Let’s address the elephant in the room straight away, shall we? Apex Legends isn’t Titanfall.
The product of rapid prototyping, a common practice at Respawn following a launch as they search for their next project, following the release of Titanfall 2. Apex Legends is the brainchild of just two within the team. It’s set within the same universe and there’s enough connective tissue for series fans to recognise, but if I’m talking to the layman out there, Apex Legends might as well be a new property.
But just like Adam Lambert isn’t quite Freddie Mercury, he also ain’t bloody bad. Apex Legends might not feature the titans or the wall running that put Titanfall squarely on the map, but it features the best versions of a number of the genre’s staples that have emerged since its inception. While it’s a veritable best-of of those that came before, it has a few of its own tricks that help it stand on its own two feet and perhaps raise its hand as the heir-apparent.
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The real centerpieces of Apex Legends are the Legends themselves. There appears to be a lot of Overwatch inspiring these avatars as their rich personalities cut through the violence and bloodshed that exists at the heart of the game and steal the spotlight. Perhaps it speaks to my attention span and extremely modest skill set, but I remembered far more about the Legends themselves after my time was up than I did the intricacies of the map which, compared to its contemporaries, is what I’d describe as intimate in size. Adorned on the walls during our playtest were three words.
“Conquer with character.”
And I tell you what, it rings true. Apex Legends’ cast is its most diverse and interesting feature in a game full of interesting features. Though not every demographic is hit, it’s fair to say that Apex’s octant are a definite up-tick for representation within the medium at large.
You’re bound to see a lot of comparisons to Fortnite for obvious reasons, it’s a battle royale after all. However, I think Apex Legends handles a lot more like Call of Duty, but again this is for reasons that go without saying. It features the tight and satisfying gun-handling of its predecessors, both literal with Titanfall and those that came before Respawn’s inception. I was crestfallen at first when I made the discovery that, at some point during the last thirty years of Titanfall’s canon, running on walls had reached its best-by date. I soon came to understand that, when you see the bigger picture, it was a necessary sacrifice. In a genre that works so hard to reward players capable of strategising and anticipating player behaviour, to include something as incalculable as wall running would betray this. Because of this, and the obvious lack of the titans themselves, Apex lacks that verticality that made Titanfall insane at a competitive level.
But fun takes a lot of different forms, as you’ll discover is the case in Apex Legends if you give it the chance.
It might sound simplistic, but there’s a lot of fun in synergising with your squad in Apex. It feels like low-hanging fruit to draw another comparison to Overwatch, but much like the Heroes in that game, Apex’s titular Legends each contain abilities that, more often than not, given the right context, lend themselves best to a squad-based game. To use the character Lifeline as an example, as her abilities are tied to support and healing, her use is clear and practical here while in a game like Fortnite where solo-queuing is possible, her toolbelt would go unused. The beauty is the way every character’s abilities can compliment the others, and they do so in more ways than one. Wraith is a character who can phase shift using the void and her ultimate ability grants her power to open a brief-lived portal that acts as a wormhole, letting her close down distance in a hurry. Baiting a squad out of hiding with the hope they might have cut one from the herd, only to have Bangalore unleash her heavy artillery bombardment attack as they wander out dumbfounded and you’d say the mice have snapped their own necks chasing the cheese. It’s these moments where the fun in Apex Legends manifests.
With just sixty players total per game, Apex Legends has a smaller player pool than most in the genre. This is likely to be mistaken for weakness when it’s one of its greatest strengths. Obviously, your mind might guess that with a smaller map fewer players makes sense, less congestion and so forth, but the real strength behind the decision is even simpler than that.
Winning isn’t something that comes regularly to me in games like this. I had a couple of heartbreaking second place finishes in Fortnite and I was carried on the shoulders of a savant to a chicken dinner I didn’t deserve. Han Solo might never want to know the odds but the fact is every one of Apex’s players has a five-percent chance of taking home the prize. Compared to solo queuing in Fortnite and having a one-percent chance, I like those odds. As a result of this, and to my complete amazement, I won two games during our playtest. I find it pretty easy to log-in each day when there’s a real belief that you might snag a win or two along the way.
Though if you’re like me and you don’t win a lot, you’re bound to die a whole lot. That’s just the nature of the beast. But one of the things Apex Legends does that its peers don’t is that it throws you a lifeline, you might be down and out but, so long as you’ve got a squad that cares, you’re never out for good. If a surviving teammate collects your banner card, they’ll be able to venture to a revive beacon and call you back into the fray. It’s a wonderful idea and inclusion that paid dividends during my time with the game. There was one such instance where one of my squad was cut down and unmercifully executed while I high-tailed it. As I peered out from behind the cowardice-coloured pillar I was taking refuge behind, I gauged the enemy, the last in his squad, stalking my second comrade who had been downed during my ‘tactical retreat’. I sensed the opportunity to redeem myself so I sprinted in, filled the would-be killer’s back full of lead and helped my friend to their feet. We collected our pal’s banner card, called them back in on a whirly bird and hit the road again as a trio once again. It’s this real moment-to-moment feel Apex Legends has that makes each round memorable in its own way.
So no, Apex Legends definitely isn’t Titanfall. Not as you remember it, anyway. The war has long concluded and there are no titans to be found, though the guns bark the same and where Titanfall 2’s unforgettable campaign taught us Respawn could pen characters we’d grow to love in less than five hours, Apex Legends proves that it was anything but a fluke. There’s so much fun left to be had, so I’ll meet you in the Outlands.
Apex Legends is a free-to-play battle royale and is out right now for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
THE AUTHOR TRAVELED TO LOS ANGELES AS A GUEST OF EA FOR THE REVEAL OF APEX LEGENDS.