Apex Legends has taken the gaming world by storm since its surprise launch on PS4, Xbox One and PC.
According to a recent Respawn Reddit post, the new Battle Royale game has been played by more than 10 million people.
And as the Apex Legends review scores trickle in, it’s a number that only looks like growing.
The game currently has a 92% Metascore for the PlayStation 4 version.
Gamespot awards the game 9/10, describing it as “an indicator of where battle royale should go in the future”.
“Perhaps most baffling of all is how on earth Apex Legends is a free to play game,” the review reads.
“With almost two years of development time at a AAA studio made up of industry veterans, without even launching in early access, it is a miracle that Apex Legends is free-to-play.
“Everything about the game feels like the devs have dedicated most of their time play testing, and the result is an immaculate battle royale that should only get better as the months roll on.”
The core structure is a familiar one; 60 players are dropped onto the ever-shrinking map and must scavenge weapons and equipment in an effort to be the last combatant standing. There are plenty of other twists besides the movement and map to keep things interesting.
As it stands there is only one mode (surely to be added to in time): a squad-based skirmish with three players per team. But teamwork is doubled down on in some fashion from the very beginning. When you launch from the dropship above the island, one of your team is designated as the ‘jumpmaster’, tasked with safely guiding all three squaddies to the ground below. You can break away solo if you choose, but the implication is clear: sticking together is your best chance.
This runs throughout the game. There is a brilliant non-verbal communication system that allows you to ‘ping’ locations, enemies and equipment with a quick stab of R1. Press the button while looking at a lovely piece of loot or chunky shotgun, and it will be flagged to teammates on their HUD and mini-map. You can communicate a great deal through the simple system: your own movement intentions, suggested hideouts, where the bad guys might be lurking. I have found an immediate connection with teammates sorely lacking in games played with the headset-phobic. Who knew?
It also encourages teamwork by allowing you to revive ‘downed’ members. Or in the event of a buddy being killed outright, you have a limited amount of time to retrieve their banner from their dropped death box and return it to a respawn point to get them back in the game. It significantly changes the dynamic of a game, with players given the opportunity to hang on in there after an early death in the chance of rejoining the fight.
Apex Legends forges its own spin on battle royale within the game itself, but it also combines ideas from ‘hero shooters’ like Overwatch. At the start of each match you get to choose one of the eight available ‘Legends’ that have their own passive and active skills, as well as a super ability to turn the tide. There is Gibraltar; a slower tank type character that can enable a shield while aiming and bring down a mortar strike for a super. Wraith can disappear into a ‘void’ to escape danger or, for her super, create portals between two points for teammates to pass through. Lifeline is your medic. Pathfinder can scout an area and place ziplines to reach high places.
There are eight in total, six available from the outset and two unlockable via in-game currency either earnt through gameplay or bought with real money. It’s smart stuff, with a decent team mix boosting your chances of victory. To facilitate this, each team member gets to choose their Legend in turn but able to visibly hover over a character should they choose to communicate a preference.
Respawn’s eye for mechanical detail is everywhere in Apex Legends, but where it perhaps doesn’t have the same amount of brio is in presentation. As brilliantly designed as both the map and Legends are in their functionality, there is a slight lack of flair and personality in both. It isn’t deal-breaking by any means, and neat touches like having the kill leader plastered over holographic boards throughout the map abound, but its muddier aesthetic doesn’t have the vivacity of Fortnite’s now-famous map or Overwatch’s ebullient heroes.
No matter. There is a great deal to admire in the precision of Respawn’s work here. Even the dreaded monetisation seems keenly judged. As it stands, at least. Aside from the two extra Legends, which can at least be earnt through a bit of grift, the majority of microtransactions are currently cosmetic.
Loot boxes rear their head, despite EA’s general retreat from them in the wake of the Star Wars Battlefront 2 controversy, but seemed little more than an optional distraction during a good chunk of play. The monetisation is there and will evolve, particularly as Fortnite-esque battle passes and seasons come into play, but as it is now it all seems rather… inoffensive. Which is probably more of a compliment than it sounds.
This is not least because the underlying game is shaping up to be so good. Is it a Fortnite killer? Probably not. But as battle royales continue to be de rigeur, the challenge is to offer fascinating twists on the template. In that objective, it is looking like mission complete.