State of the Game: Apex Legends – what’s got to give –

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My fireteam and I – until now committed to PUBG, but casually looking for something else, so unhappy were we with the lack of communication, infrequent updates, and all-too-common connections – had been looking for a new team-based shooter , and Apex Legends scratched an itch that neither Fortnite nor PUBG could reach. Fun, chaotic, and built on fantastically snappy gunplay, Respawn’s surprise Battle Royale hit the floor running, and we fell for it faster than Bangalore drop, shock and locks. The arrival of Apex Legends was also smooth, felt immediately polished, and it offered a hot, fierce twist to the battle royale formula. It became our go-to game, not for a few weeks or months, but for years.

The wheels started falling off for us when Apex Legends introduced skill-based matchmaking (often shortened to SBMM). Yes, yes, I know it’s an unpopular view and something Respawn will probably change, but I hate SBMM in unranked play. I know it’s there to balance lobbies and make it easier for newbies to acclimate. But if you’re just a little bit above average at the game – or playing with someone who is – your slightly better-than-average ass is constantly against “Apex Predators” that melt you from across the map you should as much as look in their direction.

jealous? Me?! You bet I am. It doesn’t matter how many hours I sink into Apex or how many rotations I rehearse; I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I have neither the reflexes nor the skills to ever become a trail-blazing Predator. But it’s one thing to encounter sweaty players when you choose to go against players around your skill level in Ranked gameplay – quite another when you’re playing unranked and chilling with some friends. RNG and luck has always been a big part of the appeal of battle royales – you win some, you lose some; that’s the way it goes – but our rankings in unranked matches can be unnecessarily frustrating. Serving me in SBMM does not make me a better player; it just doesn’t make me want to play anymore.

A trailer for the new Legend, Vantage.

Today, SBMM in Apex Legends frustrates me just as much as it ever did, and that’s not the only thing. Random teammates continually disconnect and leave while down – still with no penalty, of course, and even if there’s still a chance, you can grab their banner and revive them. Half the lobby is usually dead by the time I land, and the other half by the time the first ring connects. Respawn knows it’s a problem because it keeps expanding the size of its maps, but increasing maps doesn’t do anything when the same impatient bastards immediately jump off the dropship.

I am not alone in my frustrations either. The communities are full of cranky Caustics and huffy Horizons, with complaints about everything from logins to broken abilities to tracking issues to progress-breaking bugs. Some of the loudest voices seem to come from those who dabble in Ranked play, but not exclusively. Right now, Apex Legends seems to be upsetting just about everyone, and even Day One fans like me aren’t happy with Respawn’s direction of travel.

The commotion in the community has even led to a snappy hashtag – #NoApexAugust. Injured by a litany of errors and problems, a Redditor sat down to the fanbase and suggested that it join forces to send a message to the game’s creators. While acknowledging that there’s not much one person can do to move the needle on one of the world’s biggest shooters, especially when it’s free-to-play, they wondered if “maybe, just maybe […] we could all choose one day not to log into EA and Respawn will have an ‘oh shit’ moment”. That in turn turned into a proposed month-long boycott with its own hashtag.

Apex’s key USP, its Legends, remains the main draw of the shooter, but its typically well-balanced roster – which is so good for so long, ripe for experimentation and diversifying your playstyle – is gradually filled with thick characters that ‘ t offer a strong enough tactical advantage. Wraith, Pathfinder, and Bloodhound – three characters that debuted back when the game did three years ago – remain among the most popular, accompanied by the new (and outrageously overpowered) Valkyrie and not-so-new Octane.

Late arrivals like Rampart, Crypto, Mad Maggie and Newcastle barely get a glimpse and sport some of the lowest karat rates of all. Are the old characters still too strong, or are the newest recruits too weak? Is it just because we don’t take the time to get used to the new arrivals? Whatever it is, it makes for a very dull fight if you hang around long enough and make it to the final ring. I mean, yesterday we came second not because we were better than the third placed team, but because we had a Valkyrie pick us up and fly in a circle above the fray when our opponents below us died…

Apex Legends - a look at the discounts in the store during the Awakening event

Cheeky? Yes, I’ll give you that. But it’s to Respawn’s credit that until recently, every legend offered wonderful-slash-annoying moments like this. Before SBMM arrived, I won games without either of us firing a single shot, thanks to a delicious medley of forgiving last rounds, casual looting, intimate map knowledge, and a clever use of Legends’ skills and abilities. That’s what made playing Apex Legends such a thrill and every match so unapologetically fun; with just a little skill and a dollop of luck, anything could happen, and anyone could win – not just the sweaty players.

And that’s why we’re still here, even though we’re fighting more random connections, broken abilities, and bugs than ever before. The pandemic continues to have a real and lasting impact on games and how they’re made, but that alone probably doesn’t account for the lack of not only fixes, but also new content. The older Apex gets, the crazier it feels, and the more these issues persist – and it’s getting harder and harder to ignore the fact that things that made me fall out of love with PUBG carry over into Apex Legends as well.

Apex Legends - a high view of the map

Yes, it has cool character abilities. Yes, it has sublime gunplay. And yes – SBMM frustrations aside – I’m still having fun, too. But even the most ardent fans will falter if the community’s plethora of real and ongoing problems are not acknowledged and addressed.

Something has to change, and soon. Sure, there’s a new season on the way, not to mention an all-new Legend, Vantage, too, but no matter how good Apex Legends is to play, there are loose ends, glitches, and a heavy trading strategy. for monetization – however Much I can personally ignore – get in the way of that experience.

This piece is part of our State of the Game series, where we check in on some of the biggest service games running to see how they’re doing. You can find many more such pieces in us State of the game hub.

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