I like to think I'm pretty good at Apex Legends. An extremely specific leaderboard tells me I'm the 16th-best Horizon player (for kills, in the UK, on PC), and I reckon I could've easily made Masters last season if not for a little game called Elden Ring. But look at my ranked play so far and you'd think I was thoroughly mediocre, struggling as I am to even make it out of Silver.
Three days into Season 13, and my Apex ego has thoroughly been checked. But look around the scene, and you'll quickly realise I'm not alone.
Season 13, Saviors, was relatively small compared to its predecessors. Only minor map changes to Storm Point, one new Legend, no new guns, and no stand-out new mode like last season's control, you'd be forgiven for thinking Apex was taking it slow for a bit. But this season also came with an overhaul for ranked play.
Ranked gets reloaded with the launch of Apex Legends: Saviors! Check out the highlights below or read the dev blog to learn more about the changes.🔗: https://t.co/dvhKOZYyYW pic.twitter.com/x7GUYCwj7cMay 4, 2022
A lot of those changes won't make sense if you're unfamiliar with ranked Apex, but here's the gist of it. Kills and assists are practically worthless if you're not placing in the top 10, and the rewards for winning (or even making it into the top three) with even a few kills, assists or new "participation" points (kills your team made that you didn't assist with) are more lucrative than they used to be.
It's a change meant to make Apex play less like a 20-team deathmatch and more like, well, a battle royale, something Respawn said as much in a detailed Ranked Reloaded blog post. Hot dropping is now extremely discouraged in favour of teamwork, planning and survival, which is a welcome move that brings ranked Apex more in line with competitive-level play.
The problem comes with the fact that a lot of people (myself included) like to play ranked solo. Apex's ping system makes this largely effortless, after all, and I don't always have a three-stack to drop with. But people haven't yet learned that picking early fights you can't win is much, much more punishing than before. Solo games, right now, often end with players thirsty for kills dragging their team into ill-considering fights and causing everyone to drop further down the ladder.
This was always the case, mind. The difference is now even grabbing a few kill points won't help you break even if you're not placing—and as even some of the best players in the game are finding, wiping out several entire squads won't cut it if you're not in the top half at higher ranks.
this cant be real... @PlayApex pic.twitter.com/hxKnAn8jK7May 12, 2022
In addition to kill point changes, an unspoken change saw everyone moved down two and a half ranks this season, instead of the usual ranked and a half. Players who were previously Platinum are now in Bronze, Masters in Silver, and so forth. The start-of-season reset is usually chaotic, but even more so now, with players who used to be the best of the best fighting desperately through the lower ranks.
With a new staggered entry fee system and higher fees across the board, the ranked climb has slowed to a crawl. According to player analytics sites like ApexLegendsStatus and Tracker.gg, Diamond and Platinum are practically barren right now, with maybe only a dozen managing to make it to Apex Predator.
These ranked changes were probably the right move. As long as you were competent enough at the game, getting to Gold, Platinum, Diamond or even Master was simply a matter of attrition. A lot of people hit Masters last season, and it looks like Respawn wants to return that rank to the role it was aimed for—the best of the best of the best, players who could easily pivot to going pro.
It's just a shame that solo queuers are being left behind by this new system. The great thing about Apex ranked was how it offered degrees of success—that you could still walk away feeling victorious with enough good fights, even if you didn't win the round entirely. But if you're not coordinating, not carefully planning your next rotation and pooling resources like a unity, raw skill alone will no longer be enough.
A lot of players are going to feel sour about their new placements, hardstuck Plat players realising they might now be Silver or Gold, but it's probably for the best that Apex puts its foot down on what it means to be placed in each rank. Under the old system I reckon I could have made Masters with enough time, but let's be real. I'm not ALGS material.
Still, it would have been nice to make it up there just once, if only for the skydive trail.