I never stopped playing Apex Legends. Despite the game having next to no progression, a lackluster battle pass, and the exact same map and game mode until Season 2 this July, something about it hooked me. Even when the player base fell off and once fans turned against the game, I kept playing, sure that developer Respawn would come back and fix things.
As we know now, they did so with Season 2, which introduced big map changes, a new gun, a new hero, a revamped, quality battle pass, challenges for more meaningful progression, a brilliant ranked mode, and more. The waiting paid off, and players are back into Apex and playing it daily once again. But, lack of progression aside, what is it that kept people like me and my good friends coming back during the “dark ages” of Apex?
For us, it was what matters most in a game: how it feels. The gunplay and movement in Apex Legends goes unmatched, beaten only by Respawn’s own Titanfall 2. Racing around King’s Canyon is about as fluid as one could ask for, as every hero is relatively speedy with the ability to slide, climb, and jump through the map with ease.
The combat is just as snappy. I can be sliding into a firefight, throw off a grenade, and activate an ability, all in a few seconds before switching back to my gun and firing away. Apex makes me feel powerful in the way a game like Halo or Smash Bros. does: Not with new abilities or level ups that give an unfair advantage to those who can play more, but by providing me a solid set of tools and a playground in which to master them, such as the top-of-the-line ping system and wide variety of cool guns.
Even better are the character abilities that work in tandem with one another. Bangalore’s smoke grenade is fun by itself, but pair this with Caustic’s gas traps or Bloodhound’s ultimate, or even the Digital Threat weapon scope that enables you to see through smoke, and you’ve got a truly deadly combination that ensures you can heal up, make a quick getaway, or wipe out a squad before they know what’s hit them.
Everything combined presents an experience not unlike Team Fortress 2 or Overwatch, with the former going years without any sort of ranked mode or progression system. That’s why I believe Apex Legends held me and so many other people in a time where many were leaving. Even though there weren’t many stats or numbers to hit my dopamine, the rush of getting each and every kill, of finding a Turbocharger to pair with my Havoc, or finding a piece of gold armor and carrying it through to a win kept me going. Now, with Season 2 around, players can experience that on top of the new progression systems in place.
Speaking of which, the new ranking system is thoughtful, unique, and really fits with a battle-royale model. It’s not built around wins, per se. Rather, you get a point for each kill in a match, alongside some points for making it to the top 10, the top 5, the top 3, or champion. This ensures that players who perform well will still rank up despite not winning every single match. The system is really motivating, and I can’t wait to see it iterated upon.
Also, the map changes are fantastic. There’s a new building type, way less open space, and so many more areas to take cover. Respawn’s creativity stands out with these new additions. They could have just thrown in some different buildings and called it a day. Instead, there are massive imprints on the ground that act as holes to hide within during a fight. Previously safe structures are now torn apart or all-out destroyed, and there are giant monsters on the map that can step on you.
More so, I’m a fan of Respawn’s attitude towards updates. Unlike Epic Games updating Fortnite every week or so, the Titanfall developers want to take a slower, more methodical approach to their addons. I like this because, as someone who can only play the game a couple of hours a day if I’m lucky, I know what I’m getting into each time. I can spend weeks mastering what’s there on the map without having to worry about catching up on new changes all the time. It’s nice knowing that each change will remain for a while, and I can refamiliarize myself with everything to play at my best.
Six months into the Apex Legends’ existence, I’m loving the game more than ever. Each hero is a blast to play, with powers and personalities that stand distinct from one another. The game brings me back to middle school during the days of Halo 3, where I spent hours trying to be the best player out there. I doubt that will ever happen with Apex, but it’s still a goal I work towards every time I sit down to play.
Titanfall, while a fantastic IP, never saw the financial success it deserves. This caused Respawn to take a new, free-to-play approach to their universe. No, Apex Legends doesn’t have the trademark wall-running or Titans that made the series, but it brought in some fantastic changes that freshened up the battle-royale genre. New ideas are always a gamble, and six months later, I’m grateful to Respawn for taking a chance on this one.