Apex Legends Doing EA Things

Earlier this month, Apex Legends, coming off of an uptick for me with the release of the second season and some overall changes, boasted about a new “Iron Crown” event. With it, came a number of new things to check out:

  • Limited-Time Mode – Solos
  • Octane Town Takeover
  • Double XP for Top 5 and Wins Weekend
  • A special Iron Crown Collection Pack and Iron Crown Event Store
    • With Bloodhound Heirloom Set Preview
  • Exclusive event challenges with free loot

Sounds good right? A new queue (which is actually rather fun, more on this later), an updated part of the map (this sort of thing has happened before, but it keeps the map interesting) some XP boosts, and free to earn loot. A new limited time store with micro-transactions are fine, but then they went and did the whole EA thing and made these loot boxes with % chance for awesome skins and why can’t we just outright buy this shit or grind for it??? At least that seems to be the way things went. I didn’t keep up with the news much because honestly I’ve been just trying to do enough to keep my Blaugust post total on pace and otherwise it’s IRL most of the time. Whatever the case, Respawn back pedaled almost immediately, which is better than the reaction EA had back when this was going on with Battlefront 2.

  • Starting on 8/20, we’ll be adding and rotating all twelve of the event-exclusive Legendary items into the store over the course of the final week of the event for the regular Legendary skin cost of 1,800 Apex Coins. You will still be able to purchase Iron Crown Apex Packs for 700 Apex Coins if you choose. The store schedule for the week will be as follows:
  • For future collection events, we will provide more ways to obtain items than just buying Apex Packs.

So at least there was some feedback. It sucks that devs are constantly doing this sort of thing, but at the same time it shouldn’t take this sort of crack back for them to realize they should just do it the right way in the first place. But the discussion has been going on for a long time so I don’t see it changing anytime soon. Whatever the case, they have now plotted out a bit of a roadmap with things to expect, and basically promise not to lock exclusive stuff behind lock boxes. Or something to that effect.

  • One or more new gameplay changes such as permanent and limited-time modes (Ranked or Solos respectively), map updates and town takeovers, balance changes, new characters, new weapons, and more
  • New free progression content via challenges or the free Battle Pass track
  • Purchasable cosmetics via Battle Pass, Packs, and/or the Shop

Season Launches 

At the start of every season, you can expect a major map update, a new Legend, new loot items (weapons, ordnances, etc.), meaty changes to the Legend and weapon meta and balance, updates to our Ranked mode, and potentially new features (like we introduced in Season 2 with Ranked mode).Every season will also feature the release of a brand-new Battle Pass.

Themed Events

These events will generally occur during a season and bring with them a limited-time mode, event challenges that let players earn cosmetics, and a mix of event limited and evergreen cosmetics available for direct purchase. These events may also include a town takeover or small map change, and potential extensions to Apex Legends lore. Legendary Hunt was an example of a Themed Event, with the next one coming early September focused on a certain Phase Expert.

Collection Events

Collection Events will also take place throughout the season and deliver a limited-time mode, event challenges where players earn cosmetics, and a set of event limited cosmetics available via Event-specific Apex Packs or direct purchase; it’s your choice. Like Themed Events, Collection Events may also feature a town takeover or small map change.

So it seems there will be reasons to check in with the game from time to time, particularly if you’re kind of over the base experience. Most MOBAs used to have these sorts of limited time events, as grinding 5v5 on the same map over and over can get tiring and having a way to break that up keeps people playing your game. Skins and things will keep a particular type of player engaged, but most are going to stay more interested in your title when they have more activities to participate in. As for me, I enjoy the base gameplay loop, but I also like having new game modes once in a while. New characters, alternate progression. Give me something to work towards.

Apex Strategies

As I mentioned in my recent round-up post, I’ve been playing Apex Legends again pretty regularly. Outside of the initial complaint of there not really being enough new content to keep me coming back, there have been some decent content patches in the interim and I’ve been enjoying myself in the game. Some observations before we get to the meat of this post:

  • I’ve found that the population seems unharmed regardless of negative press and the fact that this title fell off the charts shortly after launch while others like PUBG and Fortnite continue to be at least listed on the top income charts. I didn’t have queues to begin with and I don’t now. Wait times between games are minimal.
  • While playing the game during launch I had exactly one win. It was actually the first round I had played. I didn’t touch Apex Legends at all during the first season, but have racked up 6 more wins during season two, and honestly I don’t think my play pattern has changed. Practice makes perfect and all, but for whatever reason things have clicked and I’ve been doing really well. I’m not sure if this is a reflection on the quality of players still playing on the Playstation 4, or if it’s a reflection of personal skill growth. I prefer to think it’s the latter.

This brings me to the topic of this post. I feel like my experience being at the bottom (prior to the first season) and losing repetitively but learning the core mechanics of the game has now combined with being relatively good at the game. As such I feel pretty confident sharing some tips with you that might help you to become a better player as well. So let’s get to it shall we? Here are some of my personal tips for getting better at Apex Legends, in no particular order:

Situational Awareness:

The first tip I have for you is to try and have situational awareness. You should know if you have short-range weapons equipped, so don’t fire at long range targets giving away your position. Shooting shotgun shells at someone on top of a cliff isn’t going to do anything except give away your position, and that means getting flanked by the enemy team. Perhaps your team isn’t ready for an altercation — one guy is looting a death box and another is heading in the opposite direction. Your mini-map can help with this information in split seconds. You should also be calling out enemies seen and where you are going using the game’s ping system. Sometimes it’s tempting to be a commando/hero and go it alone, but you should stick with the group. You are more powerful as a unit than on your own (despite the fact that there will be times you will have to carry your teammates). Listen to the environment for incoming threats — the game’s sound is there for a reason, and you’ll hear the enemy’s movements oftentimes before you see them. Know your enemy’s abilities! Every playable character has special abilities, you need to know how they work and how you can respond to them. For instance, Wattson’s ultimate will protect you from air strikes, but only if you’re inside its sphere of influence!

Environmental Awareness:

This comes down to being aware of escape routes, jump stations, ziplines and etcetera. Constantly check your map for your allies and for pings. Also, pay attention to where the ring is and where it’s going next. I’ve found that in my early game sessions I used to always try to be as close to the middle of the ring as possible throughout the match. Oftentimes this meant leaving teammates behind and heading off on my own, which I clearly no longer recommend. What I have found now is that hugging the edge of the ring seems to be more effective. Not only will you be able to pick off stragglers, oftentimes they will have been damaged by the ring so they are easy pickings. You also tend to see more teams trying my old strategy and being closer to the middle so you avoid some of the bigger conflicts. Staying alive is the name of the game after all.

The rest of my tips are less meaty:

  • Holster when you run long distances. This makes a huge difference, especially when trying to outrun the ring.
  • Always try to revive or respawn teammates but be safe. Don’t dive on a downed teammate immediately. Try to make sure threats are eliminated or distracted first.
  • Don’t carry items you don’t need. Give syringes and shield cells to teammates if they need them. Use the ultimate accelerants as soon as you pick them up.
  • Keep your shields and health topped off. Don’t be afraid to use these items during fights, but be aware of how/when you can do so.
  • Don’t forget to use your grenades!! I was guilty of not using my secondary equipment very often but now I try to do so every match.
  • Don’t use finishers if you only down one member of an enemy squad. You’ll get caught mid animation if you do. I believe there is a way to shortcut the animation but I’d avoid it until it is safe to do so.

That’s all I can think of for now, but hopefully these tips stick in your head and you are able to implement them. You can see me following many of these ideals in the following video, which ended up being one of my better matches in the game and one that I remembered to record.

On the Battle Royale Front

I don’t know how it came to pass exactly, but since no one else in my corner of the Internet is writing about the Battle Royale genre, I kind of feel like it falls to me to do so because I’ve tried most and enjoyed a couple. I wouldn’t say I’m a super fan of this style of game, but I do keep finding myself writing about them when a new contender enters the ring. Generally speaking, the market is over-saturated with games trying to bank on Fortnite or Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds‘ success, but there are outliers and new competition cropping up left and right — and some of these are doing things to push the genre forward into realms I personally find more appealing. I’ve written about several games over the past few years, starting with H1Z1 and culminating with the new kid on the block: Apex Legends.

There have been a few news stories recently that kind of sum things up for the genre in the past couple of years. My take: Basically H1Z1 came out of nowhere and created the game mode, someone who consulted Daybreak then went on to create his own game (PUBG) and then the was Fortnite and only Fortnite. The dark ages have finally seemed to pass, with the new forerunner Apex Legends showing the potential the genre has to offer to an adult audience. I suppose you can give Call of Duty some credit too, because Blackout is pretty deece. Regardless, it seems that Apex’s surprise launch caught Epic Games off guard, but they definitely took immediate notice. I’ve read several articles that point out that Fortnite has already seen a ping system patched into the game and “respawn vans” are on the way too. The linked article said it best:

That said, Fortnite is still no slouch. It doesn’t have to imitate Apex Legends. The ping system was fine, but one who continues to watch Epic add Apex Legends features to Fortnite might wonder if they’re starting to just try to play keep up with their new contender. It would be a shame to see them just play keep up, rather than innovate on their style as they had for the better part of 2018.

I agree that it’s kind of sad to see the team responsible for the most popular Twitch game for nearly a calendar year needing to keep up with the Joneses. Why not iterate your own things? You already have the stupid factor, building, and the ability to use dances made popular elsewhere. Keep going with that, and let the kids have their playground. I’ll go hang out with the adults elsewhere, thank you. Pretty soon we’ll see hero abilities and then Fortnite might as well be Realm Royale. Sorry if I sound a little bent, I just can’t pass up the opportunity to talk shit on that game.

Back to the adult world. I’ve been playing Apex Legends pretty regularly and I have to say it’s a blast, particularly with friends, but even with randoms. Polygon has reported that the game has already reached 50 million players, and that’s pretty damn good for a month since launching. At their current trajectory they’ll be more popular than Fortnite before you know it, though that wouldn’t need to happen to prove which is the better game. Honestly the only one I’m really playing is Apex and I’m happy to be doing so. I still think the genre isn’t in the sweet spot just yet, but we’ve already seen these sorts of popularity contests between titles in many genres before it (take the MMO, MOBA and Survival Sandbox booms and busts for example). I still see interesting tidbits that are worth commenting on though, and here are a couple I shared on Twitter the other day, with some excess commentary:

So apparently one of the creators of Dark Souls/Bloodborne wants to make a Battle Royale variant. I think the combat alone would be pretty awesome, and could make for longer matches, though I’d think you might want to either limit the size of the map or the amount of players just to keep things from getting out of hand. Killing mobs in these games takes a while, and though the PvP doesn’t take as long, it could still end up being excessive. I’d play it though. You’ll just have to hope you get some armor and weapons quick before you get cut down, similar to the normal games.

I find this story kind of sad, just because of my nostalgic loyalty to Daybreak (more SOE/Verant). I wanted H1Z1 to be successful. I actually enjoyed their King of the Kill nonsense. We knew the NantG thing was going to bring changes down the pipeline, and I’m sure this is a ploy to get a mobile version up to compete with PUBG‘s mobile offering. Whatever the case, the game has changed names so many times at the point they’re probably doing more harm than good. Perhaps they don’t care and are aiming for an Asian market? Hard to say. Whatever the case I don’t play whatever they ultimately decide to call this game anymore, so it’s just a footnote in history. A shame to create something that has become so popular and then find a way to not reap the benefits. I guess that’s typical of the company though, isn’t it?

That’s all I have for today.

Battlerite Royale Leaves Early Access

After a quick, five month run in Early Access on Steam, Battlerite Royale has hit it’s full free-to-play 1.0 release. I learned of the game prior to picking up a copy, though the purchase price unlocked all champions and gave some founder bonuses, so I’m not peeved about the free-to-play full release. I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve had with the game already, and wrote some impressions on it back in November when I first got started. This isn’t exactly just throwing the game out into world though, as this 1.0 update brought with it some significant changes.

You can read the full patch notes here, but I’m going to take a moment to go over some of my thoughts having played for a few hours post release.

The first thing I noticed that had changed was bits of the UI. There were some new details added, but also introduced is the concept of a “season” which seems to be popular with online multiplayer games as of late. Most lobby based PvP games have something like this where you earn rewards by playing, but if you buy a special pass for a monetary fee you’ll unlock even more skins and things and typically these items are “exclusive” to that season — this creates more desire in some players I’d assume. This season ties in with a new star leveling and season leveling system, which you’ll see more of below:

Quests are of the same “Kill 4 Players or Break 100 Loot Orbs” variety, but newly added are season quests. Complete these and get stars. Get ten stars and move up a season level which corresponds with the battle pass and extra goodies. Basically it comes down to just playing the game and you’ll earn some stuff one way or the other, but there’s an option to throw some money at the game to earn extra rewards. There are also a couple of packs you can outright buy that provide new skins and mounts. Alternatively you can earn in-game currency and buy chests which will get you some skins and avatars and mounts, etc. It’s a typical free-to-play model and I don’t really see a need to spend money to have fun.

Another big part of the new patch was the release of three more champions to choose from. Strangely enough, they are all ranged characters, and that has thrown the distribution of melee/ranged characters off a bit, but I’m sure there are more champions being ported over from Battlerite, along with brand new creations coming down the pipe. I tried all three and enjoyed both Oldur and Taya quite a bit. Pearl seems too support oriented to be viable solo, and it appears that there is still only the option to duo and you have to have someone on your friend’s list to even invite them. I’d imagine that an auto fill for duos or a group queue should be something in development, but I haven’t read anything about that specifically yet.

The map has been revamped a bit, and you can see one of the brand new zones above, and the ice sure is slippery. This is the north end of the map, they also added a new trader’s market zone at the south end and the extra space seems to help you avoid those early skirmishes allowing you to gear up a bit before fighting. There were other tweaks such as the movement speed of characters across the board, and more specific champion adjustments that you can check out on the patch notes I linked to above. Overall I think it was a successful early access run and that the game feels like it’s in a good spot. Outside of adding more characters/skins and perhaps continuing to expand the map, I would only suggest the matchmaking for duos and perhaps a group of 4-5 queue.

If you haven’t checked the game out yet, now’s the time — it doesn’t get any cheaper than free!

Thoughts on Apex Legends

Respawn Entertainment, creators of the awesome Titanfall series, has now thrown their hat into the Battle Royale ring, like many other studios before it. The budding genre is already becoming over saturated, but some gems peek out from the chaff from time to time, and I believe Apex Legends is set to do just that.

I’ve played a handful of Battle Royale games and have found only a couple of them to be to my liking. Apex Legends ticks a few boxes for me that others have not. I prefer the forced first person perspective (which was also a plus in Black Ops IIII) because in any third person shooter, you can utilize the camera angle in relationship to your avatar to see around corners in a way that wouldn’t be physically possible in real life. Being a sort of spin off of the survival genre, Battle Royale succeeds when you are forced into this camera position and need to utilize your senses to outlast the other players in the round. I also enjoy the team-play aspect of groups of three. There are only three classes of legends in the game, so you can make a balanced team with only three players. The voice chat works, but it also is entirely unnecessary. The “jumpmaster” feature is also great for keeping your team heading to the same place on the map and not being picked off elsewhere.

The map feels large, but you can still traverse much of it fairly quickly. There are no vehicles, so everything is done on foot — thankfully there isn’t stamina to worry about. The weapon and gear selection feels adequate and the gunplay is excellent. I do miss the double-jumping and wallrunning of Titanfall along with the ability to call down and pilot mechs, but I understand why they didn’t go that route. I’m hopeful for an additional game-mode that will allow the use of mechs sometime in the future but it doesn’t seem likely. Still, there are a variety of skills to use via the different legends, so it still feels varied enough.

Typical of most Battle Royale games, you’ll have rounds where you are one of the first teams eliminated, and other games you’ll be the last ones standing. My second match ever when this good, as I was playing Gibraltar and our team was the first to the circle of safety so we set an ambush. Gibraltar’s ultimate ability calls down an air strike, so when I saw the enemy team coming I dropped it on them and managed to take they whole team out in one go. Since then I’ve managed to be in the top ten several times but haven’t won another round. Rumor has it that there are plans for solo/duo queues coming soon, but actually think the team co-op is a better approach. Even playing with randoms it has been a good time.

The game looks great and runs smooth. I think it’s a blast. At least Respawn seems to have done their homework, as they’ve taken some of the better ideas from the competition and included their top-notch FPS gameplay to the mix while avoiding some of the over-the-top design choices. When loading up for the first time you’ll have access to six legends, with two being unlockables. There is a micro transaction storefront, but no power is being sold — just fluff skins for Legends and weapons. You can buy in-game currency to speed up your unlocks or to outright buy skins, or you can just unlock them with scrap parts eventually. I still don’t have enough in-game currency to unlock a new legend, but it doesn’t seem like it will take that long to get there. Honestly it’s probably worth throwing a few bucks at the company just to make sure the game doesn’t disappear, but I’d rather buy a “unlock all legends now and in the future” package than skins ala Quake Champions or SMITE.

No matter the case, the game is out now, and is Free to Play. I personally don’t have Origin installed so I downloaded Apex Legends on my Playstation 4. If you’re a PC player you’ll have to get this via Origin. It probably looks even nicer there. I’d give it a whirl if you enjoy the Battle Royale genre or need a new FPS in your life.