Apex Legends cannonballed into the pool in early February. On arrival it appeared to simply be another take on the Battle-Royale style first person shooter formula we have all come to know from Fortnight and PUBG. Same old, same old, right? Wrong. Throughout last month Apex legends has amassed a staggeringly large player base that's currently sitting at a cool 60 Million worldwide. In addition, Apex Legends and developer Respawn have single handedly shifted the standard of what a free-to-play title can be. This game is undoubtedly a bargain with zero barriers to entry. The question now is whether this title, that is shining so brightly at present, will continue to retain its glimmer throughout developer Respawn's projected 10 year support cycle?

While not explicitly stated, Apex Legends is set in the Titanfall universe. The general aesthetic of the Titanfall series remains intact, however very few of the series' other defining qualities managed to make the jump. No wall running, no Titans, only a handful of returning weapons serve as points of reference for the fact that this game takes place in the Titan-verse. Thankfully the gunplay of the Titanfall series has always been one of its strongest points and this tradition of excellence continues with Apex. The weapons on display, while recycled from Respawn's other titles, are extremely diverse. They range from hard hitting shotguns like the Peacekeeper, which works as an effective room-broom when needed, but also handles well at range, to sniper rifles such as the G7 Scout that serves it's purpose admirably while at range, but can also get down and dirty up close if necessary. The arsenal of weapons that Apex litters throughout its singular map are enough to make every one of the sixty players in each match play completely differently depending on what loot they happen upon.

In case you are unfamiliar with the mechanics of this type of FPS, the central premise revolves around 20 teams of 3 all launching from a singular drop-ship. Each group chooses their landing point and then begin the game with zero weaponry or items. The goal then becomes to scavenge the map for any and all items that will help you and your team towards victory. As time dwindles the constraints of the map shrink forcing the remaining players closer and closer to one another. It allows for tense games of cat and mouse, as well as frantic surprise firefights. It really is great fun all around and at this point feels very well balanced, regardless of which of the 9 Legend characters you choose to play as. Three of these characters are initially locked but can be purchased with in game currency or with your hard earned IRL ducats. While it would have been easy for Respawn to put particularly powerful Legends behind the pay/play-wall, they did not. The 3 other Legends on offer are simply different from the 7 you begin the game with, free-of-charge. Even after 30 plus hours with the game, I feel I have not even begun to fully understand the intricacies of the initial Legends on offer. Suffice this to say that these Legends earn their title, and truly are the stars of the show.

Living Legends:

At the start of each match of Apex you have the chance to choose which of the 9 Legends you want to play as. Apex Legends is currently played in teams of 3, the only limiting factor on this decision being the fact that your 2 other teammates may randomly be chosen to pick their Legend before you. If you are first to pick the floor is open. The Legends on display really do offer an extremely nice depth of play styles to choose from. With 3 Legends per team the number of options for unique team compositions are myriad. Some of the Legends fill stock roles like tank or healer. Gibraltar and Lifeline are two very pure examples of this. Each Legend has a passive ability, and active ability on cool-down, as well as an ultimate that you may manage to pop 2-3 times if you make it all the way to the end of a match. Gibraltar for example has a passive ability to extend a protective, digital riot-shield on any weapon he picks up, making him a natural frontline go-to. Lifeline, as her name implies, is your healer. While any player may revive a downed teammate, Lifeline's passive ability allows her to do so slightly faster. She also has her deployable D.O.C drone, which can heal yourself or nearby teammates, as well as an ultimate which allows for the drop of a support beacon containing valuable defensive loot. Both Gibs and Lifeline have extreme depth, despite their seemingly stock roles. Considering there will be teams with one, both, or neither of these Legends, it is easy to see how each team of three will operate completely differently from one another.

While Lifeline and Gibraltar are nice go-to examples for easily describable archetypes, there are certainly far wilder Legends on offer. Octane for example, a newly released character that launched alongside the game's first official 'season', zips around the map with wild speed thanks to an injectable on cool-down that costs him a portion of his health. This is no problem for Octane though, as his passive allows him to constantly regenerate health. Sporting one of the more unique ultimates, Octane also has the ability to deploy a launch pad anywhere he deems worthy, allowing himself and teammates to vault themselves up into the stratosphere. How you choose to use this set of abilities, as well as which weapons and items you equip yourself with will define what kind of mark you make on the game with Octane. The same can be said for any Legend you choose to play as. I chose to highlight Octane as he is an excellent post-launch example of one of the more unique choices that shows Respawn does not seem to be shy or short of ideas when it comes to the type of Legends they intend to introduce as time rolls on.

3 Is The Magic Number:

While some players may be turned off by the fact that Apex forces you into squads of 3, I have personally found it to be integral to the magic of this game. While the notion of playing in teams may run counter to the original idea of the Battle-Royale formula, Apex is made all the better regardless. First and foremost, playing in groups of three is simply less intimidating than jumping head-first into the pool with no one there to show you the ropes. While the game does include a bare-bones tutorial, it doesn't hurt to have two other teammates to lean on when the real bullets start flying. This is a game that rewards cooperation, even down to the point of awarding extra XP simply for playing with friends.

Apex Legends wanted its teams communicating with one another. Communication amongst teammates allows for a more sophisticated death-match, one where Legends would work together and use each of their unique abilities to uplift the entire squad. Headsets have traditionally been the most common means for team communication in FPS's, or really any game for that matter. Headset communication works well, but can occasionally be a distraction. Respawn's answer to this problem comes in the form of the games extremely elegant "ping system'.

The ping system allows for the teams of 3 to communicate any significant information non-verbally. Players who may not traditionally enjoy using a headset while gaming, will likely find themselves using the games ping system simply because it is just so damn helpful. Want to suggest a nice landing spot from the drop-ship? Just ping it. If you see an enemy and want to spot them for the rest of your team? Just ping them. In addition to simply marking an area, the ping system also allows for more complex observations, such as noting the fact that the area you're in has already been scavenged. Ultimately it is a universal way to communicate any pertinent info with no nonsense in-between.

The ping system is so naturally built into the games interface that it simply seems foolish not to use it. Not only does it help your team, but it helps foster communication where there may have previously been cold silence. While some may resent the fact they are forced into gaming with two other players, I personally feel it was one of Respawn's wisest and most deliberate decisions. I am not a player that likes to chat while gaming, but through Apex I have found multiple like-minded members of the community that have truly become good pals through working together as a team.

A Stand Out Outland:

According to Titanfall cannon Apex legends takes place several decades after the initial conflict between the whoevers and the no-one-cares. Peace had finally spread across the Titan-verse but it came with a cost. The war-torn planets, now stripped of resources, had no way to support themselves. Thus they were forced to the Outlands, where they compete in the savage ritual that is The Apex Games. According to the Apex website "the Outlands are untouched by war and teeming with resources and opportunity. But life is cheap here, and danger lurks around every corner.". While I appreciate a nice bit of lore in my game worlds, based on this description one might expect something wildly different from the Titanfall 1 and 2 locales. In actuality it is more of a 'best-of' from the Titanfall series, which sounds like a gripe but I actually adore the sprawling map that is the Outlands.

The singular map that is the setting for every single match of Apex Legends, is teeming with unique biomes and structures to explore and scour for valuable resources. I have always enjoyed Respawns' bright, vibrant take on the outdoors and this map is just as beautiful as any of their past Titanfall settings. Green glowing hills give way seamlessly into massive industrial facilities. A pair of giant leviathan creatures peacefully graze offshore. Immense banners displaying the winners from the previous match stand tall all around the island, adding to both your incentive to win, and reinforcing the idea that you really are competing in a monetized bloodsport. The verticality of the map is nice as well, giving you several different vantage points to engage in combat from. While as of yet Apex does not include Titanfall's trademark wall running, you are still able to slide down any hill you like, which adds to your speed and helps give a sense of flow to your movement. In addition to sliding, the verticality also makes for a great setting to employ tools like Octanes previously mentioned launchpad, or the friendly robot Pathfinder's ziplines.

A New Frontier:

On March 19th Apex Legends began its first official "season". Dubbed the "Wild Frontier" this season launched alongside the release of the games first "Battle Pass". While many had speculated that this first season would include drastic new changes to the game such as Titans or other vehicles, in truth the first season of this game has offered very little to change what we have already seen. With the exception of new Legend Octane, who can be purchased entirely separately from the battle pass, this new season has brought nothing to the game other than new cosmetics.

Additional kill quips, weapon skins and stat trackers have been available for purchase with in game currency or cash since this games release. The fact that the new battle pass simply brought more of the same was extremely disheartening to see. Perhaps Apex is seeking to ride its recent popularity until it crests, choosing to save its newsworthy changes for a later date.

As of now Apex is still very much free-to-play, but not pay-to-win. This in itself is quite an achievement and should not go unnoticed. I never felt I was at a disadvantage while certain Legends were still locked for me. If the addition of some sort of wild new weapon or ability were to be included in the Battle-Pass, it would most certainly feel like the choice to purchase it in order to remain competitive would be mandatory. While I certainly can understand and appreciate the decision NOT to do this, the fact remains that this game failed to offer any compelling reasons to participate in this first season whether you dropped money/apex coins on it or not. That is not to say that the core experience isn't still present, and that core experience is a blast. It's just that many players were likely looking for more out of this first season than a new coat of paint.

Presently Apex still feels like a ridiculous bargain considering what is there to enjoy before you have ever spent a dime. It is without a doubt the new free-to-play benchmark. The three locked Legends: Mirage, Caustic and Octane, still stand as the only game changing features worth grinding for, which could be taken as either a good or bad sign depending on how you view things. I truly hope Apex can continue its popularity and continue to keep good faith with its player base. My only fear is that is that EA and the game's developers may already be finding themselves in a position where they are unable to release truly meaningful content at a rate that will hold people's interest.