T did it. I've been playing Apex Legends for over 500 hours now. The online multiplayer shooter, developed by Californian studio Respawn Entertainment and released in February 2019, has been my obsession year-round and has seen a variety of pretenders from Doom Eternal to Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
There is nothing remarkable about this for the casual observer. It takes place in a science fiction universe associated with Respawn's successful Titanfall series, and alongside Fortnite is another title in the Battle Royale genre, as well as PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Call of Duty: Warzone. You and two teammates end up in a high-tech future landscape and then crawl around to find weapons while 1
But the thing is, Respawn is one of the greatest designers of fast-paced shooter games in the industry. The studio was founded in 2010 by the creative directors behind Call of Duty, Jason West and Vince Zampella, and with most of the technical and design staff behind the legendary Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – and this experience is evident in Apex Legends.
An important element of game design that has been researched perfectly is the interplay of flow and friction. In fact, Apex Legends feels smooth most of the time. If you move through the surroundings, do so freely. If you want, you can press a button to slide, which gives you a short speed boost on flat ground, but also allows you to go sledding quickly downhill. It's fast, satisfactory, and when you slide on an object, you can press the jump button to break out of the animation and avoid a collision. The two Apex Legends maps we've seen so far are designed to encourage and facilitate this type of crossing. There are many slopes and valleys to explore.
Buildings and rock faces also keep the player moving. When you approach a tall object, there is almost always a handy grip point – for example, a ledge or a window sill – that is a few meters higher than your character. If you jump onto a vertical surface, climb a little, increase the height and bring this grip point within reach. This scramble animation makes you feel like you've worked for them and gives you a sense of achievement, although elevated platforms are almost always accessible. The game works with you.
"In cases where the player is not sure if they can get anywhere but still want to try, they will succeed 90% of the time," said game designer Dan Pearce, director of Four Circle and Respawn -Fan. "Everything in Apex is so balanced, just like bullets in Halo bend slightly to hit their target, or Mario has about half a second to jump after he has run off the edge of a surface."
Another Aspect Dan and I both like the decision to play with three players, rather than the Fortnite or Call of Duty team of four. It means that no one can be carried – everyone has to work together and be a functional part of any strategy. "Three players also mean that it's really easy to build a balanced Rock / Paper / Scissors-style team, where someone focuses on traversing, someone on aggression, and someone on defense," said Pearce. "Three players are also small enough that if you were really in the zone, you could potentially take down an entire squad with one hand."
The master of cooperative play, however, is the game's ping system, which allows players to mark areas of the map, useful items, and enemy locations for their teammates without speaking. Together with a conversation wheel with a series of tactical phrases, this means that it is possible to play with strangers as a group without having to use your voice. This is intimidating and opens up the possibility of abuse – or unwanted noise. "It's a real blessing for gaming culture," says Pearce. "I may never again have to awkwardly describe the location of an enemy using the sound of a stranger's barking dog while I'm studded with bullets."
After spending a lot of time wandering through the two Apex Legends cards – King & # 39; s Canyon and World & # 39; s Edge – I noticed how functional the architecture and topography are. how they work together to provide fun little playgrounds, throttling points, and risk centers. The ice slides down to the epicenter, the lean sidewalks of the Dome surrounded by lava, the wide, densely overlooked streets of Capitol City. In a game with such extravagance in weapon design and special character skills, you need every area of the environment to provide rigorous and specific roles. Respawn's approach to staging is more theatrical than cinematic.
"There is incredibly little that is irrelevant in the designs," says Pearce. “Almost nothing is there just because it looks cool. So far, every respawn game has felt to me like it could be played with block-like prototype graphics and still be involved because every element mechanically justifies its inclusion. This type of puzzle box design, where everything fits together so deliberately, is more difficult to find in larger games. Respawn isn't the only developer to do this – Remedy & # 39; s Control felt similar to me, but it's rarely in the triple-A budget. “
But what I really love about Apex Legends is the simple, unhindered pleasure of moving around the world. Many game designers are very interested in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's concept of the flow, a highly focused mental state in which actions take place almost automatically. River support is one of the most underrated elements of design – it may be due to the way a game illuminates certain areas of the world to show where the player should go (Dead Space does this brilliantly), or of using rumble feedback to indicate the edges of a road in a racing game. But what Apex Legends does is reduce the friction so that the player feels smart.
"I think that's why Apex has been so successful, even among players who don't normally like Battle Royale games," said Pearce. "It is very easy for players to feel overwhelmed when they are introduced to these games, but Respawn makes up for everything so that the player feels about 20% more competent and attentive than them."
Of course, I have to take care of that with the realization that the game that I played the most this year should flatter me. But after 500 hours I don't really care.