Game Review: Apex Legends

Available on: PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox X, Nintendo Switch, PC

If you’ve read my other blogs then you’ve probably already noticed that I’ve written about Apex Legends before. However, that article was more about how and why I started playing the game and how that newfound “addiction” had impacted my writing. This article will be a bit more of an actual game review and not so much a discussion of the games influence in my life and schedule.

First off, let me explain what Apex Legends is for those who have been hiding under a rock for the last little while and are unfamiliar with this title. Apex Legends is an online, team-based, first-person shooter battle royale. The game only works with an active Internet connection. And there is no option for solo play. You will be playing against other live players in every game mode outside of Firing Range (a practice range where players can experiment with different guns but gain no rewards).

With that basic understanding out of the way, it should go without saying that if you don’t have a good online connection or do not like playing exclusively online against other people then this is not the game for you. A laggy connection will ruin your experience and frustrate you almost as much as attempting to play Elden Ring. Other players may vary greatly in skill in a single match so you may find yourself in matches with other players that exceed your skill level who make mincemeat out of you very quickly.

In terms of gameplay, there are multiple game modes players can pick from. Duos is where teams of up to 2 players square off against other squads of two. Trios, just as the name suggests, is the same as Duos but with squads of up to 3 players. Both Duos and Trios include up to 60 players (so for those who don’t like math, that’s 30 teams of two in Duos and 20 teams of 3 in Trios). If the large battles against numerous teams is not for you, there is also an Arenas mode that pits your team of 3 against only one other team of 3. While Duos and Trios is a battle royale where the goal is to be the last team standing, Arenas mode is the best 2 out 3. Additional special game modes may be available during special events for limited times like capture the flag, shotguns & snipers only, and more.

It is worth noting that in Duos and Trios, you can queue for match making without a full squad. This means that it is technically possible to play Duos and Trios with a squad size of 1 but you will be put into a game against full squads leaving you at something of a disadvantage since you will have no team support.

Speaking of queuing for matches, you do not get to pick which teams you play against. You can invite other players to join your squad or join someone else’s squad but beyond that, your squad queues for the game mode the squad leader has picked (Duos, Trios, Ranked, Arenas, etc.) and the game puts squads in a game based on its proprietary matchmaking algorithm. If you want to play with friends, they have to be in your squad because there is no other way to guarantee you both are placed into the same match.

The game’s matchmaking logic is complex but sometimes seems a little unbalanced. As I understand it, the game takes a variety of criteria into consideration when selecting which squads go into a match. It looks at things like the player’s over level, recent player performance, and more. And all of that is based on the top ranked player in your squad. This means that if you join a Duos squad as a newbie and your partner is someone who has played for a while and is a good player then your squad will be put into matches against other squads considered to be of similar level to your more experienced teammate. This can make learning the game a bit of a challenge if you try to play in a squad with friends who have played Apex for a while already or who can play more frequently than you. 

With that out of the say, we can dive into the actual game a bit more now.

Apex Legends has a wide variety of characters to pick from, each with their own abilities and skills that can really impact the game. There are some characters that can set traps, some launch damaging attacks at your enemies, others may offer your squad protection or access to additional resources. A squad with a good mix of characters can use their skills to elevate the entire team’s performance. However, only a small selection of these characters are available to a new player. New characters have to be unlocked by ranking up your player profile by gaining experience through play OR by spending real world money to gain access to characters on demand.

Likewise, each character has an extensive list of outfits/skins, verbal quips, banners, poses, and more that allow players to customize their characters. And just like the characters themselves, these additional features are mostly locked and have to unlocked through gameplay or through in-game purchases.

The same is largely true for the guns too. There are a couple dozen different guns that players can use across a variety of categories. While all of the guns are available to every player from the start, additional gun skins are locked and have to be unlocked through gameplay or in-game purchases. The skins do NOT have any impact on the performance of the gun, only its appearance.

The game has a number of maps and each game mode cycles through the maps. For a given length of time, all new matches for Duos will be on Map A while Trios is on Map B. Then, once the time expires, Duos will be on Map B while Trios is on Map C. After time expires the map rotation continues. Usually there are 3 maps in rotation. Maps may be added/removed from that rotation each “season” and each season may introduce changes to existing maps, new characters being released, changes to skills/weapons to improve game balance, and more.

Seasons last about 3 months. Players can purchase the Season Pass for the current season to give them access to earning extra rewards to help unlock skins and more while also earning extra experience to increase your player profile faster to unlock more characters (if you have any to be unlocked).

To be honest, the game is free-to-play (F2P) but it is designed from top to bottom to encourage players to make multiple in-game purchases to unlock all that the game has in it. Not only that, there are like 4 different types of currency the game uses that players have to purchase individually to maximize the publisher’s ability to squeeze every penny they can from players looking to score some rare skins that are hard to acquire through the free methods.

Players don’t have to spend a lot of money to play and enjoy the game but the game’s design is one that encourages players to spend money. Its just the nature of the beast with these types of games, much like how most mobile games rely on in-game purchases. Its a worrying trend to this gamer though that the concept of producing games for a one-time purchase price might be fading away in exchange for the idea of ongoing, repeatable purchases that can add up to far more than the cost of a retail game. I’m not sure I’m sold on such a model for my console games but if people continue to spend money on them in games like Apex, Fortnite, and others then publishers/developers will be encouraged to incorporate similar mechanics into more and more games. Now, in-game purchases aren’t new to gaming and have been around for a number of years now but it seems that recent years have seen an increase in the amount of games offering in-game purchases and an increase in the number of items available for purchase.

Now, for me, I play Apex but with minimal in-game purchases. I have a group of friends that we all like to get online and play casually with each other. There are times that we get frustrated with the game and take breaks, usually when we seem to repeatedly get thrown into matches with players that far exceed our skill levels and we die almost immediately. There’s not a lot of fun playing a game for 30 seconds before dying. When that happens over and over again within a short period of time, it makes you not want to play.

I’m still not a big online gamer. I haven’t found some newfound love for MOBAs and MOBRs. I still prefer to play offline on games that are either solo player games or support local multi-player (like Smash Bros!). If it wasn’t for my son, my nephew, my best friend, and a few other friends and family that play Apex with me, this would not be a game that I would play. 

Overall, this is a game that will only appeal to players who like online FPS games. If you like Fortnite or CoD then you will likely enjoy Apex, but at the same time, odds are that if you already play Fortnite or CoD then you already know about Apex.

And of all the consoles the game is on, do NOT play on the Nintendo Switch. While I love the Switch as a platform, it does not excel with this game. The graphics power of that portable console is significantly lower than its less mobile counterparts and that shows in the game. Not only does the game not look as good, it just doesn’t play as good either. If the only console you have available is a Switch, there are many other games for that console that I’d recommend playing over Apex. I would only play Apex on a Switch if I was desperate to play that specific game and a Switch was my only option.

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