Apex Legends Adds Some Good Twists To Battle Royale

Apex Legends Adds Some Good Twists To Battle Royale

Titanfall development studio Respawn’s free-to-play battle royale game, Apex Legends, came out yesterday afternoon for PC, Xbox One, and PS4. I played it into the night and was intrigued by the ways it tweaks the battle royale format.

Apex Legends is set on a futuristic map full of mountains, rivers, and clusters of buildings. There’s a backstory featuring a world of mercenaries and outlaws and the “Apex Games,” the battle royale that 20 squads of three take part in.

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While the story adds colour to the characters and facilitates the presence of an in-game announcer, the basics are like any other battle royale: You and and your squad drop into a map (the currently only available map is called Kings Canyon, though more may be added in the future according to the game’s FAQ), scrounge up all the weapons you can, and try to eliminate other teams as a damage-dealing ring steadily closes in.

Apex Legends diverges from battle royale heavyweights PUBG and Fortnite by offering a playable roster that’s more akin to what you’d find in a hero shooter like Overwatch. Characters (here called Legends) include the likes of a robot scout called Pathfinder, a hulking heavy known as Gibraltar, and a skirmisher named Wraith who is surrounded by interdimensional sparks. They play different roles, like stealth, healer, or scout.

In addition to a special passive ability, Legends have a tactical move and an ultimate, both on cooldowns. As a lifelong support player, I enjoyed playing as Lifeline, the medic whose tactical move launches a healing drone and whose ultimate calls down a supply drop of shields and other defence gear. Other characters can queue up airstrikes, see hints of where other players have been, or create ziplines.

As players grow more familiar with the game and its characters, I’m sure interesting strategies will emerge around the combinations. For now, it’s just fun to see what everyone could do.

After you choose your character, you’re shown the identity of the upcoming match’s “champion,” a higher-ranking opponent who rewards you with more experience points if you kill them. Their image, along with the player in the match with the most kills, are projected on screens around the world.

It’s tough to say what this adds to a game where it’s hard to find, much less identify, a specific player. It’s also unclear whether a match’s champion deserves that honour. In one match, I was thoroughly carried by my more-skilled teammates, but I killed the champion in a firefight and we went on to win. I became champion in my next match, and it was terrifying to know every other player now had a target out for me—but that terror quickly waned when I remembered that’s the crux of the battle royale genre itself.

I was promptly killed in a busy drop zone and moved on with my life. It feels like a lot of affectation, especially given my preference for the hands-off nature of PUBG’s world, or Fortnite’s unexplained cartooniness.

ImageIn-game champion

Apex Legends’ other new twists on the battle royale genre impressed me more. Instead of leaping from the dropship into the map as you please, one player is randomly appointed the “jumpmaster,” deciding where the squad will land. You can pass off this duty—in one game I played with Kotaku contributor Zack Zwiezen, my squad passed the jumpmaster role among us like a game of Hot Potato.

Once you’re running around in the map, you can communicate over voice, but also by pinging locations, enemies, and loot with a button press. In the matches I played with strangers this was immensely useful, and even after I ran out of ammo I was still able to target enemies for my squadmates.

The game’s other twist, which is my favourite so far, is its revive mechanic. When you die, your squad has a certain amount of time to get to you and revive you. If they don’t make it in time, they can still collect your “banner,” a customisable image that represents your character.

At any point during the match they can run to a respawn beacon and insert your banner, which will respawn you in a dropship so you can rejoin the game. There’s a risk to this—using the beacon takes time and leaves you exposed—but it’s a clever step beyond the standard respawn. In one match I was killed almost immediately when I couldn’t find a weapon in an active drop point.

My teammate couldn’t reach me during the respawn window, but waited until the area calmed down to retrieve my banner and revive me. In the matches I played, people took advantage of this mechanic more often than not, and it was an added incentive to stick around in a match after I died.

ImageRacing toward a respawn beacon with my teammate’s banner

My deaths came, as they do in many battle royales, either almost immediately or in the late game. My success felt dependent on where I dropped into the map. I learned it was better at least on day one, to drop on the map’s forested outskirts or in a crumbling city later along the dropship’s route. I died a lot simply by landing in too-crowded areas and not snatching up a gun in time. If my squad had a quiet drop, we were able to last pretty long looting our way across the map.

Racing around the map feels wonderful. There aren’t any mechs or wall-running as in Titanfall, but your character moves quickly. You can slide across the ground or down slopes, and you don’t take fall damage. Movement is clean and delightful, and sometimes I was more interested in sliding down hills than finding better gear.

I’ve never been very interested in the nitty-gritty of loadouts in battle royales, and I found the amount of items in Apex—shields regenerators, different grenades, different healing items—and their different locations in my inventory overwhelming.

I wasn’t alone. In one match, one of my teammates barked orders about specific item names and loadouts until my other squadmate replied desperately, “This game just came out, man!”


The community is still finding its footing in Apex Legends, and it’s exciting to see what the game will become. The roadmap suggests seasons and a battle pass. There’s already a store full of currency, cosmetics, and loot boxes called Apex packs that advertise their loot percentages before you open them.

As the game goes on, I’m sure we’ll see people customising their characters, finding favourite skins and voice lines, and creating a meta through different squad combinations. For now, Apex Legends can feel cluttered, but, at its core, it’s a lot of fun.


  • I played 3 rounds yesterday, and the 2 randoms I ended up with in my 3rd game where great. We manged to win too, even tho I died, I was still able to play. I think that is a big deal for a BR game.

    also, the fact there is no Solo mode is interesting.

    The one thing I do want in it, tho, is the ability to wall run like we could in Titan Fall 1 and 2. I found my self trying to do it all the time. lol

  • I will give it a try, but honestly my immediate reaction to seeing the same shape map, with the same bus drop off things (sure with a twist), then the same compass markings etc, was to cringe. I dont doubt Respawns ability to make a great game, and know there is a bunch of new stuff, just if we have to keep having BR games can someone please just reinvent the wheel already and actually push them away for seemingly like they are a mod/skin of another game.

    • Pff you could say the same thing about any genre of game.

      “my immediate reaction to seeing the same giant open world, with the same ? markers all over the map, the same combat system (sure with a twist), then the same side quests etc, was to cringe”

      Battle Royale is just taking off, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when people are still trying to make the wheel.

    • Although I would’ve agreed with you normally – keep in mind this is a genre! and just because fortnite is cringe (imo) and made it super popular for young children, its jsut a game genre, like open world as zzzonked said.
      It’s very fun thus far, and imo, if a game is made well and it’s fun, then that’s all i need

  • I’m enjoying it. Its the only other Battle Royale game (except for Fortnite) that has come out with a AAA level of polish on launch (no, I’m not including COD Blackout, that laggy POS).

    It will need a rapidly evolving set of heroes to stay interesting however, and I feel they could work on the movement system to loosen it up somewhat.

    Otherwise, pretty dang good.

  • I played a few rounds last night. Heaps of depth to the game that I’m yet to get into, but it plays well.
    Solid movement and gunplay, interesting mechanics. Fast paced.
    It’ll be interesting to see the meta evolve, but at first impressions, holographic dude, medic girl and robot will always be dominant picks.

    Feels good to play and some good twists on the BR genre.

    Much better than COD blackout.

    • I would replace the robot with Wraith on the dominant pick list. I played a lot last night and didn’t see half as many robots as I did that teleporting minx. Like, every match someone would rush pick her.

  • It’s… intriguing. I want to give it another go after my play of it last night, I just don’t like being lumped with random team mates though, I feel like I’m so bad that I always let the team down when I inevitably die, I’m not too great at Battle Royale games.

    • If you’re still playing in a week’s time, might be worth chasing down other locals here or on other websites that you can get online with more regularly.

    • It feels well optimised enough that Switch could be legit viable. I have a GTX 970 in my PC, which is about 5 years old now, and I can run everything maxed out on high with 0 stuttering. Obviously optimised for a broad range of devices/builds.

  • It’s kind of funny that everyone thinks Fortnite and PUBG are the only examples of Battle Royale game mechanics. Sure, they’re the most recognisable but a lot of the “twists” mentioned in the article have already been done in some form or another by games like Realm Royale, COD Blackout, The Culling and Islands of Nyne.

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