Apex Legends is a first-person shooter's journey. It may seem strange to compare a free-to-play battle royale to an arthouse indie game.
The former, which was developed by Flower creator thatgamecompany and released in 2012, is a game that focuses on navigating the desert ruins of an ancient civilization through nonverbal communication with a group of complete strangers. Thus, the games themes of connection and trust can transcend beauty and veer into the sublime.
Apex Legends, released by Titanfall developer Respawn in 2019, is a game that consists of launching canisters of dangerous gases from the balcony of an apartment building before zip lining across an open park to escape the shrinking, deadly boundary of an ethereal circle. It is also, in large part, about nonverbal communication and can, sometimes, wander into the sublime.
With the rise of battle royales as a free-to-play activity in the late 2010s, many Apex players would dip their toes in the water without a pal or two to accompany them. Thousands of players could also benefit from a nonverbal communication device, according to the study.
The ping system has long allowed FPS players to see where they are interested in particular places, events, and things. Respawn took the idea (variations of which appeared in series like Left 4 Dead and Battlefield) and expanded it tenfold, allowing players to not only identify a weapon's location, but also the specific type of weapon. Crucially, the ping system has been combined with each character's distinct voice lines to give players as much information as possible whether theyre in the next room or far across the map
The new ping system was so effective that both of Apex's major competitors at the time PUBG and Fortnite added ping systems of their own within six months of Respawns' release. And when Call of Duty: Warzone went live that same year, it followed suit.
Im always fascinated by how first-person shooters communicate without actually saying anything. I still remember playing Destiny strikes with strangers in the MMOs early days, marveling at the unmistakable visual language of the individual classes abilities. That Hunter just used their super on that boss, I could tell myself. It's time for me to pour on the damage as well.
What makes Apex such an exceptional game is how proficiently the game's visual vocabulary combines with its gameplay mechanics. For instance, if I see a Lifeline player taking cover behind a distant boulder, I know how deadly she can be once weve eliminated her teammates. I can also ping all of the heavy ammo and rifle attachments in the loot, all of which will keep Vantage in top form for the next firefight.
This brings me back to Journey. That's the real revelation of that game, for me, was how downright private it could be. Yet here we are, climbing these snow-strewn cliffs, surfing down the sparking slopes of a mountain lost to time, just us two, alone.
In Apex Legends, I was caught by surprise, in no small part, when I saw a character who had jetpacked up to a ledge that I had locked myself in, in the final moments of a long and challenging journey across a cartoonishly vivid island. Vantage was in control, but that Bloodhound? Theyve been quiet.
However, they do have 17 kills. So I'll let it slide.