It was only a matter of time before the juggernaut of gaming, “Fortnite,” became challenged by a new, fresh game offering something similar, but better.
“Apex Legends” was released virtually out of nowhere at the beginning of the month, and since then, it has been the only thing anyone has been playing.
For the better part of the past two years, “Fortnite” has been the game that penetrated the barriers of the mainstream, making it the most successful original IP of the past decade.
With a few years of ground work behind us, it is easy to see why “Fortnite” gained the traction that it did. Its kid-friendly graphics, unique gameplay style and supreme accessibility with its free price tag made it a no-brain purchase for most.
With the rise of the game came the rise of “video game celebrities.” The game was collaborating with big brands such as Red Bull and being represented by a higher echelon of the music industry with names like Drake, Marshmello and Aviici publicly dropping in the battle zone.
So, what is it about “Apex” that has completely tossed the juggernaut aside, forcing Epic Games (the developer of “Fortnite”) to throw free stuff at its playerbase to make their game more tantalizing?
Respawn Entertainment, the developers behind “Apex,” were calculated enough to sit back and watch the flood of battle royale games hopping on the trend set by “Fortnite.” Respawn diligently observed while these games tried new things but ultimately failed to please players.
But in came “Apex,” with its fast-paced gameplay and realistic graphics in a uniquely rich world already cultivated by Respawn’s “Titanfall” franchise.
There are “classes,” so to speak, but the “champion” approach made popular by games such as “League of Legends” allows for higher replay value.
The game’s unique stat tracking system, in which players can earn badges to display the various accolades and triumphs earned, adds a unique flair not seen in “Fortnite.”
However, it is the many surprising quality-of-life improvements that show how closely the team at Respawn has been watching.
The state-of-the-art pinging system, as seen in games like “Battlefield,” takes nearly all of the frustration away from queuing up with random teammates. Anything can be pinged with a marker to relay information to your squad by simply tapping or double tapping a button command.
Along with this, the game hypes you up at the beginning of the match, allowing a person who had claimed victory in a previous match to display their prowess as a champion. This both allows champions to gloat while also motivating players to find and take out that person, solidified by an extra experience boost if you kill the champion player.
Banners are displayed all around the map, showing who is in the lead, their kills and their squad’s kills. This small but pivotal information is exactly the type of thing this genre needed to really feel alive.
The gunplay and first-person perspective completely spit in the face of “Fortnite,” as its excellent sound design from its quasifuturistic arsenal of weaponry makes you feel as powerful as the champion you’re controlling.
Above all, the brightest ray of light shining from the “Apex” brand is the fact that notorious game publisher EA is the one feeding money into it. EA is the same company that destroyed the Star Wars IP with its egregious microtransactions and has been doing the same with its sports franchises for even longer.
However, Respawn said that EA had the foresight to give nearly all creative control to the developers, allowing them the time and attention to add all of the small details that make a big difference.
It’s not just the gameplay where you can feel the energy coming from the game.
A lot of people, myself included, have found that people are talking to each other on mic more. Even with the enhanced pinging system, people are still feeling obligated to communicate, laugh and enjoy their time together not as strangers.
“Apex” is proof that if gamers will cry out loud enough, big publishers will listen. “Apex” is proof that if you give people something worth coming back to, the money will flow easily after. And above all else, “Apex” is proof that gaming can be a fun, unique social atmosphere for everyone.
Written by Dylan Powell, Vanguard Sports Editor