Season 3 of Apex Legends moves away from what Apex does best
Let me start by saying that I have been a big fan of Respawn Entertainment ever since the original Titanfall game was released. I bought my Xbox 360 on the day that Titanfall launched and played the game for months. I have always felt that Respawn’s debut product never got the recognition that it deserved, probably because of it’s Xbox One exclusivity at the time. With that said, Respawn finally got their chance to shine when Apex Legends was announced. As a Titanfall fan, I was naturally excited and on board from day one. I have become a huge fan of the battle royale genre and the thought of a battle royale game set in the Titanfall universe made my “gamer sense” tingle.
Ever since the launch of Apex Legends, it has been my “main” game. I have been pouring a ton of my time, energy, blood, sweat and tears into Apex as a player, content creator and competitor because I love it. It’s much faster than almost any other battle royale out there, offering a high skill ceiling, looking and performing great and is just plain fun to play. Apex Legends has clicked with me right from day one and I’ve loved it ever since. Well, it clicked with me until recently.
Season 3 of Apex Legends has begun and there are a lot of players and viewers returning to the game to check out the new patch. Thanks to a large dose of new content, the third season of Apex Legends is likely its biggest and most important season yet. We’ve got a new map in the form of World’s Edge, a new legend that offers a unique play style, a new weapon pulled from the good old Titanfall days, new hop ups, a meta shift, battle pass and more. So what’s not to like?
Since day one, the identity of Apex Legends has been its intense, fast-paced, run and gun combat where every decision matters. The game’s movement abilities like sliding, zip lines, speed boosts and jump pads shake up every fight. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of running through places like Market or Skull Town on King’s Canyon, surrounded by enemies, quickly taking them out without slowing down or stopping while running for your own life. This is the strength of Apex and what makes it unique. It’s so fast and fluid that it allows for plays that look like works of art.
Nearly all of Season 3’s changes from the map, hop ups, nerfs, buffs and the new legend move away from this style of play. Respawn has made deliberate decisions and changes to the game to change the meta and make the combat of Season 3 more ranged based. The game’s new map, World’s Edge (Which I think is a great looking map and well designed) has lots of wide open space, much more verticality than King’s Canyon and buildings with three and four different levels. Overall, it is designed like a map that you might expect in a game like Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, where players don’t often rush in on each other and instead stay at a distance and snipe or chip away at each other. When the geometry is complex, it’s much harder to rush in because there’s so much in your way and so many variables.
On top of the new map naturally resulting in more ranged combat, the game’s new legend and the weapon changes to Season 3 promote ranged combat as well. We have seen the Charge Rifle introduced which is an absolute beast and extremely fun to use. The Longbow, Scout, Hemlock and Wingman all received buffs while the R-99 was nerfed and many other close range weapons just stayed the same. This has resulted in the weapon meta shifting in favor of ranged weapons over the older weapons like the R-99 or R-301 because they just don’t offer anything special or particularly potent.
Then there is the new legend, Crypto. From a design standpoint, Crypto offers something that Apex Legends doesn’t currently have. Crypto is a true “scout” type of character, utilizing a flying drone to gather intel and information for your team that can hypothetically tip the scales in your favor if you take advantage. While that sounds great on paper, what this often translates to in the real world are Crypto players who aren’t sticking with their team because they’re too busy flying their drone or players who are essentially standing still, hiding during team fights, using their drone or the EMP ultimate while the other two players on the team fend for themselves.
All of these changes combined have resulted in slower paced matches. Combat is more about getting up high and poking at each other, than it is getting in, getting kills and getting out. There are far fewer obvious “rotations” on World’s Edge as compared to King’s Canyon because of all of the empty space and open sight lines make moving around the map more dangerous and more of a risk for your team.
On one hand, you have to hand it to Respawn because they have masterfully accomplished their goal here, which was to shift to a ranged meta for Season 3. The design of World’s Edge, Crypto and weapon changes are all part of a very thoroughly crafted strategy to change the experience of Apex Legends in Season 3 as compared to Seasons 1 and 2. The problem with all of this simple; the way that Apex Legends played in Season 1 and 2 is what made Apex Legends, special.
The battle royale genre is crowded and full of failed games. Unless a game does something truly better than everyone else or extremely unique, a battle royale game is very unlikely to succeed against such tough competition. Fortnite offers building, PUBG offers unique and satisfying gunplay and Apex Legends has offered fast paced, high octane, combat. For as much as I admire Respawn’s ability to execute their goals for Season 3, I have to question why they trying to move away from what makes their game great? I think the decision to slow things down for Season 3 of Apex Legends is a bit of an odd one and is potentially rooted in trying to please the wrong people.
When Fortnite made nerfs to building and implemented mechs in an effort to help people that aren’t good at building compete, the core Fortnite community was extremely upset. Epic had taken what makes Fortnite unique and moved the focus away from it. After a short period of outrage from the player base, Epic finally caved and reverted the building changes and I believe that mechs are also leaving the game if they haven’t already. The lesson to be learned here is that when you have a popular game, a great core gameplay loop and a strong community, you already have something special. You don’t need to look at the competition or the critiques of people who aren’t playing your game, because you’re already succeeding. Your core community know what is making your game, great and that’s all that matters. If you begin to implement changes to please those that don’t really like your game to begin with and are just going to play other games instead anyway, then you’re losing your identity and potentially alienating your base. If you start to lose those players that make up your base, then you’re in trouble. You need to keep your loyal fans happy because they are the people who will be streaming your game, talking it up to their friends, and purchasing the battle pass every season.
This isn’t to say that I think Apex Legends is doomed or on its way down. Respawn is likely going to add King’s Canyon back to the game in the not too distant future, we’ll likely see Crypto’s pick rate even out over time, players will get better with him (hopefully), and the weapon meta will change again at some point. I don’t think that this is a “bad” patch by any means. Its full of content and we all have a ton to do and learn. I just hope that going forward, Respawn doubles down on the fast paced gunplay, mobility and legend abilities that make Apex Legends so great to begin with. With so many games competing for our attention these days and with the launch of another major shooter by the name of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare just on the horizon, I hope that Respawn is prepared to keep Apex Legends as exciting and blood pumping as it has been since its surprise launch last winter. All they need to do to make that happen is to keep doing what they do best.