I don’t mean to be an antisocial gamer. But when it comes to my video game time, I’ve usually opted to spend hours alone, engaging in the meandering side quests and carefully-selected dialogue options of role-playing games. I like a good story.
But in the past few years, I’ve taken up several co-op games with my husband, sinking literal days (over time) into games like Destiny and For Honor. While I still prefer to play a storyline with my spouse — I’m a PvE girl at heart — I’ve also jumped into PvP modes like Destiny‘s Crucible and had fun with them. I like to think it’s making me more of a social gamer, even though I rarely play these kinds of games solo and always like the support of playing alongside someone I know.
First Time with Battle Royale
Which brings me to my latest multiplayer obsession: Apex Legends. This game by Respawn, the developers behind Titanfall, is a battle royale game — which is something I never expected to like. Battle royale seems to be the new rage, dropping dozens of players onto the same map to fight it out to the death until one one person or team is left standing. It’s like The Hunger Games.
I never had much interest in this style of game before, especially given that you have exactly one chance to make it: as soon as you’re shot down, the match is over for you, and you have to start all over again from scratch. You also land with no weapons, so you have to search and scrap together what you can to get into the fight in the first place. When I first started playing battle royale, there was nothing more frustrating to me than spending three or four minutes looting the perfect loadout, only to be eliminated 30 seconds later.
But now I’m starting to understand what makes this type of game fun. While you do have to get the hang of the shooting, even if racking up kills isn’t your thing, there’s still plenty to do.
Getting the Hang of Things
For one thing, you play with a team. There’s a unique ping system in the game that lets you send notifications to your teammates, indicating where a piece of loot is, where you’ve spotted an enemy, or where you want to explore next. This lets me mute teammates I don’t personally know when I want to communicate with them in the game, but not in real life.
I’ve also learned to enjoy the looting phase of the game. Deciding where to land — you launch out of a drop ship and fly to any spot on the map — and then running around like crazy clicking up everything I can find is pretty exciting. Different areas on the map offer different tiers of loot, so it’s worth noting where the good stuff is. There’s an art to knowing what to pick up, too. After a while, you learn which weapons you like and make sure to equip them, along with any attachments that enhance them.
After that, the strategy is knowing where to go. Each match has multiple rounds, and the safe ring closes in on you, forcing players together to fight each other. At first, you have free range of the map and can land far from everybody else if you choose. Sometimes that’s a smart idea if you want to spend time looting, and let other teams take each other out before you even engage with anybody. But after awhile, you’re forced into such tight quarters that you have to make contact.
I find that when I make it pretty far into a match — say the top six squads, and the map is really closing in — I start to skirt the outer edge of the current ring, hiding and trying to spot enemies from a distance so my team has the upper hand. This seems to be common. Even if you choose to drop into a popular spot and immediately engage in a firefight with players soon after landing, by the time you get toward the end of a match — which usually takes 20 to 30 minutes in total, if you make it that far — you want to play it cool. In those last moments, there’s a lot of hiding, stalking, scanning, and just generally being careful. Like I said, you only get one shot at this.
Mastering Your Characters
And then there’s the characters. Mastering your favorites is the most fun aspect of Apex for me. To start with, Apex offers a roster of eight playable characters, and at the start of every match you choose who you want to be. It’s a random dibs system: when you are match-made, you have a slot in the order that determines whether you get to pick your character first, second, or third — once a character is taken, nobody else can select them. That’s why it’s good to pick a back-up as well as a favorite.
My favorite character early on was Lifeline. She’s the healer, with abilities like a healing drone and a shield that prevents damage while she’s reviving someone. While I do my best to contribute kills, I find it rewarding to have another way to help my squad. Even before engaging with enemies, I can sometimes call in a supply drop that lends my teammates defensive gear, like high-level armor and shields. Later, being able to revive a downed squadmate to keep us all in the fight — especially when we’re in the middle of an intense battle — is kind of a thrill.
It took me awhile to pick a secondary character, because each one has strengths. I played for a bit as Wraith, a character who can create rifts that allow her teammates to essentially fast travel after her. I also tried out Bloodhound, who can scan areas and track the footprints of enemies to pursue them. Gibraltar wasn’t quite my style — he can drop a big old dome to protect him from incoming attacks, but it also kind of gets in the way. And I never quite got the hang of Bangalore, another hard-hitting soldier type.
Eventually I found Pathfinder, the android of the roster who, like Lifeline, is labeled a support type character. His main abilities revolve around traversal: he can grapple up to the second floor or race to rooftops, and he also plants ziplines that allow him and his team to swing long distances to far-off spots. Another useful skill is being able to survey, which requires me to find a beacon, grapple up to it (it’s always high up on a roof somewhere), and interact with it to see where the next ring will be.
Making It My Own
Apex features plenty of customization options so you can really take ownership of your character, even though thousands of other players use the same ones. Armor skins, weapon skins, quips, and finishers are all part of the fun.
My favorite thing, though, is customizing my banner. The banner showcases a frame and pose that you choose per character, as well as whatever stats you want to track as that character.
For instance, as Lifeline, I’ll track kills, revives, and healing drone points — or, sometimes, the number of times I made it to the top three squads in a match. My husband, who typically plays the trickster character Mirage, tracks how many decoys he sends out to confuse enemies. You can also track damage dealt, kills with a specific weapon, or how many matches you’ve played — to name just a few. It’s up to you what you want to focus on, and I enjoy choosing what to track and then trying to improve those stats in each match.
Another fun thing here is that in every match, you get to see the banners of your squadmates, as well as those of the champion squad, so it’s something worth customizing and showing off.
I’m still getting used to Apex, and I can’t pretend that battle royale gameplay is my favorite. But I’ve grown more confident with it, and I especially enjoy helping out my squad with my characters’ unique abilities. I wouldn’t say I’m exactly “social” in the game, but I ping with the best of them, revive when I can, and stick close to my squad to work together, even with players I don’t know. Plus, if you’re playing with a partner, there’s plenty of time to chat while you survey and strategize through a match. And that’s all part of the fun.