Weighing in with these two heavyweights.
Fortnite’s Season 8 is well underway, bringing with it some changes to the map, including a new jungle biome, a pirate-themed town complete with pirate ship, and a giant, smoldering volcano. There are plenty of new pirate and ninja-themed skins, as well, and of course, a giant cannon weapon to round it all out.
Fortnite isn’t the only big Battle Royale on the block anymore, however, as a new challenger has risen to the occasion. Apex Legends has burst onto the scene finding immediate success, amassing over 50 million players in its first month. The game was an instant hit on Twitch, with many of Fortnite’s most popular streamers opting for the newer Battle Royale experience. Epic Games clearly took notice and tried to entice players by offering a set of Overtime Challenges that rewarded the Season 8 Battle Pass for free if completed in time. Now that Fortnite is facing some stiff competition for champion of the Battle Royale genre, let’s compare the two, so you can determine which game is best for you.
Fortnite’s strongest feature is that the developers at Epic Games support and update the game frequently, usually on a weekly basis. These updates are often small bug fixes or weapon adjustments, but other times they introduce new limited-time modes (including a crossover with Thanos from The Avengers) or unique items–like the recent addition of the Driftboard. Typically, within each Season, Epic has introduced a theme or story arc that players can follow. These have included meteors falling from the sky, exploding cubes, and rifts opening up in the world. They even went as far as opening a rift up to our world, with a real-life Durr Burger appearing in the middle of a California desert.
Fortnite caters well to new players. The art style and characters are colorful and inviting, which appeals to a broader audience, including many that don’t traditionally play games. All items are color-coded to signify rarity, making the loot system easy to understand, while borrowing familiar rarity colors from other popular games. The inventory itself is similarly simplified, allowing you to carry your pickaxe and only five additional items. With the inventory always displayed on-screen, there is very little management and no convoluted menus to navigate.
Fortnite is also an extremely social game, allowing you to jump in with your friends no matter where they are. It made headlines last year when it became the first major game to support cross-platform play, meaning you can play with your friends on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac and mobile, regardless of which platform you’re all on. Any of your progress made within the game carries over between platforms, too. Epic continued innovating with Fortnite last year when it launched Fortnite Creative, a mode that allows you to create your own private island featuring your own set of rules and custom game modes that up to 16 players can participate in. These custom islands can be saved and shared with others, which has fostered an entire community of players dedicated to creating unique experiences.
Arguably the biggest monetary success of Fortnite is the Battle Pass–an optional in-game purchase that gives you 100 tiers of unlockable items and exclusive challenges. The items obtained from the Battle Pass don’t have any impact on gameplay, and instead allow you to customize your character and show it off to the world. The weekly challenges are beneficial, as they add more variety to the standard gameplay, requiring you to focus on specific weapon kills or search the map for hidden items. This can help you hone your skills by forcing you to play outside of your comfort zone to achieve certain tasks. The best part about the Battle Pass is that you’ll earn enough in-game currency, known as V-Bucks, to purchase the following Season’s Battle Pass, just by playing the game and progressing through the various tiers. The idea of purchasing something once and gaining indefinite access to future seasons is a brilliant strategy, and exactly why Epic made $2.4 billion in revenue off Fortnite last year–more than any game in history.
One of the most controversial mechanics in Fortnite is the building system. While this is absolutely what makes the game stand out from other Battle Royales–and shapes the game as a whole– it can also be the most difficult mechanic for new players to master. At the core of building is harvesting materials, which can be done by swinging your pickaxe and destroying just about anything on the map–from houses, to cars, to brick walls and everything in between. Experienced players can more efficiently farm these materials, which puts them at an advantage over new, or more casual players. It’s important to gather these materials, though, as they allow you to build protection in gunfights, or build ramps and platforms to reach certain areas. However, matches are often decided by who can out-build the other player, which can be a disheartening obstacle to new players.
Navigation across the island also proves difficult at times. Because the terrain is so varied, you may have to scale mountains or cliffs in order to reach the next circle location and be careful to not suffer fall damage. The introduction of vehicles into the game was intended to make traversal less frustrating, but proved to be a double-edged sword. With the introduction of the X-4 Stormwing planes in Season 7, many players on the game’s official forums have argued that they gave players an unfair advantage, requiring Epic to eventually adjust their power level. Thankfully, Season 8 began with the vaulting–aka retiring–of many vehicles, including the X-4 Stormwing, the shopping cart and the ATK (All-Terrain Kart, introduced back in Season 5). This leaves the Quadcrusher and the Driftboard as the only vehicles available in the game at present. Still, getting into a vehicle early on in a match can give you at a clear leg up over players, so often a match becomes a race to find the best vehicles, rather than early game loot or person-to-person combat.
Apex Legends blends a Battle Royale with a Hero Shooter; the first of its kind, one allowing for a variety of different play styles and strategies. Some characters, known in-game as Legends, may lend themselves to more offensive tactics with abilities like smoke grenades or orbital bombardments, while others can be used defensively with shields or invisibility. Whichever character you choose, you can be sure that each match will play out differently than the last.
Because it was built on the foundation of the parkour-centric Titanfall games, Apex Legends’ movement is very fluid. Your character can move and climb freely, and you also have the ability to slide, which is especially effective when traversing slopes. Ziplines connect houses and buildings across the various points of interest, which allow you to traverse to different levels with relative ease. Apex Legends also features a series of beacons scattered across the island that allow you to zipline up to the top and effectively redeploy your Legend from the sky. These permanent structures allow you to cover large areas of the map in a short amount of time, which is critical for avoiding a rapidly-approaching circle. The lack of fall damage, no matter what height you jump from, is an additional bonus.
With its unique ping system, Respawn has also revolutionized the way you communicate with your teammates in Apex Legends. With a simple tap of a button or click of the mouse, you can mark various points of interest for your teammates including enemy locations, weapons, ammo, gear and more. The ability to effectively convey something to a friend–or stranger–without having to put on a headset is one of the best additions to a multiplayer game in years. Fortnite only just introduced their take on the ping system in Season 8, although it does not seem as robust as the system in Apex Legends, largely due to the lack of character voice line call-outs when items are marked.
With its unique ping system, Respawn has also revolutionized the way you communicate with your teammates in Apex Legends.
Apex Legends shares a lot of the looting mechanics found in traditional Battle Royales like PUBG or Call of Duty’s Blackout mode. That means weapons you find on the ground are essentially “naked” and attachments will need to be found while looting. This leads to a more complex loot system when compared to Fortnite, as certain attachments only work with certain guns. Thankfully, Apex Legends prioritizes better attachments for your weapons, making it unlikely that you accidentally downgrade your weapon. They also automatically equip to compatible weapons, allowing you to focus more on combat, rather than wasting time moving components around in the menu. Weapons also use a color-coded ammo system, which allows you to quickly identify the specific ammo you are looking for from a distance.
Unlike other Battle Royales, Apex Legends gives you more than one opportunity to be victorious. If you happen to lose a teammate and fail to revive them in time, you can collect their banner within 90 seconds for a chance to respawn them. By bringing their banner to one of the various respawn beacons on the map, your teammate gets a second chance to drop back into the fray and help you secure victory. But, you’ve got to be very aware while attempting to respawn them, as your Legend is vulnerable for a few seconds. The ability to respawn teammates is a feature that appeals to players new to the genre, as there is some level of forgiveness when mistakes are made.
One of the biggest issues discovered recently in Apex Legends is inconsistent character hitbox sizes, which are used to register damage. A user on the r/ApexLegends subreddit recently compared each of the eight Legends’ hitbox areas and discovered that many are disproportionate to their actual character model–with some Legends’ hitbox extending far beyond their actual body size. This makes playing specific Legends more difficult, especially the larger characters, as they don’t require shots to be as precise to land damage. As an example, the largest character, Gibraltar, has a hitbox that is 140% larger than Wraith. With a character like Pathfinder, for instance, you have great movement capability with his grappling ability. However, he has one of the worst hitboxes in the game, and the benefit of his movement does not outweigh the cost of choosing him over a smaller character like Bangalore. Respawn Community Manager, Jayfresh_Respawn, said the team, “are definitely aware of it” and “[have been] discussing it,” so expect this to be fixed at some point in the future.
As with many popular games, cheaters are inevitable. With Apex Legends being so new, cheating has become rampant for PC players, with many players posting videos and voicing their concern on the game’s subreddit. As of now, Respawn has not implemented an anti-cheating system for the game, recommending instead to report the user through their support website, along with in-game footage so their team can investigate. Since the game’s launch a month ago, Respawn have already banned 16,000 cheaters. Since accounts are free, nothing is stopping these players from creating a new account, as they aren’t invested in their progression anyways. Respawn famously “banned” cheaters in the original Titanfall on PC by allowing them to continue playing, but in a separate queue that only included other cheaters. Without an in-game reporting system in Apex Legends, cheating is likely to continue, potentially worsening, if Respawn does not address the issue in a timely manner.
With Apex Legends being so new, cheating has become rampant for PC players.
Another component currently missing from the game is cross-play. The developers have stated that they intend to implement cross-play in the future, but have already confirmed that cross-progression and cross-purchasing won’t be possible. This limitation came up early in development of the game, and developers have stated it “can’t [be] reconciled after the fact.” This is disappointing to hear, as games that rely heavily on cosmetic items and progression-based unlocks benefit the most from these features. Cross-progression is the feature that most players want out of multiplayer games, while being able to play with their friends across different platforms is just a bonus.
As it stands now, Apex Legends seems to be in a great position to give Fortnite a run for its money as King of the Battle Royale Ring, with both games offering unique elements to their players. At the moment, Apex Legends lacks a Battle Pass, but are set to begin their first official Season in early March. We’ve got our own ideas for what it’ll take for Apex Legends to remain successful, but let us know what you think in the comments below.
Matthew Adler is a freelance video game journalist and Host of In Your Element—A Gaming Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @matthewadler.