The state of PC gaming
To kick off 2022, we’re taking a look at the major games, genres and platforms that make PC gaming to see where they’re at as we begin a new year.
Would you believe Apex Legends is almost three years old? When Respawn dropped a spin-off Titanfall Battle Royale without warning back in 2019, already feeling like a late contender to PUBG and Fortnite’s crowns, it was tempting to write it off as yet another attempt to hop aboard the bandwagon. Hell, it didn’t even have wallrunning!
But Apex immediately proved itself more than just another gimmicky genre cash-grab. Respawn didn’t just translate Titanfall’s athletic gunplay into a more measured, tactical battle royale—it introduced the idea of respawning players mid-match to the genre, and boasted an incredible, accessible ping system that still hasn’t been topped.
Nearly three years on, Apex hasn’t just cemented its place next to Warzone and Fortnite at the top of the battle royale table. It’s grown into one of the best multiplayer shooters you can play today.
So, how is Apex Legends right now?
It’s pretty bloody good—we wouldn’t have named it our Best Ongoing Game of 2021 if it wasn’t! Apex wrapped 2021 as an extremely confident battle royale, and at time of writing it feels like the game’s legends and weapons are superbly balanced. Some legends are weaker than others, but none are straight-up unplayable (with the possible exception of Crypto), and Respawn has been working to make characters with low pick-rates like Rampart and Wattson more fun to play.
Apex has settled into a strong rhythm with its updates, too. Every three months brings a new season, and with it a new character and new weapon to lend each season a distinct feel. At the end of each year we get a new map, though even existing maps will get smaller updates at a rate of one per season. Each half-season “split” will usually come with a themed event that pairs new cosmetics with a “town takeover” map change or, as of season 9, a new arena for Arenas.
There have been quiet months in the last year, sure but you’re never far out from something new. The game’s latest season, Escape, closed out the year with a stunning new map and the return of a beloved Titanfall 2 baddie, and has kept up the pace with festive train minigames and nautical themed events.
And yet, it’s not all perfect in paradise. While Escape has largely avoided the rampant server issues of the season prior, a host of smaller issues have been cropping up over the season, with several significant bugs arriving with the last patch. The Rampage and Sentinel were temporarily removed last week after their charge mechanics became bugged and prone to exploit. Bangalore’s newest MIL-SPEC skin was also removed after crashing the game during hero selection, and recent collection events have occasionally failed to pay out their rewards.
Loving Apex is sometimes painful. The game’s roots in the Source engine are what gives it a near-limitless bag of mobility tricks, but that dated tech is also what leaves it feeling constantly on the verge of breakdown. Apex may never feel as polished as competitors like Fortnite and Overwatch. But when it’s working right, it’s a joy to behold.
What’s been happening recently?
- Bangalore got some Banger Lore. While usually reserved for new legends, a new Stories from the Outlands trailer gave some wonderfully-animated insight into one of Apex’s original cast members. Shame the tie-in skin has been crashing games.
- Respawn co-founder Chad Grenier leaves. Apex’s former game director promised “years worth of content” is still in the works before departing to parts unknown. He was followed out the door by design director Jason McCord, who leaves after 11 years at the studio.
- Wattson finally got a much-needed rework. Her recent buff comes in-line with last season’s upgrades for fellow defensive legend Rampart. With rumours that Crypto is also in line for changes, it sounds like Respawn is making a serious effort to beef up the least popular Legends.
- Season 11: Escape kicked off in November. New map Storm Point may be a bit on the large side for many players’ tastes, but it’s finding a lot of love as a ranked map. And while Ash may not have replaced Wraith outright, she’s still one of the most popular new legends ever added to the game, maintaining a high pick rate two months after release.
Are the players happy?
Are they ever? The Apex community is usually up in arms about something, and fair play to them, it’s often with good reason. As mentioned above, Apex is rarely unplayably broken (Season 10 notwithstanding), but the game is built on old, janky tech and it frequently shows.
Escape’s map pool is also starting to feel awfully limiting. Last season let us play on all three of the then-current maps, but now we’re back to two—and while Storm Point is still fresh enough to feel exciting, World’s Edge has rapidly outstayed its welcome. Both are also quite similar in being huge, outdoor environments, and there’s a sense of stagnation that comes from not having a map like Olympus in the mix to provide a dramatically different experience.
If Apex is to continue adding maps on a yearly basis, it’ll need to find ways to bring more of them into the fold during a given season.
That said, Season 11 has been a massive step up from 10 in terms of community sentiment (a given, considering the servers were well and truly fried for a few months there). Ash has gone down famously and, while Storm Point isn’t quite an instant fan favourite, it’s a welcome addition to the lineup. But new and persistent bugs can and do keep rearing their heads, and it’s exhausting to feel like you’re constantly on the lookout for what’s broken on any given week.
At three years old, Apex is long out of its honeymoon phase. Even as it settles into a nice routine, there’s a fear that Respawn is no longer taking the kinds of big swings that defined the game’s first two years. It’s been almost a year since we had Limited-Time Modes that didn’t just retread what we’ve seen before, and players are starting to grate against events that amount to little more than a fresh set of cosmetics to purchase.
When is the next big update happening?
Season 12 is the big one, and I’d expect to see teasers and rumours start to drop for that as we close out January before an expected February release. Don’t expect a brand new battle royale map so soon after Storm Point, but here’s hoping we see some mix-ups to the BR rotation and some long-overdue changes to Olympus upon its return.
According to the rumour-mill, the current frontrunner for Season 12’s new Legend is Mad Maggie, a lifelong friend/mortal enemy of Aussie hothead Fuse who was presumed dead at the end of Season 8. Respawn occasionally teases new Legends with in-game hints and events, and if Mags is indeed our next Legend, I’d be shocked if she didn’t arrive with a bang.
Before then, however, we have this week’s Dark Depths event, which adds a new Arenas map alongside some deep sea-themed cosmetics for our murderbuds. February also marks Apex Legends’ third anniversary, and you can be sure there’ll be some flashy new cosmetics to mark the occasion.