Bullets are flying. Your teammates are hanging on by a thread that’s about to snap, and you’re hiding out behind a boulder trying to reload. You can sense things are going south for the rest of your team, and your suspicions are confirmed when a third party shows up and shoots them dead.
Fortunately, they don’t see you and go after the other team trying to kill you instead. That team now has bigger problems to worry about, and you, barely any health to your name, have an opening.
Any other game and this opening would be to run away, seeing as your team is dead and you won’t survive for much longer on your own. However, this is Apex Legends, and in this game, death is temporary. You charge out and grab your team’s banners, and you run as fast as your frame rate can carry you to the nearest respawn beacon you can find, and you suddenly have a chance at winning again.
This is what sets Apex apart: the game’s making us work together for once.
Survival Of The Fittest?
The way I see it, the battle royale genre is a triangle of competing video games that are trying different things with varying levels of appeal. PUBG will soon be known as the old-school style of battle royale, the purest form of the genre.
You drop on a map, you pick up weapons, and you rock out for the next 20 minutes as passively or aggressively as you please. There are no gimmicks, no complications, no extra gameplay mechanics to worry about.
The Big Three
PUBG cracked the genre wide open, but Fortnite stepped in and realised that this was a big enough market for them to do the same thing in a completely different way. The core concept is still the same. 100 players are still duking it out to be the last one standing.
However, Fortnite throws in balloons that make you float, rockets you can fly on, cannons that can shoot you halfway across the map, et cetera. There’s a lot of jolly fun to be had in Fortnite – and a lot that separates it from PUBG. Where PUBG is as simple as hide behind cover and shoot, Fortnite has you dealing with building forts, throwing down traps and trolley-riding.
Rounding out the triangle is Apex Legends, a fairly new face to the battle royale genre, less than two months old at this point. It had a major challenge to overcome almost immediately, and that was to set itself apart in an already saturated genre. I believe that they’ve succeeded, by emphasising the one thing that really sets this game apart from every other battle royale game, which is teamwork.
The foundation of what makes us want to play as a team in Apex Legends begins with its effortless pinging system. Your chances of success skyrocket when the team is working together, moving around houses and pinging loot for each other. You feel like you’re making sure everyone has the equipment that they’re most comfortable with and that comes at no cost to you. You’re just clicking a button and walking away. In the big picture however, it makes a team of randoms feel closer. You’re not just clicking a button to them, you’re telling the entire team that you’ve got their back. Nothing is more important in a team-based game.
The second piece of the puzzle is the respawn beacon. It’s fairly standard in battle royale games for death to come in two phases: one when you get knocked down but can be revived, and the next when you’re killed while you’re down, at which point you’re gone for good. This isn’t a necessarily fun system from a gameplay perspective as teammates who get killed have no choice but to spectate the rest of the game. Most of the time, they’re just going to quit the game so they can get to playing the next match quicker. Surviving teammates are on their own.
The respawn beacon takes this fairly standard death mechanic and puts the Apex spin on it. Now, dead players leave ‘Banner Cards’ and it’s up to the rest of the team to get the cards to a nearby respawn beacon so they can… well, respawn. Essentially, it’s a second chance, and not an unfair one, as players respawn with no loot in a fairly open area, with enough noise to attract a whole lot of unwanted attention.
But second chances are priceless and if taken advantage of, these respawn beacons can easily put one team over the other in any shootout. Numbers are everything after all, and if you use respawn beacons consistently, you’ll always have the numbers.
The last thing that cements Apex’s uniqueness in a wide field of battle royale games, is its decision to introduce hero shooter elements to the game. Overwatch proved that people love playing with characters with fun abilities and diverse personalities.
Personality Is Key
Apex Legends takes a page out of their playbook here and introduces its players to 9 colourful legends. Each character has different abilities and most abilities benefit the entire team, rather than the one player using them.
When you’re playing Bangalore and toss down some smoke grenades during a fight, you blind everyone in the area – unless you have a Bloodhound on your side, in which case he can simply pop his ability and shoot through the smoke. These abilities work best in this game when used unselfishly.
There is so much that makes Apex Legends fun to play. However, Apex succeeds at being a head turner not just because of its fluid parkour mechanics or quick and satisfying gunplay, but because of the way it encourages team-based combat in a way no other battle royale game is doing at the moment. It’s truly rare to find a game where you can play as fluidly with friends as you can play with randoms, and that’s exactly where Apex Legends shines.