Someone quite prominent recently posted on Facebook: “I’m not enjoying Apex Legends like I’m supposed to”. I might be paraphrasing and I apologize for not remembering the person’s name that posted this, but it got me thinking. Who or what dictates your enjoyment of a specific game? Just because a game draws in 25 million players in a week and 2 million concurrent players does not mean you have to enjoy a game. Just because a game is massively successful does not mean you will enjoy it.
Why did I find this so profound? Well, because I don’t get the massive success of battle royale games. Personally I find the formula quite boring, and the fact that these modes are shoehorned into games just because it is popular, is really annoying. As a result, I didn’t give it much notice when Apex Legends was released…Until I was asked to review it.
I’m not going to bore you with too much with the details. Chances are that you’ve already played the game and love it, but just in case you are totally in the dark, here is the breakdown. Apex Legends is the love child of a hero shooter and battle royale game, set in the Titanfall universe. The last part of that statement is relevant only because the resources that was supposed to give us a sequel to the underrated Titanfall 2 went into making this game. This means that we’re not getting a sequel soon. Surprisingly, Apex Legends actually shares very little with the other games in its universe. There is no wall running and no titans (at least for now). What you do get is eight “heroes”, each with their unique skills and role in the squad. Three skills are available: Active, Passive and Ultimate.
Like many other battle royale games, you airdrop into an environment and immediately start collecting gear and weapons. As is typical with these type of games, the loot is crucial to your survival. The aim of the game? Be the last one standing. One way the game distinguishes itself from the rest of the pack, is by being built for squads. Even just dropping in brings a couple of unique mechanics to the table. One player will be designated the Jumpmaster and decides where the squad will land. The rest of the team automatically follows the leader to the landing point, unless they decide to break off and go solo. This is quite useful if you want to split up to cover a larger area, or looking to flank the enemy. Also, if you are playing with randoms, this is your first chance to ditch them and go for solo glory. Not that this is recommended, though. Being a squad-focused game, your team is crucial for survival since they can heal and even resurrect your character. Communication issues with the randoms controlling the rest of your team is overcome by the excellent “ping” mechanic. Players can ping weapons, ammo and armor to allow teammates to find them.There is a wide variety of loot, weapons and armor to collect with different levels of rarity. Being a free to play game, you can also buy equipment, skins and characters with in-game currency. Usually, micro-transactions annoy me, but these seem well implemented. You can also unlock most of these by collecting crafting materials and tokens. Additionally, none of the game mechanics are locked behind a paywall. I’m not a fan of micro-transactions, but if they have to be included, this is the way to do it. Also, the game is free to play, and I guess the developers need some way to make money. The addition of battle passes adds to the longevity too by providing you with incentive to carry on playing but unfortunately these also cost money.
The weapons (at least the ones I was lucky enough to try out) are well balanced, and firefights come down to skill. Unfortunately it seems like I lack the latter. While my squad of randoms managed to end up top 5 on a couple of occasions, I am yet to land my first kill. In fact, many of these finishes were obtained with minimal gunfire. With apologies to my fellow teammates, one round I even did an experiment to see how long I could survive without firing a single shot. We ended third. And this is my main problem with the battle royale formula. Granted, its impossible to win a round without firing a single shot, and character progression is quite slow if this is your play style, but I never understood the incentive to engage in gunfire when your objective is to survive.
However, Apex Legends somewhat changed this perspective and I am gradually starting to come to grips with the formula. It has a somewhat steep learning curve, but I am starting to understand why people enjoy it. Why it is ridiculously popular is still beyond me, but its a solid game with solid mechanics. It’s fun, but the game only really came to life once I’ve I started playing with friends. Since the game is free to play, there’s no harm in giving it a go. Try it out for yourselves with 2 other friends and see if it hooks you.