When Apex Legends burst onto the scene in early February, it felt like a gamechanger. The fast-paced action combined with unique hero abilities made for an experience unmatched by any of its contemporaries. In that time players have flocked to the hot new thing in what is likely the most popular genre in the world right now, but it seems that the sheen had started to fade on Apex and some of its cracks were starting to show. Many, myself included, were patiently awaiting the promised Battle Pass, hoping that would be the shot in the arm the game needed to continue to drive the game forward. Alas, the Season 01 Battle Pass feels more like a step to the side rather than one forward, and Apex Legends finds itself in an awkward position.
The game is still great for what it is. When everything is working right, Apex Legends is an absolute blast to play with matches ranging from 15-20 minutes in most cases. It is an easy game to pick up and play and feel like you’re making the most of your time. As I mentioned in my early coverage of the game, anyone, regardless of how well you shoot, can contribute to a winning effort by utilizing each character’s unique skills. It is a big part of the reason why so many have flocked to the game since its surprise release.
But that is when it all works, and lately, Apex hasn’t always worked according to plan. It seems as more players try to get in on the action, the more it seems the servers are strained by the load. Whether this comes in the form of moving in slow-motion upon landing, lag spikes when crossing the map, rubberbanding when trying to set up an engagement, or the ever frustrating disconnects, you’re likely to find any or all of these effects during your playtime. This could be a symptom of Apex Legends’ success but one that, nearly two months later, needs to be addressed.
There’s also the issue of the game’s “tic rate” or how many times it checks player positions each second. At first, I considered this a non-issue, but as the weeks have gone by I have either heard or experienced too many accounts of players not taking damage despite hit markers, being fired upon around corners, or seeing how easy it is to manipulate hitboxes for an advantage. Unfortunately, given the current state of the servers, it is highly unlikely this will be addressed any time soon. Increasing the tic rate would mean additional stress on the server for a game that already cannot provide a consistent enough experience.
If you happen to also be playing on the PC, then you’ve no doubt heard about all the hacking going on. I only recently became the victim of a hacker, watching a Bloodhound rolling around at the speed of sound and locking on to my squadmates one at a time and rapidly wiping us out. I watched them cross the distance from Artillery to Repulsor in a fraction of the time it would normally take, knocking out unsuspecting players as they went. I imagine the prevalence of hacking is in the back of everyone’s mind when something just doesn’t feel right about an engagement. As much as Respawn touts that they’ve banned nearly half a million users for hacking, there is still plenty of work to be done.
In spite of all this, I continue to come back to the game. I look forward to playing again because as annoying as these issues can be, the wins and the great games make it worth it. I’ll suffer from slo-mo at the start of every other match if I know my team will wipe out a third of the server the next. As frustrating as the firefights can be when things just don’t feel right, they are otherwise frantic and fun. Utilizing the many mobility options of the legends to flank the enemy, or confusing them with smoke grenades and artillery strikes offers a level of strategic depth that many other Battle Royale games cannot offer. The game’s frustrations, while prevalent, are not so damaging that they make the game unenjoyable.
So the underlying game is fun, if flawed, but surely the Battle Pass would give players the type of grind they were looking for. Well, not so much. The Battle Pass isn’t a huge investment at 950 Apex Coins. You’ll be looking at spending $10 to get enough coins and can earn that back by completing the many stages of the pass. I’ll be brutally honest here, I don’t think the pass is worth it. The very best skins come at the very end of the pass so only the most determined or time flush players will actually get anything worthwhile. The other rewards are the same two skins for each gun, some voice lines, and a few banners.
Respawn continues to be stingy with Apex Packs as there are very few to be earned from the pass and many of those rewards, still from the launch of the game, are far better than anything earned in the pass. It would have been nice to get an additional pack every other level or so considering how difficult it is to unlock anything of value with the current distribution. Players who don’t purchase the pass can still earn a limited number of rewards and, while still not exciting, are better than nothing. If you do unlock a tier with something that interests you, simply buy the pass at that time to take advantage and all unlocked levels will be made available.
Finally, we have the newest character, launched alongside to pass but available separate from it. Octane is all about moving fast and trying to be a Borderlands character without actually having any personality. He is by far the game’s weakest character from a personality perspective and his playstyle leaves a lot to be desired. His speed ability makes it easy for him to quickly separate from the rest of the group and the damage he takes from that ability means he’ll likely be weakened when he does eventually meet the enemy head-on. His ultimate is fine, a jump pad that can easily propel you to the tops of buildings or to unique angles to attack enemies, but again, Octane needs to be around to use it. The best Octanes I have seen have been flankers, sticking close to the group until they smell blood and go in for the kill. Those Octanes are few and far between.
I’m not trying to paint a doom and gloom scenario for Apex Legends. The game can still be a ton of fun to play, but with games like Fortnite making sweeping changes each season to keep players excited and involved, Apex Legends’ approach is lacking. Luckily, I believe wholeheartedly in Respawn as a developer of quality games and believe that they will find their path to keep the game at the forefront.