Fortnite (opens in new tab) will never be my main squeeze. I was genuinely capable for a few seasons. I can ramp well enough and my nineties are getting there, but it doesn't matter. I'll never win a game again. The kids, they're too good. I'm staring into my own reflection (imagine a koi pond, please) and I don't recognize the man staring back. It's been four seasons since that man's last Victory Royale. Long wispy hair. Chronic hip pain. A new taste for cottage cheese.
Enter Respawn with the hail mary: Apex Legends (opens in new tab), a Titanfall battle royale minus the titans, emulates Fortnite's fast pace and imaginative mechanics and nests them in a grounded, familiar FPS framework. Finally, I might've found the ideal battle royale game for me, someone that wants in on the fun without dedicating all my freetime to editing brick walls faster and faster and fas—
Let me explain.
Apex character abilities = Fortnite's wacky items
It's unlikely that Apex Legends will see new items akin to Fortnite's dance-inducing boogie bombs or snowmen decoys enter the loot table. But the characters already do some of that work. Mirage's decoy ability is a Fortnite's snowman decoy, a simple distraction tactic. Wraith's portals are Fortnite's rifts-to-go, transporting players instantaneously to a more advantageous position.
Pathfinder's grappling hook is Fortnite's grappling hook, an escape route and distance-closer, and Lifeline's healing drone is Fortnite's campfire. Caustic's gas grenades are Fortnite's gas grenades, and his gas traps are Fortnite's spike traps, and so on.
Legends express the same tactical diversity as Fortnite's growing item pool. Apex's characters aren't part of the loot table, so the randomized element is missing, but they still allow for some creative situational use. I'm dying to see the synergies emerge from team comps over the next couple weeks.
Assuming Respawn doesn't play things too safe, new characters will be the updates that completely shift the meta, the brand of wild, untested ideas that break Fortnite at least once a month. I doubt Respawn will be able to keep up with Fortnite's weekly pace, but there's plenty of room to keep Apex just as weird and surprising over the long term.
Apex's world is already more interesting
During its fifth season, Fortnite rolled a big purple cube around the map for months before it bloomed into a transdimensional butterfly. Players, including myself, couldn't look away from the cube. Fortnite's battle royale mode has no explicit narrative justification, and yet I still follow the in-game live events like the final season of Gilmore Girls, every season. You just have to be there, you know?
But Apex already has something much better going for it: the Titanfall universe. Assuming (and it's a big assumption) Respawn is capable of pulling off their own live events, or incremental map changes at the very least, we'll get to see more of the same world that gave us a damn timewatch and sent us flipping back and forth between decades with our lovely robot friend, BT. Apex's fairly typical battle arena backdrop isn't too distinct or memorable, but it's built on the back of a beloved series, which might be enough to keep players paying attention even if they're not playing everyday. Let's hope the infrastructure is there.
Big balloons anchored to the ground make traversing the map or scouting for enemy players relatively easy. Just walk up to one of them, tap E, and you'll zip up towards the balloon only to get ejected at the tippy top. They work a lot like Fortnite's balloons, even if you can't deploy them at will or hop around like you're on the moon. Like Fortnite, getting across the map isn't too tall of an order in Apex Legends. Bring along Pathfinder, know your ziplines, and most importantly, know your balloons.
The ping system guarantees you'll never have to talk to a racist preteen
Honestly, playing public duos or squads in Fortnite is hell. When you, an adult, are learning new words from someone that clearly hasn't entered puberty yet, something is wrong. But besides the terrible youth populating Fortnite, there's no easy way to communicate with your teammates without speaking. You can ping areas and deploy some emotes if you need ammo or healing items, but they're very easy to ignore.
In Apex, you can ping just about anything and you'll get a contextual response. If you're looking at a nice scope, ping it and it'll show up on every squadmate's screen, and your character will call out what they're looking at. Hold down the ping button and you can select from a wheel of more precise callouts, pointing out where you suspect another squad has passed through or alerting your teammates to a potential sniper in the area. No words required.
The buildings are pre-made build battles
There's no building system in Apex Legends because everything has already been built for you. They're prefabricated and pre-edited. It's like you've pre-learned how to build! Really though, there are some areas in Apex with dense building configurations that do well to mimic the panicked race for a clear shot that Fortnite's build battles have become known for.
Slum Lakes is a shoddy, mazelike village with buildings crammed up against one another, walkways winding between the rooftops and patios. If you've ever went frigid in a mess of a build fight in Fortnite, listening for any audio cue to clue you in on your opponents whereabouts, you'll likely do the same thing in Slum Lakes.
Elsewhere, Skull Town's empty buildings sit beneath, you guessed it, a massive skull. The skeleton of something large and very dead form a carapace over the settlement, creating highground that makes for a great scouting point, but offers little cover. There's no Polar Peak equivalent in Apex Legends, but height is a major factor in any fight.
You'll have the same cat and mouse chases through hallways and over rooftops (and huge spinal cords) that Fortnite's build battles allow for, albeit with a little less spontaneity and fewer enemy players dressed as clowns.
One look at Fortnite's building system was enough for me to hightail it the hell outta there at the get-go. But I stuck with it. In another life, I'm writing 'Fortnite's for kids!' in the comments section, sweating bullets as I watch some 18-year-old homeowner stream an indecipherable build battle to thousands.
I grew up on shooters of old, where pointing and clicking was enough. I can't discredit Fortnite—it's an excellent, fascinating shooter (opens in new tab) that I'll always check in on—but after seven full seasons, I know it's not for me. I just don't want to give up on an entire genre because the top dog is built for hands made after the turn of the millenium. If Apex Legends manages to stay as surprising as its announcement and release and positive reception (opens in new tab) a year from now, I might be set.