Reviews

Review | Apex Legends (2021)

Over 2 years ago Respawn Entertainment released Apex Legends, a new game in the battle royal genre.  Taking place in the titanfall universe, Apex Legends introduced a new set of diverse characters each with their own abilities and personalities.  With tight controls, strategic shooting mechanics, and a very intense map to play on, Apex Legends took the gaming industry by storm.  2 years later Apex Legends has both its ups and downs.  Some of which I hope do not change, while others are in serious need of an upgrade.  So how does Apex Legends hold up 2 years after its first release. 

 The Lore and Story

Apex Legends takes place years after Titanfall 2 when the Frontier war ended.  Some Legends like Bangalore, have participated in the Frontier war while others like Wraith, is not exactly clear.  Regardless the Titanfall Universe looks different.  Popular Legends participate in the Apex Legends games to become champions of the arena.  Throughout each season in Apex Legends, a new character is introduced, expanding the world and lore of the franchise.  The characters have a deep history with the Apex Legends games and each of them has their own goals and motivations.  Recently a Pathfinder Outlander story was released and gave us a look at who Pathfinder is and what his purpose maybe.  Early on Wraith got her own story which went into detail about how she obtained her abilities.  While being just a multiplayer game, Apex Legends keeps fans of the series engaged in the characters.  Even when playing the game, a character might come across a particular area and talk about it with another character in the game.  The story isn’t deep or moving, but it does a good job of making the player care about these characters and the world of Apex Legends. 

The Legends

Apex Legends is at its heart, a battle royal game.  The twist is that each character you select is different from another character.  This is what makes Apex Legends so engaging.  Before entering a match, players choose which character they want to play as.  The character they choose cannot be selected by another player, and sometimes its best to have a backup character available just incase someone selects the Legends you play as the most.  Each Legend has a set of abilities.  A tactical which can be used more frequently, an ultimate which needs to be charged up before use, and a passive ability.  Lets say you are playing as Bloodhound and entering an area that may have some enemies.  Just hit your scan ability to see if there are hostiles in the area and where they are located. Using his passive ability can allow you see tracks of where a team was before you entered the area.  Using Bloodhounds Ultimate allows him to enter a berserk mode and his vison will turn gray, he will move faster and any enemies will light up red, allowing for easier shots.  Using the characters abilities, especially together, can allow for engagements that feel different at times.  While I think the abilities are great and really fit the characters personalities, Respawn generally likes to balance the abilities around the win ratio of the Legends.  For example, not many people who play as Rampart win games so Respawn may adjust her abilities in a future update and make them better.  It’s a bit controversial in the community and I do wonder if this will continue as more Legends get added into the game. 

The Gameplay

The gameplay is where Apex Legends shines the most and one reason why I played it for almost 2 years.  The movement in Apex is solid.  Sliding and jumping feels great.  Climbing up walls and finding neat little ways to get on top of buildings is always fun, especially on Worlds Edge.  While some Legends move at different speeds than others, the game still retains the tight controls and feel. 

The best part about Apex Legends is the gunplay.  This is something I rarely say about any first person shooter. Each gun in Apex Legends is unique and requires a different level of skill for each gun.  An R301 or a Wingman requires a different set of rules to engage with.  One is more of a magnum type of gun that requires more accuracy while the other is an auto and allows for those satisfying laser shots to crack an enemy squads armor. There are different types of ammo that work with different weapons.  An R99 uses light ammo, so when looting you should give yourself priority to look for light ammo.  You can only carry 2 guns at a time and this requires you to carry only what you need for your specific loadout.  Generally, it be smart to carry a good auto weapon that will use one ammo type, and as your second gun that is better for longer range fights.  What’s even more is the loot items you can get for the guns.  Extended magazines for your weapons can help you shoot more shots and give you a higher chance of hitting your target, while a standard stock will allow for quicker handling and aim drift reduction.  The attachments that you get for your guns come in different levels with gray being the basic level and purple or even gold being the best you can get.  The higher level the attachment the better your gun will be. Most of the guns in Apex can be equipped with a different set of scopes to help with your aim, however not every scope is the best choice for what weapon you are using.  All this makes for very strategic gun play on top of weapons that shoot differently. 

The looting system in Apex is also fantastic.  When downing an entire squad you get to loot whatever items they were carrying on them.  Any item that you can benefit from will be easier to find and select, while items that you don’t need will be grayed out.  This makes it so that you can find the ammo type you are looking for more quickly when looting.  You also need to find a backpack to allow yourself to carry more heals, ammo or grenades, and of course they also have tiers from gray to gold. 

The best gameplay mechanic Apex Legends added to the battle royal genre is the ping system.  You can ping ammo, a weapon or an attachment, tell your teammates where you are pushing and even alert them to an enemy nearby.  The ping system is a vital part of Apex Legends.  There is a whole wheel dedicated to certain pings like telling your teammates you will watch an area of defend a particular location.  It gets everyone ready for a fight or has them keep their eye out for what’s to come.  The ping system is also great for people who don’t have a mic or do not want to chat with others in the game.  Using this mechanic to your advantage on a team who is communicating via microphones will find lots of success.  I cant imagine Apex Legends without the ping system.  That’s how good it is. 

Overall, Apexs strength is in its gameplay and boy is it good.  It really does hook you into the game once you get the hang of the loot system and gunplay mechanics. 

Battle Royal

The primary mode in Apex Legends is Battle Royal. The mode is much faster than most Battle Royals out there today. Maps are smaller and there are many areas that can be a living hell to fight in. Just look at Hammond Labs on Olympus. It is an area that many players pass through getting to the next circled and in turn get into fights which can lead to that fight getting third partied easily. The start of every match has a champion, and this champion is usually a player that won their last match with a lot of kills and/or damage dealt. In each match there will be a kill leader. Typically this person either killed a whole squad or has a mass amount of kills in the match. Battle Royal in Apex Legends is fun and engaging however the third parties can be really annoying. Even after the new Arenas mode was added, the Battle Royal mode is still one of the best out there.

Arenas

Launching with the new Legacy update, Respawn introduced Arenas.  This mode is very similar to shooters like Valorant and Counter Strike.  You start off buying a weapon of your choice with crafting materials.  Once your weapon is selected and the timer runs down, you and your team engage in battle with the opposing squad. Arenas is very fun and strategic.  Knowing what weapon to select and how to engage on the Arena maps is tense.  One wrong move can spell the end for you or your squad in that round.  Arenas has potential and there should be a ranked Arenas mode being added in the future which means Apex Legends will have 2 modes that are geared towards pro players.  This is an amazing accomplishment from Respawn and provides a bright future. 

The Level Design

Like any Battle Royal, Apex Legends maps and level design have gone through some changes over the years. Some good and some not so good.  Apex first launched with one map called Kings Canyon. The first thing many players noticed was how small the map was compared to other Battle Royal games on the market.  This actually worked in Apex’s favor.  It made the games quicker and more intense.  However, overtime the map became difficult to play on.  Constant 3rd parties were always coming into fights.  Once more experienced players became all to familiar with Kings Canyon, it was easy to take advantage of the maps smaller size.  It also didn’t help that the loot pool at this time was rather small.  I remember in the early seasons of Kings Canyon, running through multiple rooms looking for a gun and only finding attachments and grenades.  This was in Skull town and for those of you who know, Skull Town had many buildings to loot.  Eventually Skull Town and Dome where destroyed in Season 5 when Loba was introduced as a new legend.  While Kings Canyon has undergone many changes (mostly areas getting destroyed) it still remains a difficult map to play on due to its size and the ease of being third partied when fighting. 

Worlds Edge was introduced in Season 3 and came as a great surprise.  Apex was getting a new map so soon after its release.  Worlds Edge is to this day the best map in Apex Legends.  The map is much bigger and has a better set of diverse locations to loot.  This makes encounters less stressful as the need to find a gun and armor takes some priority over the fight, at least for the first minute or 2 you land in a particular area.  Whats also nice is the diverse environments in Worlds Edge.  Some areas have lots of lava and it looks like you are near a volcano, there are large cities, grassy fields, and even some snow environments.  The map is large and offers multiple ways to get to an area on foot.  Worlds Edge is the preferred map for Professional Apex players as it offers many options for holding down your squad and choices of where and how to engage. 

Olympus was recently introduced into Apex Legends in Season 7 with Horizon.  The map was very positively received and it actually maybe my favorite.  Olympus has some diverse but beautiful locations.  Going to Bonsai Towers or Oasis is beautiful but can be deadly if you don’t have your situational awareness up.  The environment may not be as diverse as Worlds Edge but there are plenty of places to loot in the same area, making finding a gun not too difficult.  There is a hover craft on this map and its great for quickly getting into the circle if your team is too far outside.  3rd parties are still a thing on Olympus but not as frequent as Kings Canyon.  The map hasn’t changed much since its introduction and that is a good thing.  Sometimes too much change can ruin a map (see Kings Canyon). 

The Economy

Apex Legends has 4 different currencies which can make it very confusing to deal with.  First there are Apex Coins.  Some coins can be added from the battle pass progression but mostly they need to be bought via the Apex Store.  They can be used to unlock new legends, purchase premium skins from the store and purchase Apex Packs, which is technically a loot box.  Then we have Legend Tokens.  These are mostly earned by playing Apex Legends and if you grind the game enough, you will be able to purchase the new legend that comes each season with just your legend coins.  They can also be used to buy a premium weapon or character skin in the Apex Store, however this usually requires you to own a legendary skin that is similar to one you are buying and to buy that skin you need Apex Coins.  Legendary crafting materials are used for just that, crafting premium weapon skins, character skins, banners, trackers, emotes, holo sprays or new quibs.  They can be earned in the battle pass as well but generally you need to get lucky with an Apex Pack to get a lot and usually a lot is only a few hundred.  Legendary skins cost at least 1,200 legendary materials to craft that particular item.  Finally we have the extremely rare and very hard to come by Heirloom shards.  Heirlooms are special items a character will carry and wield when they are not carrying an item.  It’s a neat way to show off your love for that particular character.  Each season contains a limited time event in which there will be tons of skins for weapons and characters to unlock and an heirloom for a character that does not yet have one.  Players can spend upward of over $100 to obtain all the skins and finally get the heirloom, however this is an expensive purchase and most wont do it.  Players can wait to get the heirloom shards through an Apex Pack, however the chances of getting them is extremely rare.  You have a 1 in 500n chance of getting 150 shards to unlock 1 heirloom.  I personally have 2 heirlooms, 1 for bloodhound on Xbox and 1 for wraith on PC.  Sadly Respawn does not support cross progression at this moment which makes players choose where they should spend their time unlocking these valuable items and legends. 

The Technical stuff

Apex Legends is a multiplayer game and performance in terms of its FPS is more important than how it looks.  However its performance leaves a lot to be desired.  On the Series S, the game mostly ran at a stable 60fps which is really good, considering the One S hardly maintained 60fps at all.  I did see some drops into the 40s in the drop ship over Worlds Edge and in the Fractured City there were some dips into the mid 50’s.  On Kings Canyon I also noticed framerate dropping down into the 40s while in the dropship and using Bloodhounds ultimate.  On the Series X, other Xbox Era members have reported a very stable 60fps across the board.  However neither version is optimized for next gen, Apex is just aware of some of the extra gpu power in each console.  On PC performance was great as well but again leaves a lot to be desired.  On my 3070 I was able to easily achieve up to 200fps. However I have the game capped at 144fps to match my monitors refresh rate.  There is some drawbacks.  I like to stream Apex Legends and the game can be rather difficult with OBS.  When streaming Apex at 1080p 60fps, and having Apex run at mostly medium settings, my viewers reported that the stream stuttered a lot.  Even dropping Apex Legends down to the lowest settings didn’t help.  Only dropping my stream down to a max resolution of 900p did I get good performance. 

Respawn has said they will release a next gen version of Apex Legends, however the timeframe for when this will happen has not been revealed.  The developer did say that high framerates on the new consoles will take priority and having 120fps is their goal. Right now players can enjoy a more stable FPS and faster load times across the board due to the SSD.

Apex Legends does suffer from server issues and of course hackers on PC.  Sometimes the issues go even further.  Xbox Era Staff Write “Proven” has said the lag in Apex can get really bad at times and I have also seen this happen as well. On PC cheaters are there in full force with their aim bots.  Some cheaters even make it as far as the highest rank Predator.  The fact that it can happen so easily and quickly without being detected is concerning.  I have seen popular streamers have someone join their party anytime they enter a lobby just to troll them.  There have even been hackers taking over players accounts through Origin and locking them out.  Some hackers can even take over a lobby.  A few weeks ago when I was streaming, a racial slur was spammed across the screen for everyone in the lobby to see.  This doesn’t really provide a safe environment for anyone playing Apex Legends, especially minorities.  Respawn seemed to have fixed these issues for the new Season 9 Legacy update, however it does beg the question what other exploits are there in Apex Legends or even on EA’s end? Apex Legends is not a new game being over 2 years old and having these types of exploits this far out is not a good look.

Perhaps one of the biggest marks on Apex Legends is the lack of Cross Progression.  There have been many multiplayer games lately with great cross progression.  Namely Fortnite and even Call of Duty Warzone. It’s a feature that allows players the flexibility to take their hard earned cash to another platform if they want.  I played Apex Legends a lot on my Xbox One.  I bought Bloodhounds heirloom, which was expensive as well as many legendary skins for the characters and weapons.  This also includes some decent stats as well and a level cap of 500.  On PC, Apex Legends is basically a different account all together.  I have none of the unlocks or purchases from on my Xbox.  I do have Wraiths Heirloom and a few legendary unlocks but none of my Xbox purchases or unlocks are able to be carried over.  To state how bad this is, Halo: The Master Chief Collection has cross progression across PC and console.  When I first booted up Halo MCC on my PC, all my stats from 2014 onwards where there like it was nothing.  When I unlocked the recent Rhino armor from Halo 3, that also appeared on both my console and PC.  The customization options needed to be readjusted, but regardless my progress was still there and I didn’t need to invest more time into the game to earn all of that again. Respawn, as recently as February stated that cross progression is still a ways off.  This doesn’t instill confidence that Respawn even wants to implement the feature. 

Conclusion

I stated that I think Apex Legends is the best battle royal game on the market.  I do still stand by this in terms of its gameplay.  Apex Legends feels great to play, the characters are diverse, the lore and story is amazing.  The maps Olympus and Worlds Edge are great and provide players with amazing encounters.  However Apex suffers from technical issues and a lack of cross progression.  Apex knows what it wants to be, it just needs to overcome its technical hurdles to be even better. 

Apex Legends

8

Pretty Good

8.0/10

Pros

  • Great Characters and Lore
  • Gameplay is great
  • Weapons feel good to use
  • Map Design is getting better

Cons

  • Too many game currency's
  • Optimization leaves a lot to be desired
  • Servers and security can use work
  • No Cross Progression

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