Apex Legends: Year 2 and Beyond
We’ve asked every question imaginable since the launch of Apex Legends last year. “Can Apex Legends surpass Fortnite?” “Apex Legends is great, but can it recover from its current slump?” “Can Apex Legends thrive in the esports scene?” With the game’s second year in full swing, the feedback and reactions have been mostly positive overall. Sure, there have been some bumps in the road, but the game captivated a large audience looking for something that stands out in the battle royale genre.
People are still talking about Apex Legends, and, more importantly, people are still playing it. Respawn continues to work on the game and will likely carry the Apex Legends flag into the foreseeable future. The game has evolved in some pretty great ways, flaws be damned, and its second year looks to make it an even more engaging, story-driven experience.
Before we look to the future, let’s discuss the wild first year Apex Legends had.
February 14, 2019: Apex Legends Drops… and the Rest Is History
In 2019, a lot of folks were hoping for a new Titanfall game. After all, that series gained a faithful following thanks to its shooting gameplay, wall-running mechanics, platforming, and badass giant mech action. When Respawn Entertainment opted to take a stab at the free-to-play battle royale genre out of nowhere, the Internet was filled with intrigue, excitement, confusion, and, let’s be real, a little bit of disappointment. That disappointment wasn’t necessarily misplaced — people really wanted a new Titanfall — but no one knew just how great Apex Legends would be.
In the months after the game’s launch, the team at Respawn set out to turn Apex Legends into the game that it should be versus the game it at was at the time: a good game filled with the potential to be great. It took some doing, but Apex Legends eventually got there, with better limited time perks, seasonal events, and new characters. The game hasn’t always struck gold, but it definitely felt more tailored for its fan base and more engaging since the first few months after launch.
Apex Legends didn’t go through a traditional beta period — playtesting and super-secret beta stuff was done behind-the-scenes prior to launch. Instead, the game was released as complete — and a tad barren — with new events and content promised for later down the road. While it suffered from some early connection issues (which still pop up from time to time), it did have a level of polish that separated it from other free-to-play games.
Eventually, the game received major updates that included special events across multiple season passes, premium unlockable cosmetics, double XP days, ranked modes, duos mode, a Halloween event, and a new map. This content has helped to keep the game fresh for existing fans and inviting for newcomers. And while you could argue that it typically takes quite a while for new content to arrive, the pay-off is usually worth the wait.
It’s hard not to compare Apex Legends to Titanfall. Not only do the two games exist in the same universe, but they feature similar weapons, gunplay, and movement. Apex Legends is, for all intents and purposes, a battle royale Titanfall spinoff. The game utilizes that familiar Titanfall gameplay in a different environment, making it a unique experience of its own.
It’s that beloved Titanfall feel that really helps Apex Legends stand out in the genre. There’s no other battle royale game quite like it. Apex Legends looks, sounds, feels, and plays differently, creating a specific niche designed around tight control, movement, and the game’s brand of squad-based play.
Apex Predator or Scrappy Underdog?
I genuinely thought Apex Legends would become the top dog of the battle royale genre. It didn’t, but that’s fine, because the game still found its niche. Whether or not it was created to topple the ruler of the battle royale, Fortnite, or just become a successful player in the genre, the game found its stride, with millions of fans enjoying what it has to offer.
If the question is strictly about gameplay, there’s a strong argument for Apex Legends being the best in the genre right now. No, it doesn’t quite have pop culture appeal, but it offers an inspired experience built on strong shooting gameplay foundations — if Fortnite and PUBG are Monday Night Raw and SmackDown, Apex Legends is NXT, a scrappy not-quite-indie-but-also-not-super-mainstream product that’s built a reputation around quality.
Apex Legends Year 2: A More Story-Driven Format
The first year was about polishing Apex Legends, making improvements, and figuring out what content works. The game’s second year and its fourth season have been about taking the game — no longer a rookie in a huge genre but rather a proven main eventer — in cool new directions while keeping the fan base in mind.
In an article on CNET, Apex Legends Game Director Chad Grenier explained Respawn’s focus on a more story-driven format for year two. Cinematic trailers, a lengthy opening cutscene, and the introduction of a new Legend… followed by his immediate death at the hands of the real new Legend — these were the beginnings of Respawn Entertainment’s mission statement for year two of Apex Legends. It’s a bold new direction considering online multiplayer shooters don’t usually go for story.
Apex Legends is a character-based shooter, though, and that’s what Respawn is focusing its narrative on: the characters. In the past, we’ve seen snippets of text indicating that Lifeline was a medic, Octane was a thrill-seeker, and Wraith was imprisoned in a lab, but according to the developer, there’s more story to tell. That’s why Revenant, the latest Legend to hit the scene, was instantly given a trailer and cutscene telling players a bit about who he is while keeping the character’s mystique.
According to Respawn, there are more characters in the works, so it’s only a matter of time before we get some more new stories. Personally, I’d love to see the established Legends get more in-depth backstories with cutscenes and short films of their own — it’s definitely a possibility, and it would be great for folks who’ve connected with certain characters since launch.
If you play devil’s advocate and read between the lines, Respawn’s goal of adding more story to Apex Legends opens up the possibility of a dedicated campaign mode. Fortnite started out as a more story-driven and objective-based game before evolving into a battle royale title. What if Apex Legends goes in the opposite direction? I’m not suggesting that the game should ditch the battle royale scene — not that it would — but with the awesome campaign in Titanfall 2 and last year’s single player offering, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Respawn has proven to be quite the versatile game developer.
A squad-based campaign in Apex Legends would be pretty rad. But even if that doesn’t happen, the direction Respawn Entertainment is taking the game in is still exciting in its own right. New Legends along with fun events and the proper updates are sure to keep the game fresh and replayable throughout its second year. Not to mention, there’s the possibility of a new map or a revamped version of an old favorite, if recent Season 5 reports are any indication.
Apex Legends Is Here to Stay
When we did our Apex Legends Six Month Report Card last year, the game was sitting on a B average, which indicated that it was pretty great with room for improvement. By the end of the year, though, you could make the argument that it was sitting on a B+/A- average thanks to the new map and creepy Halloween-inspired mode. Two months into year two, and it’s clear that Apex Legends is at the top of its game.
For a free-to-play game like this, the first year is pivotal to its success and whether or not the game will live on to see a second year with new content updates. Apex Legends started off strong, hit a bit of slump, and then picked itself back up. It has truly found its stride, and while it may not overthrow the top dogs of the genre, Apex Legends looks to continue to be a must-play battle royale game.