by Eli Sokeland
Disclaimer: This review is of the PC version and was conducted on a PC with an Intel Core i5-7500 with a GTX 1050 Ti graphics card.
For well over a year, Fortnite has led the battle royale genre and conquered the video game industry, going as far as significantly affecting the stock prices of major game companies. However, Electronic Arts (EA) plans to end this monarchy with their release of Apex Legends. While Apex Legends does share similarities to other battle royales, this game focuses more on teamwork through unique characters and mechanics.
Fundamental emphasis on teamwork
While the Apex Legends’ main menu does feel similar to those of its competitors, this changes drastically during the match startup. Currently, there are no modes for playing a solo or duo match. Instead, the game only supports 20 teams of 3 players each.
While this limitation does seem like a hindrance at first, it actually turns out to be a surprising strength for the game. This lucky number of players per team is large enough to be intimidating to take on alone, yet small enough to create a personal connection to one’s teammates, which is crucial to the gameplay, as shown right at the beginning of the match.
Instead of each player deciding when to jump off the plane, the player who chose their character last becomes the Jumpmaster. While other players can suggest spots to land, the Jumpmaster has the ultimate decision on destination. This is an enjoyable mechanic because it tests players’ trust in the Jumpmaster, making teamwork crucial to success in the game.
Because the Jumpmaster chooses the location, the team must trust them to drop near a location with an adequate amount of loot. While other battle royale games have areas with a consistent amount of loot, Apex Legends randomly chooses locations to have different item values. Specifically, the risk of running into other players increases with these high loot areas marked on the map. This means that they have to trust their teammate’s ability to fend off these other teams if they want better gear.
Small map, quick action
Apex Legends’ map is similar in size to Call Of Duty’s Blackout mode. While the map isn’t very large, the smaller size allows for a fast-paced action. The map itself definitely has its roots tied to the developers’ previous game, Titanfall 2. The different areas of the map vary greatly from desert to swampland, each creating a unique experience.
These areas also implement ziplines and balloons, which are used as a way to glide around the map. While these aren’t new to the battle royale genre, they are welcome features that make movement feel quick. This is especially helpful due to the rapid pace of the map area closing as the game ends.
Another feature that Respawn took from their Titanfall series was the sliding mechanic. With the verticality within the map, there are plenty of hills to slide down. This by far is the most enjoyable feature of the game. Nothing is more satisfying than dropping from a high place and going into a slide. However, this movement is hindered by the controls.
New features come with new controls
While the console versions of the game have moderately good button mappings, the PC version is pretty incoherent. Because each character has special abilities, they have to be mapped for easy use on the keyboard. However, the game’s flow is hindered by some of the positioning of these keys. The tactical ability is mapped to Q and the the ultimate ability is mapped to Z.
These abilities are very similar to Overwatch, so one might think the two games would have similar mappings. It is understandable that Q is used because of these games sharing default keys. However, Z is an uncomfortable key, especially during a firefight.
Furthermore, explosives are accessed via the G key and health is accessed through the 4 key. Both of these keys are pretty far away from the movement keys. This makes the experience feel like a hand stretching exercise when trying to do anything complex.
Despite the awkward keyboard layout, there is a silver lining. The game does have a ping system within the mouse scroll wheel for communicating with teammates. From suggesting locations to pointing out enemies, it is an original concept that adds clarity within the team.
Charming characters define the game
While the game does differ from other battle royales, the major selling point of Apex Legends is the characters. Currently, there are only eight characters in the game, two being locked behind a paywall. Luckily, the game still feels fleshed out simply due to how different each character is; from a character with the senses of a bloodhound to a character that can phase between dimensions, each character provides a unique play experience for each match.
Furthermore, these character differences play an important role in team building. Once a character is taken, the other teammates are unable to chose them. Therefore, the game forces players to think strategically about how a character can benefit the others. For example, Lifeline’s abilities to heal increases while under Gibraltar’s shields. This is easily the most strategic battle royale game to date.
What the future may hold
While this game just released, there are plenty of questions that it must answer for it to retain its quality. While Fortnite has seasons that introduce new content and map updates, Apex Legends currently only has a leveling system. While this system is welcoming since it won’t reset the player’s progress, the motivation for continually playing feels absent.
Even though players can unlock two characters with leveling, there isn’t much else. Most of the unlockables are nice, but they don’t really stand out. They are most comparable to Overwatch’s system, with different levels of rarity. Despite that, the game has already left a strong impression on the battle royale genre.
Featured Image: EA
'Apex Legends' introduces new gameplay elements that showcase teamwork - something the typical battle royale game lacks. With unique characters and abilities, each match feels quick and strategic. However, it is hindered by confounding controls and a lack of motivation to level up. Despite that, this is definitely a contender against similar games.
Eli is a Computer Science major with a minor in Information Systems. He has been a member of Byte for two years. He is the creator and host of the Byte podcast, “How It’s Played.” He also enjoys writing reviews about video games and anime shows. His hobbies include board games, video games, coding, and puzzles.