Apex Legends is turning five years old. Do you feel ancient yet? The game, released by Respawn Entertainment back during the height of battle royale fever, ripped a different sense of movement and skill expression from the bones of the Titanfall IP and gave it to the fledgling subgenre. It was regarded as one of the best FPS games out there. But five years on, do you care?
It’s the sort of question that every live-service game enjoyer has to ask every now and again, especially as their go-to game morphs and evolves from that evergreen initial month. Apex Legends, like countless games before it, is far removed from the refreshing game we all played back in 2019. The Legend pool has expanded, as has the number of maps, weapons, and cosmetics. Even if Apex Legends has that same core, it’s grown into a new beast in and of itself.
For one, it’s harder to get into now than it was before, purely down to a higher skill floor. This isn’t a problem unique to Apex Legends by any means, but it’s one that burdens the experience for new players. “At some point I (as several other players I know) got some kind of PTSD because of Apex,” 34-year-old player IDCh wrote to me over the weekend. “When you simply are not ready for the opportunity to waste 4 hours in the evening being the ‘bots’ for more experienced players.
“The game is hard. I mean if we judge by the posts 2-3 years ago and now – they are somewhat the same. But I feel that because of tutorial videos, age of new players (coming already experienced in thousands of hours in other FPS competitive games), overall skill level – [the] game now is not casual anymore.”
It’s true that, in the five years since Apex’s release, the game’s competitive community has flourished. Not only does it have a vast network of streamers and content creators chipping away at it day after day, it also has a popular esports scene. This makes sense, considering the emphasis placed on teamplay and slick movement. For many of the sweat-minded players out there, this growing aspect of Apex Legends may very well be the main reason they’re sticking around.
For everyone else though, it’s not all about that ranked grind. “I play mixtape game modes,” explains IDCh. “They are way more fun for me than the battle royale. There I can spend 2-3 max hours a day playing and not feel bad about dying or losing.”
While Respawn Entertainment was initially hesitant to add permanent versions of limited-time game modes, it eventually caved and offered a concrete avenue for riskless fun. Which is good, you do want a seperation from the try-hard mode space and casual messing around. For this reason, Apex Legends has largely avoided the levels of skill-based-matchmaking drama as other shooters like Call of Duty has.
The game is relatively well-balanced, aside from the current noticable exception of Revanent with the Final Fantasy 7 Buster Sword running folks down. It still looks good, with maps getting visual refreshes often enough to keep things interesting. Chances are if you’re a longtime Apex fan, the game is treating you well enough to be worth jumping into now and again. That’s not something to snub after five years! Plenty of games fall off hard in a fraction of the time.
Apex Legends’ problem, at least in terms of player retention, stems from how to get newer players interested. Five years may not seem like too long in the scheme of the live service landscape, but with new games popping up every year it’s a hard battle to remain relevant. Why would a new player jump into Apex Legends rather than The Finals? Sure the games have their unique appeals, but one likely has a vaster community of newer players to bash your head against.
But how do you feel about Apex? Let us know below, as well as what you would like to see from the game before jumping back in.