As time goes on and the market shifts more and more towards live-service games, I decided it was finally time for me to tackle a game I’ve been avoiding for years: Apex Legends. Of all the battle royales on the market, Apex scares me the most, mainly because it’s team-based and fast paced. Not only would I have to struggle with the learning curve against people who have played for years, losing means letting my team down, and I’d hate to ruin someone’s evening with my incompetence. Still, I had to start somewhere, and I was curious: how friendly is Apex Legends to a total beginner?
For starters, I have almost zero experience with this game. I don’t watch streamers play it, I don’t keep up with the community, and I’ve only actually played it one time back at launch. I died very quickly. However, I do have a moderate amount of experience with the Titanfall series, so the basic movement and feel was at least somewhat familiar.
When a beginner boots up Apex Legends for the first time, they get a cutscene explaining the basics. Nothing can compete with the experience you get from actually playing a match, but I was surprised by how useful it was to have the rules explained verbally. Oftentimes, game tutorials are just big blocks of tiny text full of jargon that’s hard to wrap your head around. Having the basics explained conversationally worked wonders for me.
After you pass the intro sequence, you can’t actually play your first match without doing the tutorial first. If tutorials bore you, don’t worry; this one is over quickly, but it’s still comprehensive and informative enough that you can still speed through it and have a pretty good idea of how a match will work. I’m the type of nerd that always plays the optional tutorials, so I didn’t mind it one bit. If you want to spend even more time getting comfortable, you can always head back into the Firing Range and test out all the different guns and Legends’ abilities.
At this point, I felt ready. I had a good grasp of the mechanics and the controls, so now I just had to pick a character. I was honestly pretty surprised that only six were available to start with, but having more options would have probably given me choice paralysis, so I didn’t really mind. I consulted Fanbyte’s character tier list and decided to play as Bloodhound, since they seemed good (and also free). Their abilities allow you to see through walls and detect enemies, and I figured it would be hard to mess up my team if I misused them.
How is Apex Legends right now?
It’s pretty bloody good—we wouldn’t have named it our Best Ongoing Game of 2021(opens in new tab) if it wasn’t! Apex wrapped 2021 as an extremely confident battle royale, and at time of writing it feels like the game’s legends and weapons are superbly balanced. Some legends are weaker than others, but none are straight-up unplayable (with the possible exception of Crypto), and Respawn has been working to make characters with low pick-rates like Rampart and Wattson more fun to play.
Apex has settled into a strong rhythm with its updates, too. Every three months brings a new season, and with it a new character and new weapon to lend each season a distinct feel. At the end of each year we get a new map, though even existing maps will get smaller updates at a rate of one per season. Each half-season “split” will usually come with a themed event that pairs new cosmetics with a “town takeover” map change or, as of season 9, a new arena for Arenas.
There have been quiet months in the last year, sure but you’re never far out from something new. The game’s latest season, Escape, closed out the year with a stunning new map and the return of a beloved Titanfall 2 baddie, and has kept up the pace with festive train minigames and nautical themed events.
And yet, it’s not all perfect in paradise. While Escape has largely avoided the rampant server issues of the season prior, a host of smaller issues have been cropping up over the season, with several significant bugs arriving with the last patch. The Rampage and Sentinel were temporarily removed last week after their charge mechanics became bugged and prone to exploit. Bangalore’s newest MIL-SPEC skin was also removed after crashing the game during hero selection, and recent collection events have occasionally failed to pay out their rewards.
Loving Apex is sometimes painful. The game’s roots in the Source engine are what gives it a near-limitless bag of mobility tricks, but that dated tech is also what leaves it feeling constantly on the verge of breakdown. Apex may never feel as polished as competitors like Fortnite and Overwatch. But when it’s working right, it’s a joy to behold.