|Release||February 4, 2019|
|Genre(s)||Battle royale, first-person shooter|
Apex Legends is a free-to-play battle royale game developed by Respawn Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts. Set in the same universe as Titanfall, the game was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on February 4, 2019. Apex Legends differentiates itself from other battle royale games by borrowing concepts of the hero shooter, with each player-character Legend having unique skills and abilities, and principally requiring players to work in squads of three, with the ability to respawn downed squadmates.
While Respawn had been working on efforts towards a second sequel in the Titanfall series, the success of Fortnite Battle Royale led them to rework Titanfall elements into a battle royale genre, while keeping their own flavor in that genre. Respawn asked Electronic Arts to avoid any preliminary marketing for the game, releasing it on the same day it was announced, to avoid having players develop preconceived notions about the title. One week after its release, Apex Legends had over 25 million downloads and over 2 million concurrent players, and is considered to be a strong challenger to Fortnite' current dominance in the video game industry.
Apex Legends is a battle royale game borrowing concepts of the hero shooter, taking place 30 years after the events of Titanfall 2. Apex differs from most battle royale games by incorporating Legends, pre-defined heroes with unique abilities that fall into roles such as Offense, Defense, Support and Recon. Players are grouped into squads of three, each player selecting a unique Legend in turn, and each match features up to 20 teams competing. All teams start with no equipment and are flown over the game's map via dropships from a random direction from which they drop onto any spot on the map they can reach. Teams scour the game map for weapons, ammunition, and other equipment while fighting to be the last team standing, all while staying within an ever-shrinking safe zone on the map. A player can be downed into a vulnerable bleed-out state, leaving them only able to crawl for cover or reach a squadmate, who can revive them. If the player bleeds out, or an opponent uses a finisher move on them, they are then eliminated, dropping their equipment to be looted and a banner. The player can potentially be respawned if their squadmates recover this banner and take it to a Spawn Beacon, scattered on the map, in a limited amount of time. Apex features both voice-chat communication with squadmates and a contextual single-button communication approach that allows a player to ping map features like weapons, opponents, or rally points.
Apex Legends is free-to-play and supported through microtransactions, giving the player the opportunity to customize their selected character through numerous cosmetic items for Legends and weapons, voice lines, and in-game banners. New cosmetic items can be earned from opening Apex Packs, the game's version of loot boxes that contain a random assortment of rewards, or spending the in-game currency Crafting Materials, which are gained through Apex Packs. Apex Packs are freely earned as the player gains experience levels. Additionally, players freely gain Legend Tokens for playing matches as well as for leveling, which are used to unlock new Legends and certain cosmetic items. A final currency, Apex Coins, is bought with real-world funds and can be used to buy Apex Packs, unlock Legends, or purchase specific cosmetics. Respawn plans to offer battle passes in the game's future which reward players with new seasonal cosmetic items by completing in-game challenges.
Respawn Entertainment had previously created both Titanfall (2014) and its sequel Titanfall 2 (2016) while an independent studio; Electronic Arts supported the publishing of these titles, and in 2017 then acquired Respawn. Both Titanfall games had been critically praised and had strong player followings, but did not achieve appreciable sales metrics.
While Respawn had started work on a potential Titanfall 3 game, they had been watching the landscape of gaming community around 2017, about when PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds started to take off and popularized the battle royale genre. Respawn had already tested Titanfall concepts in a survival game format that they found worked well, and started experimenting with these concepts in a battle royale framework, though realized quickly that having the pilotable Titans (large mecha) would be highly disadvantageous to those on foot in battle royale, and instead focused on creating strong character classes that fit within the Titanfall universe. Additionally, Respawn wanted to pursue a game that would take advantage of the potential revenues in free to play games, and came up with the concept of Apex, putting the bulk of the studio's effort to make an initial strong release and forgoing further development of a Titanfall 3. EA had skepticism in this approach and considered it risky, according to Respawn's Drew McCoy, but the success of Fortnite Battle Royale showed that such approaches were possible.
In a unique move for EA, Respawn kept the development of Apex Legends as a secret until its announcement; McCoy stated they wanted players to form their own opinions of the game rather than from online forums, thus encouraging players to try the game rather than relying on marketing and other pre-release promotional content.
Apex Legends is inspired by several shooters of the last decade: Bungie's Halo and Destiny which incorporated engaging combat systems with an evolving narrative, Ubisoft's Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege which demonstrated the use of unique classes to dynamically change an otherwise simple formula, and Blizzard Entertainment's Overwatch for refining the hero shooter concept. The game is built on the Source engine, the same as used for the previous Titanfall games. The Smart Comm system was refined by playtesting the game for a month without the use of voice chat and using randomized names to experiment how they anticipated most players would experience the game. The team tested changing some of the enumerated features like map size, the number of players in a match, and squad size, and found that 60 players in squads of three on the shipping map were the most fun to play, according to Respawn's CEO Vince Zampella. Respawn has not ruled out providing newer maps or alternate game modes in the future.
Prior to launch, McCoy confirmed plans to implement cross-platform play into Apex Legends in the future. While this is planned, cross-progress and cross-purchases are not possible due to hardware limitations. McCoy also stated that they would also eventually like Apex Legends to come to iOS, Android and Nintendo Switch, though it is not currently planned.
Within the game's map, players found at least one small plush toy of the Loch Ness Monster, nicknamed Nessy, which had been also used in various Titanfall maps, and if shot at by a player, a brief message appears in the killfeed; Respawn's community managers have acknowledged that there may be a larger secret tied to these in the game.
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Upon release, Apex Legends received "generally favorable reviews" according to the review aggregator Metacritic. Eight hours after its launch, the game surpassed a million unique players, and reached 2.5 million unique players within 24 hours. In three days, the game had over 10 million unique players, with a peak of one million concurrent, and by a week after release it had reached 25 million players, and "well over" 2 million peak concurrent.
Apex Legends was announced on February 4, 2019, the Monday before EA had reported its latest quarterly financial results, which did not meet expectations and caused EA's stock value to drop 13% the next day. However, as news and popularity of Apex Legends spread, analysts saw the game as something to challenge the dominance of Fortnite Battle Royale, and by that Friday, February 8, 2019, EA had seen its largest growth in stock value since 2014 on the basis of Apex Legends' sudden success.
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