No one saw it coming. Apex Legends, Respawn Entertainment’s fresh take on the Battle Royale genre was launched without any warning. The studio known for its unique take on the FPS genre with the Titanfall franchise was rumored to be developing a new title for 2019; and the whispers were getting louder and louder during the previous weeks.
Social media platforms and big streamers of other Battle Royale games were abuzz on Twitter about the upcoming reveal, and Respawn Entertainment finally delivered. Little did we know that the reveal trailer would end with the words “Play Free NOW”. The game had over 1 million unique players within 8 hours of it going live and it dethroned Fortnite as the #1 game being watched on Twitch (for the meantime) which is no small feat. It’s not Titanfall 3 as the devs said, but it’s a new free to play Battle Royale game set in the Titanfall universe.
So the big and most obvious question is: how is the game? Is it buggy like most of past multiplayer game launches (ahem Fallout 76)? Is it buggy like other Battle Royale games like PubG? I installed EA’s Origin launcher on PC to find out about this intriguing game for myself.
That Old Source Engine is Put into Great Use
Apex Legends simply put, runs like a dream. I installed it on my gaming laptop running an i7-7700, GTX 1060 6gb along with 16gb of RAM, and while initially I had problems with the game defaulting to the integrated Intel GPU, a quick fix with the GPU control panel fixed it and it started running the way it was supposed to run.
It’s amazing how much Respawn has mastered the old Source engine – the game looks great with its art style and how tight the gunplay feels. While I won’t go into the specifics of the history of the Battle Royale genre and it’s explosion, it’s pretty much a mix of Call of Duty’s Blackout Battle Royale mode, Overwatch/Paladins and the other hero shooter games and of course Titanfall. The fast paced gameplay is combined with all of these familiar elements and it works really well.
During my few hours of playtime, I didn’t personally encounter any bugs or hiccups and I really enjoyed their take on the Battle Royale genre.
Team Hero Shooter or Battle Royale? A Marriage Made in Heaven
The hero shooter and battle royale sub-genres have been the hottest and biggest industry movers for the past recent years. In Apex Legends, these ideas have been neatly packaged into something familiar, yet new and exciting.
There’s a really handy tutorial that introduces you to the mechanics and it’s really something the Battle Royale genre could use more of instead of having you parachuting down from the sky without knowing anything and telling you “Good luck, have fun”. As of launch, there’s only 1 game mode which puts you into squads of 3, and there are fresh new mechanics such as the Respawn feature which allows you to take your dead teammate’s tag and frankenstein them onto certain respawn machines in the map.
You start off a match picking a “Legend” or a hero/champion each with their own stats, strengths and weaknesses and more importantly, an ability and an ultimate. As of launch, there are 8 unique characters each with their voice lines. This keeps the gameplay interesting as your character and your teammates’ characters are interacting with each other in contrast to the strange silence of Fortnite and PubG without voice chat. 6 characters are unlocked at the start with 2 of them available for purchase via in-game grind or by buying credits from the in-game store.
I started off with Bangalore who seemed to have the most straightforward skills to my noob eyes, and it also helped that she looked like a Naomi from the TV Series The Expanse which I am a huge fan of. Your team then takes turns picking their character and then all 3 of you get thrown into the battlefield with the “Jumpmaster” of your team picking where you land together.
Bangalore has a passive skill which allows you to move faster while you’re under fire, has a smoke grenade, and an Ultimate that acts like an air strike, so I had hoped to be able to “pwn noobs” with Bangalore. There’s the usual loot searching, crates, armor, medkits, weapon mods and ammo which you’ll need if you want to survive throughout the game. The game encourages you to run around, climb walls and parkour around (no wall running from Titanfall unfortunately) for these items before you run into enemies from other squads. When you inevitably run into enemies, you’ll realize that they can be tough to take down without proper teamwork as many of them will have heavy armor equipped and as most characters have defensive skills that will help them survive an engagement. Gunplay feels tight, fast and intense and it’s really feels satisfying to fire off a few rounds from your arsenal.
Once you down an enemy, you can shoot them down the good old boring way to finish them off before his/her squad arrives for backup, or you can use a Finisher on them by pressing a button which gives you a flashy, anime-ish close-up animation of the finisher and it feels REALLY satisfying. It’s like a non-bloody Mortal Kombat fatality and it adds to the polish and fun of the game.
Teamwork is a must as the game gives you the tools to communicate via voice or with the unique context-driven Ping tool (Middle Mouse button on PC) which allows you to ping the next location, items on the ground, or even interact with teammate pings with your own ping; and it works really well.
There are 5 different classes of guns, each with its own kind of color-coded ammo, so you’ll be sure you’re picking up the right kind of loot. Armor, helmet and other items are also color-coded, but the game only allows you to pick-up gear that’s higher quality than what you already own, unless you force it to. It’s really streamlined so that you’re back in the action sooner and you’re done with inventory management after a few seconds.
Towards the end of a match, it gets really intense as the game paces you towards action instead of just camping. I’m no FPS virtuoso like Shroud so I only won a single-game out of the few hours I played, but all of those were fun, rewarding, and kept me coming back for more. I literally jumped out of my seat when the words “YOU ARE THE CHAMPION” showed up on screen and it was just one of those moments you savor in your gaming life.
What’s next for Apex Legends?
While I was really impressed with the game at launch and had a lot of fun, one has to imagine what happens next with this new juggernaut from EA and Respawn.
Let’s talk about the controversial issues: Lootboxes are already in the game but are purely cosmetic and optional. Legend skins and weapon skins can be “crafted” or opened from these boxes as you level up which is a good thing – as you can fully ignore these if you just choose to just play the game.
The developer roadmap already mentions a Battle Pass coming soon, which is the most effective way to convert free players into paying customers and rewards them with a lot of goodies.
As for content, the most obvious wishlists for me personally are new and more interesting Legends, more weapons, skills, maybe vehicles and air combat? And of course the most important thing from Titanfall, the mechs! Who wouldn’t want to control a giant hulking mech in a Battle Royale? The developers have talked about a Nintendo Switch port and a mobile port and it would be amazing to take this experience on the go.
It’s really impressive that a game of this caliber had a surprise launch and most importantly, free. EA and Respawn are clearly here to make an impact and the initial feedback has been positive. While it’s too early to say PubG/Fortnite killer, it’s only day 1 and the quality is clearly already there. The launch has been a success and gamers are buzzing about it. Kudos to EA and Respawn for bringing this experience for free to console and PC alike.
Article by Franz Francisco Chan