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Letters from the Front

Just when you thought you had seen enough of Battle Royales, EA and Respawn Entertainment surprised dropped Apex Legends on Monday across all three platforms.

After playing multiple games and getting to know the game inside and out, I became somewhat accepting given that I generally don’t like Battle Royales and my general stance on the genre is one of extreme distaste but Apex Legends is one of the better Battle Royales and if Respawn can pull it off then Apex Legends can become one of the biggest Battle Royales that can challenge Fortnite and Call of Duty: Black Ops‘ Blackout.

Apex Legends feels really great to play which is no surprise given Respawn Entertainment’s backstory with first person shooters. It feels slick, varied, and pretty good to play plus it brings something new to the Battle Royale genre but what does it bring to the table that is considered new?

The standout elements are that it plays similarly to a hero shooter with characters having different abilities, squad combat solutions, balanced weapons, and a freemium microtransaction system that doesn’t seem to pay 2 win like 2017’s Battlefront II.

Apex Legends plays very similarly to Blizzard’s Overwatch and Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops IV with characters that have multiple abilities and each has their own personalities, voice lines, and much more despite the characters not being very original but they have their place in the game and fit in the universe that is Titanfall. They do battle on the outer edges of the galaxy in an abandoned settlement called the Outlands.

Each battle or round takes place between 20 squads with 3 combatants. At the beginning of each round, in a very similar design to that of Black Ops IV and Overwatch, each player takes turns to choose what character they want to be and no duplicates are allowed. Each character has their own abilities in which they cannot be upgraded and are fixed although a few of them are available from the beginning and others must be brought or must be earned through play time.

Leveling up allows you to gain access to character skins, weapon skins, voice lines, and much more that comes as a standard feature of battle royale or multiplayer games in general and these can be gained through loot boxes called Apex Packs, in-game crafting economy that is very similar to Infinity Ward’s system from both Infinite Warfare and Modern Warfare Remastered, or direct purchase. Everything here is cosmetic so no buying for power or gaining an upper hand which is plus given EA’s past behavior with microtranscations.

Let’s talk about payments before moving on to the rest of the game. Apex Legends is a free-to-play game with loot boxes and the entire nine yards but there are different ways to gain an item. Each character has a large number of cosmetics that can be brought using different ways; the first is the Apex Packs, this game’s variant of the infamous loot boxes. These loot boxes appear throughout numerous points in the game’s leveling up system and the greatest thing about these loot boxes is that you actually get to see your chances instead of randomly guessing and if you get bad items then you’re guaranteed a good item on the 30th turn. That’s way better than just guessing if you’re going to get a good item. In usual fashion, these can also be brought which EA will expand upon at a later date.

The next system is Direct Purchase. The store will go through different items each week which you can buy directly before the week ends or things that are not available at the time. In other words, if you go and buy a skin, it may not be available to purchase at that exact time so you might have to wait for it to become available.

The following next two systems is a Battle Pass system which will be announced at a later date and the Purchasable Legends system. This system allows you to buy new characters that aren’t available willy-nilly. At this point, there are only 2 purchasable characters which are Mirage and Caustic which play differently to those already available for you to use.

Next, let’s get into the general gameplay of Apex Legends. Apex Legends is at the core a Battle Royale game and it starts off as any other Battle Royale game. As in Fortnite and PUBG, you drop into the map and landing at a place of your choosing which is dictated by your jumpmaster. Each squad has a jumpmaster, which the game selects, usually defaulting to the third player in your squad. The jumpmaster chooses and controls the landing and if I’m not the jumpmaster, then I can suggest landing spots or I can peel off from the squad and land wherever I choose.

Once you have dropped onto the map, the game then turns into the usual Battle Royale. You drop without weapons and you must search out the game’s best weapons, which cover the usual generic types alongside health packs, armor, explosives, and more.

Loot, much like in PUBG or Blackout, is strewn on the ground and sometimes are encased in trunks. A good weapon is hard to find but I usually make do with whatever I have until finding something better like a G7 Scout or an SMG. Much like in other Battle Royale games, you can equip a backpack which will expand the slots you can equip items or you can give items to your friends, you can ping items so your friends can pick it up if they need weapons or health packs and enemies drop their loot in a crate which you can pick up.

The difference that separates Apex Legends from the rest of the Battle Royale games like Fortnite and PUBG is that its extremely squad-based and squad-oriented. Working with a squad in Apex Legends is absolutely essential to winning matches and that tactical intelligence is absolutely important.

Reviving players, much like in Battlefield, is essential to winning rounds if you want to make it through to the end with your squad. Once revived, your squad mate will return to life but if they’re dead, they can still be revived but you’ll need to pick up their banner and taking it to a respawn station. These stations are scattered across the map and are in dangerous spots, easy pickings for a rival squad to come and face off with you.

In the end, my experience with Apex Legends is extremely positive. This is an exciting, well-crafted Battle Royale from a studio that has been built on First Person Shooters and have created excellent games that have exceeded boundaries and have entered the annals of gaming history like Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and Call of Duty 4 and a studio that clearly wants in and is qualified to be in the genre.

Apex Legends is the game that will change my mind about Battle Royale games and will be the game that I play for months and weeks to come. The true test will be in the coming year as the game evolves and shapes to the desires of Respawn Entertainment and player’s opinion. Stay tuned for my review.

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