Since releasing in 2019, it feels as if Apex Legends‘ popularity has come in waves. The first wave was a borderline tsunami that one of the Quaid brothers would probably star in a cheesy disaster movie about in the 90s. It was absolutely everywhere overnight and utterly dominated headlines and the competition — Apex Legends was at the apex of the burgeoning battle royale battle. But then the waters calmed.
Within a few short months, which included the launch of the bitterly disappointing Season 1, Apex’s wave felt more like a surfing session off the coast of Cornwall. Sure, people were still having fun, but it never really rode the wave for long enough with it losing a lot of its momentum so soon. Apex still had its place, but perhaps not the place on the throne it seemed destined for from day one.
If you’re a lapsed Apex player or thinking about trying it out for the first time, you probably want to know if Apex Legends is worth playing. To find out, I decided to jump back into Apex having barely touched it since the earliest seasons for ten matches.
Here’s what you should know about Apex Legends in 2021, including what’s been changed over the years, the general match experience, and whether you should stand by for Titan–wrong one, sorry.
What’s Changed In Apex Legends?
A lot has changed in the years since Apex Legends first began. It’s still fundamentally the trios battle royale game with hero shooter elements it made its name on, but the experience is massively different. While Epic’s eagerness to provide new content for Fortnite is often applauded, Respawn have worked just as well to introduce new ideas each season and keep things fresh.
I played a disgraceful amount of Apex pre-Season 1, but bounced off every season thereafter. I bought the new Legend for the first four seasons, played maybe two matches, then just stopped for the rest of the season — no idea why. I didn’t touch Apex from the launch of Season 4 up until the middle of Season 8, so I missed plenty of new things, including a lot of the mechanics in those seasons that I’d barely dabbled in.
Here are just some of the things that have changed in Apex Legends:
– New Legends are the most obvious of additions to Apex Legends. If you’re tired of playing as Lifeline and getting disrespected, there’s now also Wattson, Rampart, Loba, Octane, Revenant, Fuse, Horizon and Crypto. You can either buy them with real money in the form or Apex Coins or grind for them with Legend Tokens. It’s the Rainbow Six Siege model of roster updates, but, honestly, better overall. It’s cheaper, and seeing as how each character gets the spotlight for themselves instead of having to share it with another, they feel like a much bigger deal with them also moving the storyline ahead in a big way.
– Speaking of storyline/lore, there’s more of that — and I have no idea what’s going on. The basic gist remains the same, competing in the Apex Games, but the story has resulted in a new map, Olympus, and regular changes for the old one, Kings Canyon. There’s also a map called World’s Edge, but it currently isn’t in rotation. Oh yeah, rotation.
Respawn have also pulled a bit of a blinder with how to include these different maps and not split the playerbase at the same time. Maps rotate in and out every two hours or so, keeping things fresh and making sure both get played pretty much equally. I haven’t been able to gel with Olympus quite like Kings Canyon, but that might come with time. Might also help if I stopped falling to my death.
– Clubs are a new addition that are designed to appeal to the Call of Duty fans from the early 2010s. These basically act as clans, giving you callsigns during matches to show off that you’re part of a gang and also that you’re competitively minded, or that you want to add [MNKE] or [MILK] to your name. Cool inclusion, but as I am 29 years old and my back hurts constantly, it’s not for me.
– Duos is also now a permanent feature of Apex, meaning that you don’t have to rely on a random third if you just want to play with a friend. Apex was designed with three players in mind, so that’s what I stuck to.
– Comics have been introduced as a way of bringing in fresh lore over the course of a season. I have all of the time in the world for little world-building exercises like these, especially as the world of Apex is also the world of Titanfall. More unlock over time, and the Armageddon one I had a leaf through helped me get to know Fuse a bit better. More of this in other games.
– Treasure Packs seem too good to be true, really. You will sporadically earn Treasure Packs that have free rewards inside just for opening loot caches, with better rewards for opening all of them over the course of a season. Surely live service games are supposed to make things more of a grind over time? Am I missing something? Good move by Respawn anyway, even if it’s inherently about keeping you addicted.
– Explosive Holds are a very weird new thing in Apex, but largely a great idea. Huge containers across the map can be opened with a grenade to then snaffle up all the rare attachments and weapons within. There’s something about it that’s slightly random in concept, but at least it gives you a chance to use grenades for something instead of spam.
– Olympus also has a vehicle called the Trident to help you zip around in, and it’s very fun. For some reason, though, the people I played with didn’t seem that bothered about them. That’s a pity. Still, if you need to get out of the circle quickly or want to roll up on someone like Ride of the Valkyries, you can — and should.
– Apex now also has materials which allow you to make things inside a Replicator. The goodies range from simple health pickups all the way up to attachments you can’t get anywhere else. A fascinating addition, but the pacing of your standard Apex match doesn’t really allow you to just stand there and wait for stuff to be created within a Replicator.
– Heirlooms, which are basically just fancy cosmetic melee weapons, seem to be more easily acquired instead of you having to sell your house to have a mere glimpse at one, though they’re still not great. Heirloom Shards, which you can get from opening Apex Packs, can be used to buy a Heirloom from the specific store page. I opened a few Packs that I earned naturally and didn’t get a single shard, so maybe I am just unlucky. Or maybe it’s an absolute racket designed to keep you spending money on Packs. Probably that.
– Takeovers are Apex’s fun way of weaving storyline in with the maps themselves, and I’m all for them. I played the War Games Takeover, which rotated through some different gameplay quirks and also gave free cosmetics simply for playing. A great way of keeping the game fresh without doing anything permanent to the experience, though they could probably explain what’s going on a little better. I’ll come back to that.
– Heat Shields are a smart addition to Apex, throwable items that give you a temporary safe haven while outside the Ring. I didn’t get to use them much, but I imagine they really change up the late-game for players who find themselves there a lot.
That’s really just scratching the surface of what’s been added to Apex Legends since the early days. I’ve not even touched on the new weapons, or the new rarities of items, or other items that I didn’t get all that acquainted with. If you’ve previously played Apex, there’s a good chance you won’t even really recognise it should you drop back in.
Playing Ten Matches of Apex Legends In 2021
Dropping back in is exactly what I did, playing ten matches of Apex Legends on my PS5 via backwards compatibility on both Olympus and Kings Canyon as they rotated between each other. As someone who hasn’t touched a competitive shooter in about a year and even then was painfully, ceaselessly average at them, it was a sobering experience.
Match 1 – Olympus – Lifeline
With my heart pounding and my mind racing with the possibility of glory, I dropped as my ol’ favourite Lifeline into a map as I’d never seen before and landed at a dystopian shopping mall/train station of some kind. Roughly five seconds after picking up a sniper I didn’t understand, I was dead. The open top bus parade would have to wait.
Match 2 – Olympus – Mirage
I completely forgot how to aim in match two, the potatoes that my forefathers in Ireland used to grow replacing my brain, every single bullet at a target one inch away from me being whiffed. I got shot in the back and then waited to be put down like a small rodent. That’s unfair to mice, really.
Match 3 – Olympus – Lifeline
After chasing a Gibraltar around a boxing ring that seemed to be dedicated to Pathfinder (seriously, what have I missed), a cheeky Fuse said no to my dreams, putting me on fire and shooting me in the back like it was some kind of New French Extremity cinema. My teammate clutched up, revived me, then watched on helplessly as I got shit on once more.
Match 4 – Olympus – Lifeline
Shortly after landing at some weird estate that was probably designed by Stanley Kubrick, I tried to rid the world of another Pathfinder main, but his Octane teammate walked out to take the bullet for him almost certainly accidentally. Nobody took any bullets for me and I died hard. Hello, waiter? Yes, I’d like to order the pain au chocolat. Hold the au chocolat.
Match 5 – Olympus – Lifeline
Back at Kubrick’s weird sex village, my L-Star screamed at someone for roughly half a second before I ran out of ammo. The potato still lodged in my brain (or was it, in fact, just my brain?) meant that I didn’t hear the Bloodhound doing a Kansas City Shuffle on me. I died to the Bloodhound after valiantly letting down my entire bloodline.
Match 6 – Olympus – Lifeline
More Donnellan ghosts spitting down at me in this match. Utilising the turn speed of a dump truck that’s just woken up from a nap, I very nearly knocked a Mirage with my R-99 after reviving my Octane pal. It wasn’t long until a box sprouted from my body, and I was back in the lobby. I don’t think my eSports career is going well.
Match 7 – Olympus – Lifeline
Match 7 saw me dropping at some Butlin’s resort gone awry, me and my enemies paddling around and splashing each other with bullets. My squad lived until the final 10 squads and I finally entered the Fun Zone, killing two other players (one of whom just kinda lazily slid in front of me) before I made a Wraith main debate whether or not to buy hacks. We died shortly after, but I was in the Fun Zone — it was all looking up from here.
Match 8 – Olympus – Octane
With testosterone coursing through me for the first time since roughly 2015, I leapt through the air as the walking Gfuel unit known as Octane, raining down Hell on my opponents and then also myself and I died. As I sat and let the Thermite Grenade consume me, no fire was bright enough to burn away the shame.
Match 9 – Olympus – Octane
A brief to-do back at Kubrick’s shag pad for my ninth match — I don’t win any of these matches, if you couldn’t tell already. Unable to control the recoil of the Havoc, which kicks like Clifford the Big Red Dog on heat, the potato in my head almost turned into chips as I struggled to figure out a gun I’d never used before, dying face down in a shallow pool of water, confused and alone. This really was like Butlin’s.
Match 10 – Kings Canyon – Octane
My first match back in Kings Canyon saw me develop shot-term amnesia as I spotted a Lifeline then thought they’d pulled a Poochie and gone back to their home planet. They hadn’t, and then they shot me in the back — another move that wasn’t very Poochie-like. Theory: Lifeline is not also Poochie, but she is mean.
So, Should I Play Apex Legends?
Looking back on my diary of despair, you might think that I threw myself through a window after my ten matches with Apex Legends were up, resolved to never playing it again. Thing is: I wasn’t able to stop playing it for the rest of my day off, and just really want to play it right now instead of discussing it.
The reason for this is simple: the Fun Zone, an area of FPS nirvana that Apex Legends shares with DOOM Eternal. Just like Eternal, Apex doesn’t click until everything starts clicking into place. It can feel a little overwhelming at times to try and remember the many different bits and bobs that makes up Apex these days, but once you have a good understanding of it, as well as maybe a slice of luck to find some decent teammates and early loot, it’s as if you’re constantly chasing a new high.
You can go from total destitution one match in Apex to utter destruction the next, and that’s if you’re an average player like me — the best players must feel like dopamine is constantly being jacked directly into their brain. The lure of getting better is also more enticing than in many other similar games, just because your progress is so palpable, especially when you figure out what the hell is going on.
I still die often with zero kills (and IQ), but you basically live for the occasions where everything works out in Apex, when all of your bullets hit and you’re always exactly what you need to be. There was an element of luck in me getting eight kills in one match, sure, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t feel like I’d ascended to an astral plane because of it.
While I’m still painfully middling at the game after I started renting property in the Fun Zone again, I find myself loudly tutting at the early clips I reviewed for this piece. You will get better at Apex, but the lessons it teaches you regularly feel harsh, potentially thanks to SBMM’s wibbly wobbly nature of putting you with kindergarteners that you roll over in one lobby and then Henry Cavill chads for the subsequent matches because the game thinks you’re better than you actually are. This is the issue with SBMM in general: I didn’t play Apex for well over a year, yet it seemed like I wasn’t eased back in at all because of my previous “success”.
It’d be easy to bounce off Apex if finding a match wasn’t so easy, but you can barely stew on your failures before you’re in another one. Matchmaking takes all of five seconds, which is remarkable — there’s not even enough time to browse your cosmetics or stats because as soon as you hit “ready”, the game treats you like you’re on that slingshot ride that makes people pass out.
It also really goes without saying that the game still feels incredible to play, which you would come to expect from a Respawn FPS. While maybe not quite as fast as Titanfall, there’s little downtime in Apex Legends — it’s fight after fight that you actually want to take part in. Whereas I am a bit more passive in other battle royale games like Fortnite, I’m always the one driving the squad forward in Apex, because, win or lose, fighting other players is inherently satisfying. It’s very rarely ever a 1v1 in Apex, which can be frustrating, though that’s where proper comms and teamwork comes into play.
Or you just get rolled up on by a trio out of nowhere and your soul is torn from your body in three seconds.
But what about if you’re a brand new player approaching Apex Legends for the first time? Well, skill-based matchmaking will hopefully ease you into the fray, but even the most average of players are fairly decent at the game these days, what with it being out since 2019 and all, so you should expect some teething problems. However, the sheer amount of stuff to figure out in Apex is a tad overkill and there’s little to no on-boarding at all. Even some thirty matches later, I’m encountering a new mechanic or item that’s utterly alien to me, and I’d played Apex for 200 hours before this recent resurgence.
There’s a slight sense of “too many cooks” to Apex in 2021, which could be eased by actually, you know, properly explaining what things are and how they work. Respawn could even tie it in with the game show nature of the Apex Games, maybe a “previously on” segment in which Mirage or one of the more charismatic Legends discusses the plot up to this point, as well as just generally what’s changed. The firing range is a little bit too basic to acclimate new players properly these days, so there should ideally be some kind of overhaul.
There’s also the fact that you have a lot of catching up to do in terms of progression, specifically with the Legends. There are double the Legends in the game than what you’ll start off with, so you can either grind for Legend Tokens (takes one million years) or buy them outright with Apex Coins. With each costing 750 Apex Coins, you’ll probably have spent enough for a brand new game before long. There’s also the Apex Packs, which I’ve always hated as they’re loot boxes and designed with keeping you hooked on them in mind. Yes, you can unlock a lot of the cosmetics you want with another, separate free currency (Apex also has too many of those), but the grind is absurd.
However, despite how sturdy of a brick wall it might put up for new players, it’s absolutely worth pushing through it. It’s not perfect, especially from a technical and server perspective, and the amount of third-partying is enough to drive you insane, but when you’re the one doing the third-partying, your hits keep hitting, and you clutch up, you feel godly. Add to that much more regular updates from Respawn, new Legends that drastically change the game each season, rotating and refreshing maps, cross-play that doesn’t add mouse and keyboard players with controller, and the fact that Apex’s world is soon to majorly collide with Titanfall’s and you have more than enough reasons to play it.
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