Apex Legends review: A better battle royale

Respawn Entertainment risks it all entering the oversaturated battle royale genre with Apex Legends. Find out whether it was a good gamble in our review.

4

I’ve not enjoyed playing a battle royale game in a long time. Fortnite never grabbed my attention, I couldn’t stand shooting someone only to have them build a deluxe apartment block in seconds. Call of Duty’s well-received Blackout did nothing for me either. With so many developers jumping on the battle royale bandwagon, I was ready to jump off and watch it rattle and glitch along into the sunset. That is, until Apex Legends.

Respawn Entertainment almost caught the gaming world by surprise, if it wasn’t for the double-edged sword that is influencers. In a one-two knockout blow, Respawn revealed and released Apex Legends, a battle royale game mixed with light hero shooter features, and all set in the Titanfall universe. I, and apparently a million other people, played the game in the first 8 hours, and in the first three days, the install base had already hit 10 million users. There’s a good reason why Respawn was able to hit these numbers: Apex Legends is the best iteration of the battle royale genre.

99 battle royale games enter

Apex Legends review movement climbing sliding
It's not the most glamorous shot, but moving in Apex Legends is second to none.

Battle royale games are often weighed down with clunky controls, confusing UIs, and no real means of communicating with allies. All these problems are slowly tweaked over the title’s life until they approach a barely acceptable level. For Apex Legends, this was never the case. It hit the ground running, with none of the faff and glut that plagued the launches of others in this dog-eat-dog genre.

Apex Legends released with some of the tightest controls displayed in a battle royale title to date. Moving around the world has a flow and pacing to it. Players can transition from a full sprint into a slide and then into a climb at any given moment. Stringing these movements together becomes second nature in minutes, but it’ll take longer to master.

The smoothness of Apex Legends is also reflected in the management systems. A lot of the clutter and micro-management we’ve put up with in other battle royale titles is gone. Pick up an attachment and it will be applied directly to the correct weapon. Switching all the attachments from an old gun to a new weapon you’ve just picked up is done automatically for you. Any attachments that don’t fit will just be thrown to the ground.

Similarly, Apex Legends will prevent you from swapping out your better gear for a worse piece, which makes fast-looting a breeze. It essentially removes the worry of picking up the wrong thing or accidentally dropping that item you desperately needed. In other games, during the frantic stages of looting, I’ve easily replaced my level 2 backpack with a level 1 version and forgotten where it happened. It’s nice to have this simple player protection in place. It allows the player to focus on what’s important: finding a weapon to use and engaging in combat.

Breaking an opponent's shield comes with a satisfying audio cue.

The gunplay in Apex Legends is tight and responsive. Part of the fun, even outside of winning, is simply getting into engagements with other players and landing hits. Each hit that connects has an audio component. It’s a feedback system that allows players to immediately know how much damage they’ve dealt an enemy.

Even though you might not be engaging in combat for the entire match, there’s still a sense of progression. This is thanks to how the gear works in Apex Legends. All the items, sans the weapons, fall on a tier system, so the need to improve your kit is always there. Though you might have everything you need you’re constantly wanting to ensure your teammates have what they need and this is thanks to the way Apex Legends is set up.

What's your favorite posish?

The pinging system is the best communication tool to ever grace a multiplayer game.

The teamwork component of Apex Legends is arguably better than any other battle royale title to date. While a lot of the strategy and teamwork comes from choosing Legends that work well together, it’s mainly thanks to the ingenious pinging system. Clicking the scroll wheel on the mouse can highlight places to go or items on the ground. These markers can then be pinged by your allies to state that they too wish to go that direction or to “dibs” said item. Any item that someone calls “dibs” on has the marker kept on it, allowing them to easily find the building and room it’s in.

Furthermore, by clicking and holding the middle mouse button, players can bring up a wheel of options to clearly communicate with their team their intentions. This is an excellent system that helps not only those who wish to not use a microphone but those who for whatever reason cannot. It’s so intuitive and natural that it’s amazing it’s not been done before.

To add to the teamwork, Respawn has introduced a limited respawn mechanic. When a player goes down, their allies can collect their banner and take it to one of roughly 30 single-use beacons around the map. After interacting with the beacon, the previously-dead player is sent back to the map, albeit with zero gear. It helps in situations where you die too early and would otherwise be left staring at the screen or quitting out and doing something else.

Battle royale heroes

Only six Legends are available at first, with the option to purchase two more characters.

The other factor that makes Apex Legends unique is its very namesake, the Legends. These characters can very easily be likened to your Overwatch champions. Each one offers three unique abilities, and although some of these abilities deal damage, they are merely a means of supplementing the weapons. At first, it would appear that these two genres are diametrically opposed, but the addition of heroes adds more to the experience than it detracts.

Legends fall into one of four categories: attack, defense, support, and Bloodhound, who is probably a kind of tracker. While these categories don’t dictate whether you’ll get kills, they can be used to get an estimation of the kind of playstyle they offer. Lifeline, a support Legend, can call in supply drops and deploy a healing robot; Bangalore, an attacker, can use a smoke launcher to cover an area or call down an artillery bombardment; Caustic, a defender, can use gas canisters to set up a defensive perimeter.

Some problems do arise if you have a character you prefer to main that is then chosen by another random player in the pre-game Legend select screen. This can be avoided by playing more than one Legend, but when Apex Legends relies so heavily on teamwork, playing a character you’re unfamiliar with can feel like a massive drain on the team.

Unfortunately, Apex Legends launched with a meager eight Legends in its roster, of which two of these were locked behind in-game currency or a paywall. This leaves most players with only six characters to choose from. To compare it to similar games, Rainbow Six Siege launched with 20 operators while League of Legends offered 40.

The comparison here is no doubt odd, however, despite the different genres, all these games require the player to unlock characters. These characters are unlocked by using in-game currency accrued by playing or through using real-world money. With only eight Legends available for use, the variety of combat faced on the field is severely limited. When there’s not much else on offer in the game, it’s not outrageous to expect more than six playable characters at launch.

Bundle of 2000 Schmeckles

Prices of Apex Coin bundles varies from region to region, but all Legends are worth the same amount of Apex Coins.

Microtransactions: can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Being a free game, it’s obvious that Apex Legends is going to live or die by its microtransactions. The game uses something called Apex Coins as its microtransaction currency. This is only available by purchasing bundles of coins through the store which ranges in prices from $9.99 USD for 1,000 coins to $99.99 USD for 11,500 coins. This means that it’s roughly $1 for 100 coins, making the price of a new Legend $7.50, placing it at a higher cost than a new champion in League of Legends and slightly higher than a new operator in Rainbow Six Siege.

Depending on how many Legends are released, this price could feel reasonable or it could quickly become far too expensive. Considering most games are $60 USD, players could reasonably expect to put that amount toward 8 new Legends, provided new-release Legends aren’t sold at a higher cost. Only time will tell how Respawn Entertainment chooses to handle the release of Legends as well as the cost of old ones.

For those that won’t be spending money unlocking characters, you’ll need to earn 12,000 Legend Tokens, which are awarded for leveling up in-game. There’s no real way to tell how long this will take the average player, but players can expect to unlock their first character for free by about level 25. Chances are, most avid players will be spending enough time playing that purchasing new champions with tokens shouldn’t be an issue.

A Legendary gun skin is twice as expensive as a new Legend.

While the cost of Legends is reasonable, the price of weapon skins is outrageous to the point of absurdity. One Legendary (the highest tier, one above Epic) weapon skin will set you back 1,800 Apex Coins, or $18 USD. Not much more needs to be said about this. That is simply too much for a cosmetic item.

Outside of cosmetics through a store, Apex Legends also uses a loot box system. Players can earn 45 Apex Packs between levels 1 and 100, with the option to purchase extra boxes using Apex Coins. The Apex Packs contain three items of varying quality and have a chance to drop Crafting Metal. This actually complicates the economy, as players can use said metals to craft cosmetic items they might want. However, with only 45 packs to earn between levels 1 and 100, and each pack having random loot, there’s no guarantee they’ll even earn enough to craft a single Legendary item. What happens beyond level 100 is anyone’s guess, but I can’t help but feel this needs further clarification from Respawn Entertainment.

Room for Improvement

If Apex Legends wants to keep winning, it needs to continue to improve.

For everything Apex Legends gets right, there is still room to grow and improve. The game includes a training mode where players are introduced to movement and all the weapons, but it does not let you test out the Legends. What’s worse is that if you want to try out the weapons, you need to go through the “basic training” each time you load it up. The game desperately needs an Overwatch-style training map with moving targets and the opportunity to test all the items on offer in the game.

There are also a few bugs and problems in Apex Legends, which is par for the course for a battle royale title. Players’ banners will become inaccessible if they die on the supply ship before it lands and odd disconnect issues lurk around each corner. To compound the problem of random mid-game dropouts, Apex Legends lacks any kind of rejoin option.

These are no doubt going to be addressed, but when you see Respawn Entertainment fix so many of the problems that have permeated the genre for so long, it’s surprising to see some these issues in the game.

All things considered, Apex Legends is the battle royale game players have been waiting for. It nails the movement and terrain traversal while ensuring weapons feel meaty and responsive. Even the inclusion of light hero shooter features melds surprisingly well with the battle royale genre. Respawn Entertainment has set a new gold standard for what players should expect from their battle royale experiences.

Guides Editor

Hailing from the land down under, Sam Chandler is relatively new to the industry, getting his start a few years ago as a writer-for-hire. After bouncing round a few universities, securing a bachelor degree, and finding his feet, he's found his new family here at Shacknews as a Guides Editor. There's nothing he loves more than crafting a guide that will help someone. If you need help with a guide, or notice something not quite right, you can Tweet him: @SamuelChandler 

Review for
Apex Legends
8
Pros
  • Fixes a lot of what battle royales get wrong
  • Legends make for unique strategies
  • Gunplay feels responsive and impactful
  • Limited respawns means players have a second chance
  • Pinging and communication system should be an industry standard
Cons
  • Only 8 Legends at launch, 2 are locked behind in-game currency/microtransactions
  • Various bugs and glitches
  • Unable to playtest Legends in training mode
  • No rejoin option
  • Cosmetics are outrageously expensive
From The Chatty
  • reply
    February 18, 2019 12:00 PM

    Sam Chandler posted a new article, Apex Legends review: A better battle royale

    • reply
      February 18, 2019 12:48 PM

      well said, agree with pretty much everything

      • reply
        February 18, 2019 1:07 PM

        I disagree with your agreement

      • reply
        February 18, 2019 5:24 PM

        Thanks for the feedback. I could talk about Apex Legends at length, it's such a quality experience.

        No doubt I'll have some opinions about the Battle Pass.

        • reply
          February 18, 2019 5:34 PM

          Apex is the first game that has a chance at kicking my Rocket League addiction.

          Unlike Rocket League, where I don’t play with a dedicated team I’ve pretty much only been playing Apex with friends or shackers.

      • reply
        February 21, 2019 3:43 AM

        I second this!

        I love the teamwork in Apex Legends. A team of three is just perfect for me. For a multiplayer game, the pinging system is kinda new to me but I found it very handy when communicating with my team.

        To the reviewer, Sam, you nailed it in laying down your points about Apex Legends. Kudos man!

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