Apex Legends and the Freedom of Battle Royals

Apex Legends and the Freedom of Battle Royals

I’ve been meaning to make this post for a while now, but I’ve never found the spark to get me to start it. I think it’s because Apex Legends has been such a constant every day of this past year and a half that I wasn’t sure I had anything interesting to say about it. How do you put down your thoughts on brushing your teeth, or getting dressed in the morning? That’s the level of permeance Apex has had in my life.

If you’ve known me for any length of time in the Pre-Mint years, this may come as a shock to you. I like weirdo JRPGs and MMOs with 10 foot tall Bunny Girls. I didn’t learn how to play a First-Person Shooter until I was 13, playing Halo at minimal graphical settings on a dinky Toshiba laptop my parents bought me so I’d stop hogging the family computer all day. I admired FPSes for the technical skill it took to play them well, much like fighting games, but they existed outside of my periphery.

I think a large part of that comes from the fact that, back in my day, the idea of a “free game” was a bit more of a novel concept. Sure there were online games like Runescape that you could play as a bored kid at the library for the price of Free.99, but AAA games were yet to be saddled with microtransactions that would make up the cost of their creation (and then some). My pocket change was limited, and if I had to choose between spending $50 on Nier or whatever Call of Duty was coming out, well, I was going to pick the Square Enix game every time.

Fortnite released a few years ago and took the world by storm, and of course I dipped into it like anyone else. I certainly found it fun, but the crafting and building elements threw me off, so I quickly put it away. In that time, however, I had found myself absolutely obsessed with a game called Titanfall 2. I picked it up because of the critical praise it received for its engaging single-player — which was well earned — but something about the way it played stuck with me. I had no litmus test for what the difference between good or bad gunplay in an FPS was, but Titanfall definitely felt like what I wanted in an FPS — the sprinting, sliding, wall-running and giant mechs created a symphony of mechanics that spoke to me in a way that no Shooter had up to that point in time. I have fond memories of passing the controller back and forth with my roommate in college, ripping through enemies in the game’s multiplayer mode while we blared Babymetal albums on repeat (a disparate fusion that worked surprisingly well).

All that said, it should come as no surprise that I was interested in Apex Legends, seeing as it came from the same devs, was launching so soon after its reveal that I wasn’t going to forget about it, and all for the easily accessible price of zero dollars. What I didn’t expect was how much I would love it, possibly even more than Titanfall 2. It easily sits near the top of my list of favorite games.

Apex Legends pretty much plays like any other Battle Royal you may have played yourself. A bunch of teams drop onto an island, and the last team standing is the winner. What makes this particular BR stand apart is its strong sense of character identity and maneuverability. Each character in Apex has a set of abilities that make them stand out. Bloodhound is a (nonbinary!!) hunter that can use their goggles to ping enemies’ locations through walls. Lifeline is a medic that can revive her teammates with a shield and drop a drone that can restore health. Caustic can set up poison traps that do damage to enemies over time, and so on. Each of these characters accommodates for specific play-styles. If you’re the support type, you have characters like Lifeline, but if you’re the more gung-ho type you might prefer characters like Bloodhound or Wraith. The kind of person that enjoys camping in the final ring of a Battle Royal might prefer someone like Caustic. On top of that, each of these characters has their own backstory, relationships with other Legends, voice lines related to aspects of the game, finishing animations, and so on and so forth. There’s a level of connection here that I like in comparison to other Battle Royals — it’s not just an avatar that I’m projecting myself in. I don’t play Wattson just because I like using her electric fences to control the flow of a fight, but because her bubbly personality and punny lines are appealing to me.

And while there isn’t wall-running like its predecessor, Apex features the same tight movement. Sliding down hills to gain momentum to clamber up a wall and out-maneuver your enemies never gets old, even with the obscene number of hours I’ve put into this game. Games like Fortnite and Warzone feel stiffer in comparison. On top of that, the game has an intricate context-sensitive ping system. With one button, you can alert your team of enemies, supplies, actions you plan on performing, where you want to move next and more. It's a system that allows for accessibility and communication even if you're not on a microphone, which means I'm much more willing to play with random people online (because I can leave them muted, heh).


It’s interesting: I used to hate the idea of playing a Battle Royal. Part of that stems from the same poisoned brain cells I have that demand that I be the best at whatever I do, so why try if my chances are winning so low? And while Apex helped ease me into the genre because it came from a developer I was familiar with and liked, I’ve found myself enjoying the style of game regardless, which I believe comes with the shift I’ve had mentally over this ridiculous, unbelievable year.

There’s a freedom that comes with playing Apex Legends. When I boot it up, my goal is to win, yes, but knowing how unlikely that is based on the dozens of variables that come with launching out of the game’s dropship has allowed me to completely relax while I play it. I jump into the waves and let them take me where they will, unworried about winning or losing. This has led to me appreciating the small interactions that I’ll always remember in the time I’ve spent playing the game. From finding the most ridiculous places I could climb up to with a squad of randoms, to getting excited about finding great loot in the Swamps, to sneaking around three squads in combat so a buddy could revive our party — the individual moments that come with playing Apex make losing over and over again worth it for me, the kind of person that’s usually too stubborn to just let a game be a game (even if I still look up strats at /r/ApexUniversity, heh…).

Apex is a damn good game that fits into my schedule perfectly with its quick play sessions and easy-to-pick-up style. Even if you’re not prone to playing Battle Royals, I encourage you to give it a try — you might be surprised with how much you enjoy it, same as me.


That’s all for now! Got a favorite Battle Royal? Thinking about jumping into the genre? Let me know in the comments or @ me on Twitter @mintplaysthings! And if you like my writing, please consider donating to my Patreon or Ko-Fi. Thank you!

mint

mint

I love writing, music, my friends, and food. FAAFO.