You never seen a review for a battle royale game here and that’s with good reason: I’m not a fan of them at all. I played PUBG for a few hours with a mate of mine, along with a couple hours solo to see what it was like, and honestly I just didn’t enjoy it. I like my shooters dumb and fast; the antithesis of what battle royale games typically are. When Apex Legends was announced I figured it was going to be more of the same and figured I’d leave it for more greener gaming pastures. That changed however when all of my friends started playing it relentlessly, giving me plenty of opportunity to play with a crew. Since then I’ve come to appreciate Respawn’s take on the battle royale genre, vastly improving on the formula by including numerous quality of life improvements that take nearly all the pain out of playing games like these.
Apex Legends is set in the same universe as the Titanfall series and takes a lot of design cues from its spiritual predecessors. All the weapons in the game are come directly from Titanfall, although they’re really only copies in name and look only. There’s really no plot to speak of, not that you’d be coming here looking for one, and the opening cinematic just serves to set up the characters that you get to choose from. As a big fan of the Titanfall series I can tell you that I was somewhat disappointed to hear that Respawn was working on this rather than another Titanfall game but after sinking a good amount of time into the game I think I can forgive them…for now.
Like all of Respawn’s games Apex Legends comes to us via the Source engine, albeit with a completely different kind of aesthetic to that of their previous titles. Instead of the more realistic visuals that the Titanfall series was known for Apex Legends goes for a slightly stylized look with bright colours, reminiscent of other slightly cartoony games like Team Fortress 2. That being said the world they’ve crafted is brimming with detail, enough that in my time with it I’ve yet to fully explore the single map that you’re given to play. Performance is still quite good even on my now 4 year old rig, something which I’m sure has helped broaden its appeal tremendously. That’s likely Respawn’s reason for keeping with their modded Source engine for so long as it’s far more lightweight than its competitors. Apex Legends might not do anything particularly novel visually but it certainly pulls all its varying visual elements together nicely.
The core of Apex Legends game play is the same as any battle royale: a number of players drop into a large map which constantly shrinks and the last one standing takes the crown. Whilst the addition of classes is certainly one differentiator it feels like the most minor compared to the rest of the improvements they’ve made to the formula. The inventory system has been streamlined to perfection, allowing you to loot with reckless abandon and know that you’ll always be upgrading your gear. The integrated ping system is an absolute godsend for both pub groups and organised teams alike, enabling rapid communication without the need for voice chat. The pace of the game has also been ramped up significantly, both in terms of how long matches take to complete as well as how long it takes to start one. Gone are the long downtimes between matches, replaced with a rapid fire matchmaking system that ensures you’ll never go more than a couple minutes without being in a fight. Instead of simply being a “battle royale game with X” Apex Legends feels like the new bar for what all games from this genre should be.
Whilst Apex Legends comes from the same developers who gave us Titanfall the combat is nothing like it at all. The gunplay is far more in-depth with numerous options that are sure to suit any player’s preferred style. Of course whether or not you can find your preferred kit is all up to RNJesus, so you’re forced to get good with a number of weapons so you always have something you can rely on. After a short stint trying my hand at sniping I’ve settled on a more medium range build typically consisting of a SMG (a prowler with select fire being my favourite) with either a peacekeeper or EVA-8 as my backup. This does mean of course I’m usually the first one in and the first to die but that’s pretty much my playstyle for all shooters anyway. Your mileage will vary though and the only way to figure it out is by playing.
The character classes mean a lot less than they do in other games, mostly just giving you some additional things to play with rather than actually making a huge difference to how the game plays out. I started out playing as Gibraltar, thinking that the gun shield would give me an edge in gunfights. That advantage was quickly outweighed by the fact that the shield is a massive giveaway for any enemies who might be looking for you and his other abilities didn’t really feel like they were making much of an impact to how my games were going. So I switched to Bloodhound which provided a lot more utility overall, even if the impact of their abilities still feels pretty minor overall. Realistically I think this is probably the only way you could do characters and still feel like its balanced as anything that really changed the gunplay dynamics would make it feel quite unfair. That’s why you don’t see any characters that have abilities that directly buff gun damage, reduce reload times or anything else of the sort. More the abilities are about positioning, intel and forcing your opponents to make bad decisions that you can take advantage of, adding an intriguing layer of strategy rather than simply finding the best place to camp.
The ping system goes a long way to making the pub experience much better, facilitating a higher level of communication than you’d typically find in any multiplayer game.It helps that it’s given such a prominent position during the tutorial, ensuring that everyone knows how at least the basics of it works. Of course whilst the pub experience is far better than any other battle royale game I’ve played it’s still a pale shadow compared to the experience of playing with a proper squad, especially if you’re like me and love dropping straight into the hottest zones and getting your fight on immediately. Indeed that’s probably why I’ve enjoyed Apex Legends so much more than other battle royale games; there’s a steady stream of mates to play with.
The microtransaction system doesn’t feel particularly in your face, only really showing up during the pre-match screens where you see your team and the champion’s player cards. Even with the legendary drop of crafting materials above I still don’t have enough to craft a legendary skin (that’d take 2 of the above drops) and there’s unfortunately no way to melt down other drops you’ve gotten to get more materials to use. This is all deliberate of course, forcing you to either play more or to shell out some real money to get the fancy cosmetics you’re lusting after. I’m quite fine with this approach honestly as you’re more likely to pay to lose with these kinds of things, what with all the sparkly skins that people seem to be rocking. We’ll see how long it takes me to crack before I pay a couple bucks to get a skin as I think it took me a couple hundred hours in DOTA 2 before I bought my first there.
Apex Legend’s release hasn’t been without its issues, many of which I’ve thankfully not experienced but have affected those I’ve played with. Crashes are commonplace, especially for those rocking the latest graphics cards from NVIDIA, which can often leave you a man down right at the start of a match. The servers will also turn the tick rate right down for seemingly no reason at all, making everyone move in slow motion before it starts to clear up. There’s also some weird loading issues with the pre-match lobby, sometimes dropping people before they get a chance to choose a character. Respawn is aware of all the issues and is working towards fixing them although they have said that they’re probably not going to bother putting in a reconnection feature due to their concerns around abuse. That’s somewhat disappointing so we can only hope that the work they do to increase stability makes the need for a reconnection solution moot.
Apex Legends is likely to down as the surprise hit of 2019, coming out of nowhere to dominate the charts with its fresh take on a genre that had started to grow stale. Its improvements come in the form of making the genre more approachable to a wider audience, reducing complexity without taking away from the depth of the gameplay. When I first saw it I didn’t think it would have anything to offer me but here I am, some 34 hours deep in it with no signs of stopping playing anytime soon. Those that were looking to unseat Fortnite as the game of choice now have a new contender they have to beat and a bar that’s been set even higher again.
Apex Legends is available on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 right now for free. Game was played on the PC with 34 hours of total play time and 42% of the achievements unlocked.
When you step into a virtual world these days, whether that be an actual simulated world like Second Life or your run of the mill game like World of Warcraft, you’re playing as what most computer type people would call an avatar. A virtual representation of either yourself, an alter ego or the character themselves. Games over the past decade have become increasingly more detailed and as a result many of them allow a user to customise their appearance in game. This can range from simple choices like tall or short all the way through to the little details like eye colour or the amount of stubble on your character’s face. There are now many games which have the ability to manipulate almost all features of an avatar, allowing you to recreate yourself in the game.
I’d never really played around with the in depth character customisations like that of Oblivion and the like, I just wanted to play the game. However that all changed when I got Mass Effect, and I wanted to recreate myself so I could literally play through the game. Queue about 10 minutes worth of me fumbling with the controls and an awkward picture of myself taken on my digital camera to try and get all the features right. I didn’t do too well and my fiancée and one of my female friends decided they could do a much better job, and I became their model for the next 30 mins. We eventually got pretty close, most of the major features were correct but it was still a little way off from being exactly me. It was at this point we realised that there were just some things you couldn’t do and left it at that. He did bear an uncanny resemblance to me however and I must say this did make me empathise just that little bit more with the character, as whenever the camera switched to him speak it was like looking through some futuristic space mirror image of myself.
I’ll be honest and say that I find that the fairer gender seems to enjoy the customisation a lot more than us typical blokes. Whilst at least 50% of my creations in customisation wizards are hilarious uses of the extreme levels offered (sure you can have a nose half the size of your face!) I’ve found any game I’ll give to my fiancée that allows her to customise the character she will spend a good 30 minutes creating either herself or what she considers the most pretty avatar. She always does well with this (damn her creativity!) and I think this is where most of the joy is for her. I’ve also noticed quite a lot of my fairer World of Warcraft players keeping vast wardrobes of pretty things to dress up their characters with. Although I must admit I keep a lot of junk just for the novelty value as well.
Ever since then I’ve noticed the tendency whenever I’m playing a game to naturally gravitate towards either recreating myself in either appearance or play style. Whilst I did enjoy my second play through of Mass Effect being a right evil bastard I didn’t do it with the character that looked like me, and I think I would’ve had a tough time doing it if I did. I guess I empathise pretty deeply with my characters and customising them to be closer to me only serves to deepen that. Although I do see the other side of the coin though, and sometimes its great to abstract yourself away from the norm and do things that you normally wouldn’t do, that’s why the Grand Theft Auto series is so popular.
Customisation is one of those meta aspects of gaming that traditionally you don’t take much notice of. With the advent of games like the Sims the focus shifted heavily and now many games feature in depth customisation which draws you even further into the game. Whilst I found myself none to bothered with it initially I’ve grown accustomed to recreating my virtual self and it never ceases to take add about 30 minutes worth of game time (depending on the editor). It’s a little bit of extra value that I’m starting to look for in any future game.
Or maybe it’s that repressed creative child in me trying to escape after being imprisoned by the cold adult engineer, who knows! 🙂