We spent a few hours on Twitch playing EA’s new free-to-play game from Respawn Entertainment, Apex Legends. Coming out of nowhere, the battle royale styled character shooter was an unexpected release considering many of us thought the Respawn team was hard at work on both Titanfall 3 and the new Star Wars title Fallen Order.
To be clear, Apex Legends is set in the Titanfall universe, but lacks a few things that game series is well known for: wall-running and giant mechs. This game isn’t about those pilots, so the lack of abilities specific to those soldiers makes sense in this universe. The story itself can be boiled down to this: destroy each other to become legends. This isn’t about battling for the Frontier, or pushing back against mercenaries. It’s just good, old fashioned shoot shoots. That’s the long and short of it as far as this gamer is concerned. Much like Overwatch, the lore is going to come about probably through supplemental materials, such as the bio’s found on the game’s official website.
“But how is the gameplay, Mr. Phalin?” Oh, little Timmy… It is oddly satisfying. The movement of legends and the feel of the guns is almost beat for beat like Titanfall. The tight controls and quick-on-the-draw gunplay feels so much like Respawn’s other title that I found myself involuntarily trying to call down an Titan or wall-run in the heat of battle. A loss on the battlefield is rarely due to an unfair advantage or sloppy controls, much like with Titanfall. Holstering a weapon allows for faster running, and with the number of structures around the map gives ample opportunities to escape an enemy and regroup.
Losing all of your health is not the end, keep in mind. Even when you’re on your knees after the final hit point is depleted, you can slowly crawl around on the ground. If you happened to pick up a certain item, you can activate a shield that will suppress about 100hp worth of incoming enemy fire. All that does not matter if your squad can’t get to you in time. Any enemy can come up and put you in a coffin if they execute a finisher. This move is a scripted event that plays out as a cinematic where the aggressor performs a signature punch, kick, etc. However, if your squad comes in before this event plays out, they can kill your would be terminator.
And that isn’t even the end for you if no one comes to your aid! Upon meeting your end, a coffin pops up where your body once was. Enemy players can loot it to gain all your items, but friendlies have the option to snag your info and upload it to a respawn beacon. The respawn process takes a little bit of time, both the uploading of your info and the actual act of getting back on the ground. So, it is really up to your time if you’re worth the effort. Which is why you need to perform well at whatever class you’ve chosen.
Our cast of characters in this outing to the Frontier involves a diverse lineup of mostly people in assault and support classes. Each round starts with a character select, where the team of three has to wait for their individual turns to pick. Often I found many squad-mates selecting the same two characters: the solider Bangalore, and the medic Lifeline. This certainly makes for a wall rounded team, but depending on your place in the character selection process, playing as your preferred character or class in this small roster can be a challenge. Personally, I have been sticking with Caustic.
Caustic is labelled as a “toxic trapper.” His traps amount to just inflatable bags of toxic gas that are triggered by enemy proximity or weapons fire. His offensive capabilities are not fantastic, but the gas bags do act as an early warning system when the eye of the storm is closes in and your team is trying to defend in a small building or shelter. His ultimate ability is a hand-thrown gas grenade; the damage dealt is not high, but it does act as a effective smoke screen, allowing you to easily pick off enemies caught inside the cloud, allowing Caustic’s “Nox Vision” passive ability to kick in. Enemies light up inside the fog and just a few shotgun blasts can put them on their knees.
We will give EA and Respawn some more time to tweak the game post launch before exploring a more in depth review, but for a free-to-play game, Apex Legends has just enough uniqueness to stand out in the crowded battle royale genre.
Apex Legends is available on PC (Origin), XBOX One, and Playstation 4.