‘Apex Legends’ changes the battle royale game

Phoenix Burnett | Contributing Writer

Writer’s note: In keeping with the culture, I am going to assume your conception of battle royale games are not worth discussing in a public forum. You might ask, “So, what is a battle royale game, wise StudLife writer?” Well, the origin of the genre came from a mod on “Minecraft” called “Survival Games.” Much like the movie “The Hunger Games,” which is the original mod title, players spawn in the center of the map with a collection of valuable equipment that they can pick up immediately, risking danger, or run away to safety. With the resources found both in the center and around the map, players kill each other until a single person is left. That survivor becomes the winner. Current convention, like in “Fortnite,” has players jump out of a plane, giving them the opportunity to pick where they start, but not guaranteeing that they will have access to the best equipment. Funny enough, both the title and the way players spawn in map are closer to the movie “Battle Royale,” the manga-turned-movie that “The Hunger Games” is inspired by.

“Apex Legends” is surprisingly a good game. From February 2018 to February 2019, the gaming industry has been experiencing “Battle Royale”/“Hunger Games” in real life. With the sudden and massive popularity of “Player Unknown’s Battleground” (normally called PubG) and “Fortnite” (which made $2.4 billion in 2018), other companies and game developers tried to corner a portion of the lucrative battle royale market, but, like a random district going against a “Career District,” they quickly died. Imagine my surprise, then, when Respawn studios (consisting of the original developers of “Call of Duty”) released “Apex Legends,” a battle royale game, with no “official” announcement (it was “leaked,” but I believe it was intentionally announced that way as an organic marketing tool). Growing at four times the rate of “Fortnite,” “Apex Legends” has the competition terrified (“Fortnite” announced they are giving their season pass, which cost $10 to access, for free). All context established, let’s discuss this potential goliath-slayer that I have been unable to get out of mind despite hating the battle royale genre.

Much like the other battle royale titans, “Apex” is built upon a good foundation. Using the same engine and assets from “Titanfall 2” (the most underappreciated game ever made, in my opinion), “Apex” is a well-polished and fast-paced shooter. Despite removing double jump and lateral wall-running, movement is still very agile. Players can run up walls, ride up and down zip lines, slide down hills and bunny-hop—an exploit/mechanic in which you maintain maximum velocity by jumping as soon as you touch the ground. When you include the increased movement speed when putting weapons away and “Legend”-specific abilities, the game, at times, feel less like a battle royale, which is usually slow-paced and tactical due to high lethality and no respawns, and more like an action hero power fantasy, which is at the core of “Titanfall 2.” This means that skillful plays, on an individual level, will come from creative use of the mobility rather than the ability to build (like in “Fortnite”) or the ability to use difficult to aim guns (PubG). For example, Ninja (the most popular streamer on Twitch), in one of his matches, was chased by an entire squad off a supply ship. While riding down the zip line, he jumped off, turned 180 degrees and rode back up the zip line, catching his enemies by surprise and eliminating them.

Along with its faster pace, the battle royale elements of “Apex” set it apart from the competition. First, the default mode has a maximum of sixty players split into squads of three, which is unusual. Most battle royales either have 100 players or something close to that number (“Call of Duty’s” “Blackout” mode has a minimum of 88) and offer single, duo and quad squad modes. Second, players control “legends,” unique characters with unique personalities, motivations and abilities. Each legend has a passive, active and ultimate ability that sets them apart from the others and offers the team some utility. Pathfinder, a whimsical and friendly robot, can use a grappling hook to swing around the buildings and cliff faces or pull enemies towards him and can create a zip line for his teammates to use. Wraith, meanwhile, a dark and mysterious woman, hears voices when people are aiming at her and can teleport her teammates across the map. Although both can help their allies get across the map faster, Pathfinder can help his allies traverse vertically while Wraith makes her allies un-targetable when they teleport. With the exception of three of the 10 characters, each “legend” has at least one ability which helps prevent the slow pace that comes from trying to find 19 enemies (assuming each squad is one enemy) on a large, spacious map. High traversal speed reduce the downtime between firefights.

More importantly, these two contrasting aspects emphasize strategy and teamwork. This leads to the third, and most distinguishable aspect: the ping system. Every detail one might need to communicate to the rest of the team is accessible with a single button press. If you press R1 once or twice (assuming you are playing on a PS4), you can suggest a direction for your team to travel or announce the location of an enemy, respectively. If you hold the button, a wheel of more specific options appear, such as “Enemies have been here” and “I am going to loot over there.” This is important because it solves a crucial problem team-based games suffer: communication. In these kind of games, where communication and teamwork is crucial, some players will refuse to use their mics despite its necessity (all PS4s, at least, come with one). This issue makes these kind of games less pleasant, if not unbearable, to play. It’s like working on a group project while half your group refuses to contribute, and you need an “A” to pass. The ping system negates this issue, for well-intentioned players, by allowing them to still communicate important info to their team even if they are shy or asocial. Of course, you are still going to have idiots or trolls on your team not pinging at all or pinging too much (and trust me, there are plenty of these people around), but when everything is working as intended, it works well.

These three aspects, along with the gunplay, create unique experiences, especially with friends and family. In one match, my roommate, playing a legend named Bangalore, fired smoke grenades at an enemy squad, obscuring their vision. My roommate, with a shotgun that could see in smoke, and I, with an ability to automatically ping enemies within a certain radius, charged in and wiped out the enemy squad. Or, in another match, my brother was being shot at while he didn’t have a gun. When I came over to assist him, he hooked an enemy over to me, and I was able to destroy the combatant. Then, as my roommate and I were incapacitated, my brother slid in at the last second and eliminated the enemy who was about to finish us. If you’re into battle royales and you have some friends to play with, I would recommend giving “Apex Legends” a try. If neither of those conditions are met, I still recommend trying it since the game is free.

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