365 days ago, Apex Legends dropped on our laps without any fanfare nor teasers. No marketing spiel. No promises. No warning.
In 2019, this was unprecedented considering “traction” and “build-up” are and have always been the buzzwords marketers lean on to in ensuring their product receive the biggest hype leading up to a spike in player count on day one.
But Respawn Entertainment knew better. They trusted their work and were confident that they’ve got a gem in their hands.
Needless to say, that move proved to be a masterstroke.
For years gamers have been pleading for a follow up to Respawn’s criminally-underrated Titanfall 2. This hope gained momentum when EA acquired Respawn Entertainment and the gaming scene, rightfully so, feared for Respawn’s future no thanks to EA’s less-than-stellar record when it comes to ensuring a renown developer’s legacy remain intact. RIP Bioware.
Instead of caving to popular demand, the Vince Zampella-led team took on the biggest genre – battle royale – head-on and we can’t thank him enough for that. Not only did Apex Legends surpassed over 25 million players by the end of its first week, but the game also hit the 50 million mark within its first month and as of July last year, boasting a player base of between 8 to 10 million players weekly.
In our review of Apex Legends, we labelled it as 2019’s quintessential battle royale experience. Following multiple updates, rebalancing across the board, the introduction of new legends as well as brand new maps – has our impression of the game changed? Is it better now?
Thank the Allfather, it turned out better.
Apex Legends is a perfect example of a game’s success following almost zero interference from the publisher. Well, of course, as parent company, EA would have had a significant hand in the development of Respawn Entertainment’s genre-shaking battle royale game. Take the solid shooting mechanics of Titanfall 2 and add in hero elements as seen in Overwatch and we have a new IP which poses a serious threat to Fortnite’s battle royale crown.
However, EA’s signature monetization approach which has been prevalent in free-to-play AND paid titles preceding Apex Legends was significantly tempered – least until the first Season Pass was released.
In short, Apex showed EA that a game can still be financially successful if the developers put full trust to the guys who are making it. Respect your developers and your players and it will be repaid in the form of a game with longevity and gamers willing to toss their hard-earned cash in your general direction.
This trust in a way contributed to EA releasing what is easily their most successful – commercially and by acclaim – Star Wars game in years via Respawn’s first-ever story-driven single-player game in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
Apex Legends has gone from strength to strength with quality of life improvements, weapons balancing as well as introducing new elements to the game when things started to get stale. When their players start to get bored of the initial list of legends, Respawn introduced Octane and Wattson and once that effect starts to wane, they shook things up and change the landscape of the original map.
Taking a leaf out of Epic Games’ playbook for Fortnite, Respawn introduced limited timed events which comes with corresponding cosmetics and new game modes to keep the experience fresh for the unrelenting, easily distracted crowd. Long may this continue and with the ever-expanding lore and hero pool, it’s hard to see Respawn and EA slowing down on Apex Legends anytime soon.
As I write this, Season 4 of Apex Legends, Assimilation just went live. This update introduces a host of new cosmetic items, a brand new bolt-action sniper rifle, a revamped World’s Edge map and most interesting of all, a brand new legend in the form of the cyborg assassin, Revenant.
If we were to reevaluate our review score based on the current Apex Legends experience, we’d happily stand by its 90/100 score. Perhaps we would even bump it up to a perfect 100 thanks to the various improvements to the game over the course of twelve months. Long story short, this team-based battle royale shooter is still at the top of the food chain, even after 365 days.