Apex Legends - Polished to a shine

Apex Legends is the latest in a genre nearing saturation, amongst “battle royale” shooters like Fortnite and PUBG. I was struck at just how “good” it felt immediately upon playing it, and after reading Derek Yu’s twitter thread on “jank” I started thinking about viewing games through the lens of what they do new and what they do well.

Though Apex Legends does introduce some genuinely new concepts, they’re mostly small improvements to the core gameplay loop, or the streamlining of existing systems. A few things to call out:

  • Even after being killed, your teammates can rescue your “banner” and take it to special respawn points that bring you back - without any gear, however. This avoids unlucky players having to spectate the rest of the match, but doesn’t unbalance things too much as the time and equipment loss your team suffers can be a significant setback.
  • The map plays a lot more vertically than other battle royale titles. Part of this is just level design, but the lack of fall damage and ziplines that take you way up and let you semi-respawn again help too.
  • The loot UX is just plain easier - picking up weapon attachments and they automatically equip, you can’t easily pick up an item you don’t need or an item that is a strict downgrade, and overall less time is wasted fiddling with inventory.
  • Communication is easy and automatic thanks to a smart spotting system that lets you easily point out helpful information or warnings to your teammates plus your characters chatting useful information out loud at times.
  • The game just “feels” good. This partially comes down to low input lag and consistent frame rates but I think you really can see the studio’s FPS experience coming through strong here.

I think I conceptually appreciate games that push boundaries a bit more, but while the back-of-the-box description of Apex Legends sounds boring, actually playing it feels instantly satisfying on a gut level. Respawn Entertainment gets first person shooters.