Anyone that knows me, knows that they could utter either “Titanfall” or “Battle Royale” and they would pique my interest. So seeing an (almost) surprise release of a Battle Royale game, set in the Titanfall universe, understandably got me pretty excited.
Enter, Apex Legends.
I’ve not had the luxury of time, but I’ve had a few rounds and started to get a feel for it. So this is my first take on the game.
I should add that this is a completely free-to-play game, reliant on micro-transactions and cosmetic items to keep it afloat. Beyond that, it’s worth noting that this is published by EA, the kings of making a mess out of micro-transactions…..
Yeah, it’s set in the Titanfall universe (a universe I love!), but we’re not playing as pilots here, so some of the expected features are missing.
Apex Legends isn’t a Titanfall game per se. Not being a pilot means no pilot kit (namely, no jump pack for wall running and double-jumping).
Minus the traversal elements, the most notable absence is of course the Titans…..
Where Apex Legends doesn’t carry some of the tent-pole features, it does come with the super-tight controls, the speed and the weaponry. Then it takes that and goes for it.
This isn’t Titanfall, but it sure feels like it. What a great starting position to be in.
The biggest current genre/gametype in the past 18 months. Arguably a dead donkey now. People are tired of it, plenty of games have been made and plenty of others have created add-ons to cash-in.
How does Apex Legends stand, then?
So far, so good!
The term Battle Royale relates to a game that starts with 100 people, dropped onto an island. Based on the film “Battle Royale”. Simple!
Here, we have a more “Hunger Games” take on the genre. To be honest, it’s a welcome, refreshing approach.
You’re in an arena, it’s set out more like a TV show/sport, and portrayed as such in the opening cinematic. It’s all incredibly well put together and looks fantastic.
Beyond the expected Battle Royale features, there’s an Overwatch element applied. Having specific heroes with unique abilities and ultimates to compliment each other when working as a squad. I thought it would be crap, from that perspective, but it actually feels very balanced and pretty well thought-out!
The other difference here, is that you’re tied to a squad of three, so there’s no solo victories here. With a total of 60 people dropping in, it’s you and your squad vs 19 other teams. A welcome change in the standard dynamic, and I think Apex Legends might be onto something here.
Squad-up, Drop, Loot, Shoot
Yeah, it’s standard fare. However, each team can only have one of each hero, the opportunity to select your favourite is random. So you have to wait your turn if you haven’t been the lucky one to get first choice.
Then, more randomly, one of the squad gets allocated the role of choosing where to drop. You can actually control all 3 squad members in the air to make sure they drop in the same place. Pretty cool actually!
Of course, the other squad members can choose not to be controlled down to the ground, but it’s a decent idea. Having landed in PUBG and Blackout in the same area, but still a bit apart, you’re potentially vulnerable.
Apex Legends tries to help you keep together as a squad, because that’s what this game is all about, teamwork.
So, you’ve dropped, you’re picking gear up (helmets, armor, shields, weapons and attachments as usual). Great. But you’re forced into a squad with randoms (if you’re playing solo). People don’t generally like talking in groups with strangers, so Respawn have gotten around that, in a way that other games in the genre should implement.
Pressing the RB (R1 for playstation) button will give a visual marker on-screen for your squad. You can mark weapons, ammo, a location and most importantly, you can use it to spot enemies.
Spotting enemies and sharing that location non-verbally is bloody genius! It’s like spotting enemies in Battlfield, but in the context of a Battle Royale, this is exactly what’s been missing from other games.
I was hesitant about being forced into a squad to be honest. But with the combination of complimentary abilities, non-verbal communication and some collaborative landing/traversal. It works really well.
Down but not out
One other element that took me by surprise, is the fact that even if your teammate has been killed (not just downed, but actually finished-off). You have the chance to grab their banner and get to a beacon.
Getting to a beacon and uploading the banner (it takes a few seconds, so be careful), means you can call your squad-mate back into the game. Very cool, and a lovely twist on the genre.
Sure, you come back, but you’ve lost all your gear. It’s a fair trade-off, and you can quickly loot-up again.
Using your abilities can be the difference between a good skirmish and a bad one. Now I’ve only use a couple of the heroes. One that heals, and can not only send out a healing bot, but drop in a load of support supplies.
The other can drop into a void for a few seconds, then walk around, to appear elsewhere (great for flanking!). Her ultimate is to create a portal, with two points of entry. I didn’t use this well, at all. Setting the start point for it is fine, but having to walk to, and then deploy the other end at a second point, seemed a bit redundant. I’m sure some pro’s will have decent use out of it.
Having these abilities can mix-up play quite nicely. I slipped into the void, flanked around the back of a squad, and then helped to take them out while my squad kept them busy. Loads to learn and take advantage of, and it’s again a nice twist on the genre.
So far, Apex Legends is doing a lot right!
Ok, there are loot boxes, in-game currencies and and in-game store. Yep…….you can buy loads of stuff.
Thankfully, it’s all cosmetic, and it’s more on a par with Overwatch than say PUBG.
Skins, voicelines, weapon skins and finishers (more on that in a second). Nothing with any real weight, but no doubt we’ll see some cool items come in as the “seasons” come and go.
You earn loot boxes in-game as you level up, and I read somewhere that there’s no chance of duplicate items being dropped. Which is interesting!
The boxes themselves show the percentages for different rarities of loot, and if you were to buy some, they’re the cheapest item in the game at present.
So, you can look pretty cool, and your weapons can too. Great! I love me some nice cosmetics, and I’m happy to put a few quid into a free game if I like it, so let’s see.
One other addition that Apex Legends makes is the “finisher”, and this is the most spectacle if you ask me. If you down an opponent, you can walk up to them and perform a finishing move. Super cocky but it fits in with the Battle Royale game play so well!
It’s definitely a little arrogant, and no doubt leaves you wide open to others, but I finished a guy off in style and honestly, I loved it. I’ve also been “finished” and it was a little embarrassing. So it has an impact!
Nice way to save ammo, and to really rub it in that you won that gunfight.
So far. So good.
Only a few rounds in so far, but I’ll be giving this much more time in the next few weeks and seeing how it goes.
Apex Legends does enough to set itself apart in a pretty saturated market. It’s delivered with the level of polish that PUBG should be envious of, and the familiar weapons and controls help any Titanfall fan get stuck-in with ease.
I don’t know the best places to drop, I don’t know the best routes around the map or even what abilities I like. What I do know, though, is that this feels really good and I have a lot of faith in Respawn.
Regardless of EA, as it stands, we have a well-polished and slick experience, for free. That’s a pretty strong start.
If updates keep coming for it, and items don’t get stupidly over-priced, great. If the store becomes some kind of “pay-to-win” endeavour, then we might have a problem.
Right now, this is fun it’s free and it’s a great new entry to the Battle Royale genre. Welcome, Apex Legends. Let’s see what you can bring to the table in the longer term.