jump in with randoms, be comfortable with more than one character so you can contribute. Each brings a unique playstyle and their abilities are all useful as some can get you out of trouble in a pinch.
When jumping into a match, a jump master is chosen at random and that is the only individual that can initiate the jump. Other teammates can make recommendations by pinging an area of the map, but ultimately, one person makes the decision. During the tandem jump, you’re able to break away from your group, but this isn’t recommended as during most of my runs, teams really stuck together and will converge on any stragglers. The map isn’t large, but it is dense and can become hectic really quickly as the circle closes. Teamwork really is a requirement to win, otherwise it’s back to the main menu you go.
Once you’re on the ground, you’ll be able to slide down hills to gain speed, use zip lines to go up certain areas and jump from high areas with no fall damage. Traversal is enjoyable as the game emphasizes using the environment to your advantage by any means necessary. Gaining a height advantage is always going to yield positive results, as long as your aim is solid. Luckily in Apex Legends, the gunplay is similar to Titanfall, which was solid and responsive. You won’t be to run on walls or perform double jump, but certain characters do have abilities that emphasize mobility.
Weapons in the game are what you expect, pistols, sniper rifles, shotguns, assault rifles, and LMG’s are all available and each have attachments and buffs that can be found scattered across the environment. Gear quality is identified by color and the game will prevent from picking up a lesser attachment, which is a good feature when trying to loot quickly. There are supply caches and loot drops, everything you expect in a battle royale game. While all this is standard fare, it’s the special abilities and emphasis on teamwork that give the game that extra bit of personality.
If a squad member happens to be downed during a match, you do have the ability to grab their banner from their chest and then take that to a respawn beacon. They will be revived, but may have to backtrack to get their gear back. This helps add to the squad emphasis of the game as when you get to the last two to three squads, it’s a lot easier going at it as a team rather than solo. Although now that I think about it, that moment might be more epic, if you can clutch it against six opponents with varying abilities.
So let’s say you’re not feeling very talkative, you can communicate non-verbally with your squad by pinging almost everything. Enemies, points of interest, loot, this is a great feature in the game that other titles should adopt because it allows you to avoid awkward conversations with squad mates who may not be toxic on the mic. Plus identifying whether or not an enemy has been at a location helps keep the action moving as you may be able to anticipate where they go next.
What will surprise you when booting up Apex is just how responsive and polished it is when first entering a match. The game barely has lag, I’ve been kicked only once from a match, but I was able to promptly jump into another one. There’s only 60 players per game, but if it allows Apex Legends to run as smooth as it does, then you’ll hear no complaints regarding the player count. It also helps that the production values are pretty great for a free-to-play title. There are a number of nice touches such as the banners that fill the environment showing the leading squad and lead killer. The music after jumping into a match is epic and the landings are incredibly smooth and satisfying.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, EA isn’t the publisher and they haven’t has the best track record when it comes to microtransactions and the consumer. You’re also feeling a bit divisive when you realize that Titanfall 3 isn’t coming out as a result of Apex Legends development. But, with that being said, Respawn Entertainment has crafted a really fun title that I feel can be enjoyed by damn near everyone. Bashing them would do them no good considering the pretty high quality of this title.
There are microtransactions as mentioned, but they’re all cosmetic and come in the form of skins, dialogue, themes, and unique animations. You earn loot boxes and currency in game by leveling up, so while there are 8 characters, two need to be unlocked by either in-game or real-world currency. Honestly, it’s surprising that these aren’t more heavily pushed onto the player as soon as you load in and I fully expected microtransactions to be a point of emphasis with EA’s involvement, but I’m glad to be wrong.
Apex Legends should make waves in the Battle Royale genre, it isn’t a quick cash grab like Radical Heights, this is a fun, fast-paced title that surprisingly good with both randoms and friends. It’s a pleasant surprise in what has been a strong start to 2019. I highly recommend you give it a try.