Due to the increasing popularity of Epic Games’ “Fortnite,” other companies have been attempting the free-to-play battle royale model with only one finding major success: Respawn Entertainment’s “Apex Legends.”
With over 200 million players, “Fortnite” is one of the biggest video games in the world right now, known by hardcore gamers to business executives wondering how a free game can be so profitable. A battle royale game is where you and your squad (if you’re playing with one) are put onto a map and must strive to be the last one standing. Due to this linear format, “Fortnite” has been innovating heavily with their complex building mechanic, additional guns and even vehicles such as airplanes and hamster balls.
“Apex Legends” comes at a time when the gaming community has grown bored of the skins and gameplay on “Fortnite.” With a staggering 50 million players, compared to 200 million on “Fortnite,” “Apex Legends” strips away the complexities of the building and shooting mechanics in “Fortnite” and replaces it with a futuristic militaristic feel, allowing for a less intense learning curve. “Apex” also takes the barebones gun customization of “Fortnite” and adds attachments and optical sights, adding a personal touch to the guns you use. The biggest change “Apex” has made to the “Fortnite” formula though is the class system it has implemented.
“Apex Legends” lets players take part in a squad of three players, each choosing a character they would like to play as. Characters range from Lifeline, a simple medic with healing and support capabilities, to Octane, an addict that can deploy jump pads for the team. With constant additions and a fair unlock system for these characters, Respawn offers a chance to change the feel of the game through the varying playstyles and skills these characters offer. Not only are the characters different and fun, they’re balanced and work well with each other — something that really amplifies the teamplay aspects of the game.
So, will “Apex Legends” replace “Fortnite” as the world's biggest battle royale game? Not in the state it is in currently. Because “Apex” is so new, it hasn’t had the chance to grow as a game and add in necessary functions and mechanics. “Apex” still doesn’t have cross-platform compatibility, forcing anyone with friends on PC, XBox One and PlayStation 4 to choose another game if they want to play with their friends. Another huge mechanic “Apex” is missing are multiple game modes. Currently, “Apex” only has one game mode, squads, and it’s missing both duos and solo — two game modes that have been a staple in the battle royale genre.
Along with these game modes, “Apex” simply needs more variety. It is difficult to play the game for more than a few hours without the feeling of deja vu. Although “Apex” got rid of “Fortnite’s” unique building mechanics to allow a smaller skill gap between new players and seasoned veterans, this skill gap has been keeping many “Fortnite” players in the game as they hope to master the building mechanics. Without this burden, “Apex” has been able to reach a large following early, but it will have troubles sustaining a player population without further innovation such as more characters and the addition of a changing map. A very simple change “Apex” could make is to join “Fortnite” in having a game lobby capped at 99/100 rather than the current 60 “Apex” has. With the smaller map size of “Apex,” this change could make the games have a faster pace than other battle royales, fitting in with the Quake-style feel of gun mechanics in “Apex.”
“Apex Legends” does have more of a chance than most titles. The game is beautiful and unique, and the character system is still something to explore. More importantly, “Apex” replaced “Fornite’s” building and shooting mechanics with more of a militaristic feel, ridding “Apex” of silly mechanics that promote a sense of randomness rather than skill. This being said, “Apex” will have to find a way to become more profitable as well. “Fortnite” has been able to innovate due to their massive warchest, and it is difficult to make money on a free-to-play game without appearing to copy the skins and dances of “Fortnite.”
Regardless of whether “Apex” wins out over “Fortnite,” this type of competition between games leads to a better gaming industry for the consumer, and the industry looks forward to seeing what “Apex” and “Fortnite” will bring to the table next.