Respawn’s Titanfall-universe Battle Royale is off to an awesome start. But it’s missing a few things we’d love to see.
Apex Legends is the latest entry in the increasingly crowded Battle Royale space. Created by Respawn, the developers of the beloved Titanfall franchise, Apex seems to not only take queues from other battle royales that proceeded it, but also from the hero shooter category, hence the Legends. Believe me when I say that these two aspects of game design work very well together. So well, in fact, that Apex Legends had already drawn in well over 2 million players in just its first few days. And while it seems to be getting fairly high praise from fans of the genre, there are a few aspects that could use some tightening up. Let’s dive in.
The Legends themselves are what immediately sets Apex apart from other Battle Royales. Apex shipped with eight unique characters, with a promise of more to come. So, unlike Call of Duty’s Blackout where everyone drops onto the map completely even, Apex Legends’ heroes immediately make you unique within your squad. Where one Legend may have the ability to vanish for a limited time, allowing you to escape a lethal situation, another can help spot laid traps or enemies within close proximity.
Apex Legends’ heroes immediately make you unique within your squad.
Speaking of squads, Apex currently only has one game type available, a three-person squad mode. So while you’re forced to play with random people if you can’t fill the squad, the game tries its best to break down the usual barriers of communication. The ability to quickly ping found loot or even target enemies is assigned to the right bumper button. The characters themselves will freely shout out actions such as “taking fire” or “the circle is far.” While nothing beats on-mic verbal communication, it’s not as missed in a game that somewhat automates conversation.
And constant communication is key when traversing Apex’s large map. While Titanfall’s Pilot movement isn’t present here (outside of the awesome slides down hills), the verticality and quick movement from the robot-ified side of the franchise lives on. Fall damage is also absent, so while you may be way up high, looting houses connected by drawbridges, your squad mates could be right behind you, but hundreds of feet below. Being able to hear an automated callout that a friend is in danger or jumping from a ledge and grabbing a nearby zipline that propels me down to the surface at blistering speeds are exhilarating moments I have yet to experience thus far in other Battle Royales.
There are a lot of items in this game, and I mean a lot — all fighting for precious inventory space.
Unfortunately, Apex stumbles a bit when the battles actually begin. There are a lot of items in this game, and I mean a lot — all fighting for precious inventory space. For example, if you want to carry a lot of ammo, you’ll have to forego essentials like shield repairs, health kits, and/or throwables. The fast-paced nature does cause you to burn through your bullets, and while it’s a welcome addition to have to play smarter than you usually would, many firefights result in a win for the team that had more bullets. Clip capacity also needs a tad bit of tuning. Apex Legends features welcome items like extended mags, but an ill-equipped SMG has almost no chance of taking down just a single shielded enemy, resulting in constant reloading while fighting to stay alive. If you’re not shooting you’re reloading, which leaves little time to use abilities or even heal.
That’s of course when battles happen at all. Again, Apex’s map is huge. Its verticality combined with its raw square footage clearly makes it a frontrunner for one of the biggest maps in a Battle Royale. Unfortunately, it only houses 60 players at a time. Couple that with a slow-closing circle and it’s not rare to go minutes at a time without seeing any action. The combat is there if you want it on the drop since the map clearly marks where to find higher-tier loot, but as a more cautious player, there seemed to be no middle ground between high-caliber firefights right at the start, or landing somewhere safe and having nothing to do at all for a long time. Simply raising the player count could remedy this, but I’d personally rather see the time between collapses shorted considerably.
Apex Legends is, at the very least, a breath of fresh air for the Battle Royale genre. Respawn found a way give players identities, all while keeping the frantic excitement of dropping on a map with nothing but your wits. With a price tag of zero dollars, optional non-intrusive micro-transactions, and the promise of constant updates, Apex Legends started strong and shows no signs of slowing down. Hopefully, any balance, weapon, or movement issues will be smoothed out, and while the overall meta between Legends are sure to fluctuate, I personally can’t wait to see what Apex’s future has in store for me.
Mark Medina is the most beloved cast member on Unlocked, our weekly Xbox show. Talk shooters with him on Twitter at @Mark_Medina.