Game Reviews

Apex Legends Review: Can EA compete in the battle royale market?

Dropping into Apex Legends feels like dropping into a brand new take on the dead horse that is the battle royale genre of games.

For the most part, it does a lot to mix up the static formula we’ve all come so accustomed to, but it’s insulting progression system and lack of out-of-game features puts what could be an exciting new game into a stranglehold.

Another battle royale

Unlike most battle royales, Apex Legends hero based. This means that before every game starts you’ll select your hero from the available list. At launch, the list is pretty tiny. There is currently a total of 8 heroes available to play, but 2 of them or locked behind a pay-wall.

Each “legend” has their own set of abilities, a smaller ability on a quick cool down and a stronger ability set on a longer cool down. This set up is fairly familiar to anyone who’s played other hero-based games like Overwatch and Paladins.

All of the legends feel unique and differed. Every hero has their own theme that seems to dictate their abilities, personality, etc. While the abilities are extremely fun to use in the middle of the match, everything else about the characters is cringy at best.

Throughout the game characters have voice lines the correspond to event in the match. They’ll speak about things like the circle collapsing, first blood, and other major in-game events. All the quotes are sigh-worthy.

I understand wanting to give your characters some personality, but I feel as if the game takes itself way too seriously sometimes and not seriously at all other. Apex Legends really fails to find its footing when it comes to its tone.

Tone deaf

Fortnite is bright, colorful, over the top, and fun feeling. PUBG feels serious, stealthy, and realistic. Blackout feels exactly like Call of Duty battle royale seems like it would.

All the other battle royale games have a solid tone, and Apex Legends feels like a mishmash of so many. The map and gunplay feel extremely Titanfall, gritty and fluid. Characters though feel either like pure comedic caricatures of a personality or like an edgy OC Overwatch character.

Besides it lack of consistent tone, everything else within the game is great.

Gameplay ramps up at an almost perfect rate. You’ll have a skirmish or two to kick things off when you land, then there’ll be slower paced gameplay that slowly builds into a hyper intensive set of firefights to close out the match.

This pace is something that other battle royales have trouble keeping consistent. Luckily though, Apex Legends has this great pace almost every match. That is, unless you die of course.

Win though, and you’re greeted with a “You are the champion” screen. That’s about all you’ll ever get excited about because the reward system in Apex Legends is pitiful.

Lootboxes? Really?

You might think EA would learn their lesson already, but then again, it’s EA. The only progression system within Apex Legends is a lootbox system that feels utterly disappointing.

Every time you level up you’ll earn a lootbox, and if you want you can dig into your pockets and fork over some cash for more totally not gambling lootboxes.

Inside each box you’ll get your standard assortment of common, rare, etc. skins, and it all just feels so underwhelming. It’s a first person shooter, why do I care that much about what my character looks like? I can’t even see the skin I have on.

Weapon skins are a little bit cooler, but there’s only so much excitement I can get out of getting one of the very few really good looking weapon skins.

This is the game’s real problem. There’s nothing to play for. Sure, you could argue that you can play for the fun of the win, and if that’s all you need to keep playing then by all means knock yourself out. Most people though, will end up getting bored of the game with the lack of anything to do other than unlock loot boxes.

The game needs challenges, real progression, challenge-based skin unlocks, something to make me want to grind. Even Black Ops 4’s Blackout battle royale, which is suffering from a painful lack of content, has good unlockables within Blackout.

There is are multiple in game currencies you can earn through gameplay. One is crafting materials, which can only be earned through lootboxes.

Crafting materials can be used to craft weapon skins. The earn rate isn’t too horrible, but because you only get them through lootboxes, the earn rate will become horrible the more you play and level up.

The other currency you’ll earn is ‘legends tokens’. Legends tokens can be used to purchase the locked characters if you don’t want to spend real money. This currency is also connected to leveling up. You’ll earn some legends tokens with each level up.

Some key differences

While its progression system is a shame, at least Apex Legends is full of unique features that set it apart from other battle royales.

For example, during your matches, you’ll have the ability to revived knocked out opponents.

When a teammate dies you can go up to where they died and find a large box. The box contains everything they were carrying (assuming whoever killed them didn’t already loot them) and their tag. After they die, you’ll have 90 seconds to grab their tag.

Once you’ve got it, you can bring it to one of the many respawn beacons and bring your teammate back to life. This is a great mechanic to have in a very team-oriented game.

There’s also the amazing ping system that allows you to communicate with your teammates without the use of a microphone or typing in chat. You’ll be able to call out points of interest, items people may need, enemy locations, and more just with the press of a button.

It helps playing with randoms feel a lot more tolerable, but just like in any video game playing with randoms can get a little tiring.

Too bad there’s no solo queue.

No lone wolves allowed

That’s right you’re forced to play in a squad of 3 in every game you play. To be fair, for the most part, it works works out well. Apex Legends’ team-oriented pings make working together a lot more doable. However, online players will be online players.

Too many times I’ve had people ignore pings and run away on their own or just quit the game right at the start completely. It’s extremely frustrating because it ruins the entire game for you.

Everyone else will be in a squad and because of your teammates, you’re screwed.

And if they just up and left for no reason, that’s fine for them because there is currently no penalty for leaving. If you’re going to force teamwork, you need to have a system in place to punish those who ruin the game for others.

Success that may not last

When it comes down to it, Apex Legends can be fun. It’s a nice change of pace from many other battle royale titles, but I don’t see the game lasting a long time without a good amount of major updates and events.

As of now, the poor progression system holds back the core gameplay from excelling. The gamplay Apex Legends offers can easily compete, if not surpass, its competition, but after playing for so long it feels like there’s not much left for the game to offer.

If Apex Legends adds challenges and a real progression system, the game will be addictive beyond belief. As of now though, it’s definitely worth the download, but I can’t see it continuing to succeed if it doesn’t fix its out-of-game content.

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