Apex Legends continues to hold its players’ attention even after several years on the market, and next week, the battle royale shooter will bring things back to where they started with a new season that revisits the game’s original map. This year, the game already added two new characters (plus two more in the new mobile version), brought upgrades for next-gen consoles, rotated in a well-received Control game mode, and, according to EA’s earnings call this week, notched double-digit income growth again for the last quarter. On the other hand, player complaints over glitches, ranked mode scoring, matchmaking, and practically any other small detail continue to mount.
The last season was particularly troubled, with problems that affected one of the game’s best features — its responsive controls — and enough bugginess that it even popped up during a professional Apex Legends tournament last month.
I can’t judge the game’s stability until we start playing it, but on a call with reporters, the team confirmed it’s listening to players of all levels about how to adjust gameplay. Design director Evan Nikolich called ranked “a work in progress,” saying we should expect to see more changes in the full patch notes as the developers try to emphasize being a good team player. Other long-awaited features, like gifting and cross progression, are still coming, but there’s no word yet on when they will be available. When it goes live, players can expect cross progression that allows you to change platforms so PC players can grind out daily challenges on the go on a Switch, for example.
Other changes that will be notable to longtime players include a revamped progression system that allows you to rerun the zero to 500-level grind and earn more packs. Players can repeat the process up to four times, earning new badges and unlocking more rewards. If you’re starting from zero, the process would yield enough packs to guarantee receiving an in-game “heirloom” item at some point, but if you’re already at a maximum level, it won’t be enough by itself.
In the actual game, there are almost too many changes to note. The controversial gold knockdown shield that allowed downed players to self-revive, and occasionally win the game without even reviving, has had that feature eliminated. Many professional and high-level players had complained it was unfair, but the team says they’re making changes based on what they see in all levels of the game. Now, that same item has the features that were attached to the gold backpack, allowing players to revive teammates with extra shields and health, while the gold backpack now has a “deep pockets” perk that allows it to hold extra healing items.
Many of the game’s guns that have been present since launch are changing, as the Wingman pistol suddenly takes sniper ammo, and the Spitfire machine gun uses light ammunition instead of heavy. We’re not getting a new weapon to go with this season of Apex Legends, but the radical shifts in how they work may be enough to make up for that — the only question is if everything will remain balanced or if an all-sniper / shotgun loadout will rule.
That brings us to the new character, Vantage, and the old map, Kings Canyon. A recent ranked season split on the OG Apex map revealed how much players have grown since the game launched — on a map that didn’t quite fit how things are played now. For the Hunted season, the reforged Kings Canyon is looking a lot different. It’s bigger, many chokepoints have been widened, the iconic Skulltown section is back as a new area dubbed “Relic,” and there are other map changes intended to help fights proceed more quickly instead of the extended engagements that usually drew a third-party’s attention before one team could defeat another. The loot on the map is now positioned differently, and a new skybox is supposed to make things brighter compared to its original dinginess that could wear on you after a while.
Vantage is yet another legend with reconnaissance capabilities, armed with a sniper rifle for her ultimate. She can zoom in on enemies with her lens to see the team size, shield rarity, and Legend names, as well as get additional bullet drop calculations while using sniper sights. She can position her cute winged companion, a bat named Echo (who cannot be damaged or killed), and then launch to it with a double jump to quickly reposition.
Her sniper rifle’s ultimate is the first one in the game that works without being fully charged. For her, the charge builds over time, adding extra ammunition for Sniper’s Mark shots. The scope can reveal enemies and successfully highlight the enemy squad for 10 seconds with a diamond marker, with 100 damage per hit and extra damage received from Vantage’s team.
Adding yet another legend with tracking abilities feels a bit risky. As Overwatch ran into issues once too many characters could stun each other, Apex Legends is turning into a game where no one can hide. However, of the problems we’ve seen in Apex this year, the new legends have been fairly well-balanced, even if player stats suggest the new additions aren’t getting a lot of use. Player protests like “No Apex August” don’t appear to have caught on, and the gameplay is as addictive as ever. But for the new season, I’m just hoping everything works like it should.