We've been dropping into Kings Canyon for just over two years, and in that time we've seen parts of it blown to smithereens, met a host of new characters, and tried our luck on the competitive landscapes of World's Edge and Olympus. Respawn has delivered a fresh battle pass every three months, and kept us on our toes by introducing new weapons and limited time modes here and there. Even so, Season 8 has been especially busy so far, and we're only a month in.
Mayhem launched on February 2, ushering in explosives enthusiast Fuse, the 30-30 Repeater rifle, and level four magazines. While map adjustments, a new legend and weapon are almost expected when a new season begins, the introduction of golden magazines felt like a big deal at the beginning of February. If anything, these new attachments may have even spoilt us a little, helping to highlight why Apex needs to thin out its loot pool and ditch level one attachments forever.
While the 30-30 Repeater hasn't exactly blown us away, and Fuse hasn't managed to strongarm his way into the Ranked meta just yet, Mayhem's opening week gave us some time to experiment with the new additions, and get into scraps in Kings Canyon's expanded northern region. But that wasn't all that Respawn had in store for February. Just a week later, Apex celebrated its second birthday, and subsequently launched its Anniversary Collection Event, which added a limited-time rewards track for us to work through. Considering that our standard daily and weekly challenges award stars that slowly chip away at the battle pass, it felt rewarding to have additional quests on the go that immediately granted some cosmetic treats.
To shake-up matches, the Locked and Loaded Takeover replaced the main playlist during the Anniversary event, kitting us out with a full loadout of common gear and removing low-tier loot altogether. Not only did this even the playing field in early game scuffles, it also made looting less tedious, making it far easier to find valuable attachments.
Unfortunately it doesn't look as though the Locked and Loaded blueprint will be sticking around for good, but the Collection Event was extended by another week to give players time to ace all the challenges. We're now poised to dive into another Collection Event, almost immediately as today marks the beginning of the Chaos Theory Collection Event, and there are several features to be excited about. The main event focuses on Caustic, who's set to take over the Water Treatment POI on Kings Canyon. Not only does this nudge the map's narrative and send the Mirage Voyage off into the sunset once more, it adds a dicey challenge that gives us a reason to visit an otherwise unpopular zone on the map.
Ironically, the event that's themed solely around the gassy scientist is launching at the same time as some harsh nerfs. Caustic has been a popular legend in Ranked play for some time, and it appears that Respawn are finally ready to dial his AoE powers down a notch. Today's update will increase the cooldown on his nox gas grenade (ultimate) and flatten the damage rate of his gas by limiting it to just 5HP per tick. Horizon and Gibraltar, who also happen to frequent the top spots in the Ranked leaderboards, have each suffered individual nerfs.
On the flip side, Rampart and Pathfinder are receiving a little boost, with Path shedding his low profile tag, and Rampart's Amped Cover now taking regular damage from explosives. These adjustments could well shift the balance of the current meta and encourage a little more variety as the season continues, but we'll have to keep an eye on the Winter Circuit to see what the long term impact will be.
Alongside the balance patch, a fresh Chaos Theory rewards track, and a fancy new heirloom for Bangalore, we're about to hop into another playlist takeover. Ring Fury Escalation will bend the battle royale rules again, summoning more ring flares within the current safe zone. This should make smaller circles feel even more chaotic than before, and force squads closer together as matches play out.
To avoid damage from the ring's volatile new flares, we'll all drop into games with a Heat Shield—a brand new item resembling Gibraltar's dome that briefly shields us from the ring. Heal and revive times are reduced when using this shield, but what's most interesting is that it'll be sticking around permanently after the event ends.
The last time we saw a new item introduced this way was back in Season 5 with Mobile Respawn Beacons. While being able to resurrect a teammate anywhere sounded ridiculously powerful when it was first announced, these beacons are rarely used. Until now, these have taken up a valuable inventory slot, which is often better spent on ordnance or shields, which is likely why Respawn are adding the new Survival Slot. This has been added exclusively for Heat Shields and Mobile Respawn Beacons, and it's a positive step in encouraging us to actually begin using these items in matches.
All of these changes show Season 8 is a turning point for Apex Legends. It's clear that Respawn is making a huge effort to keep players occupied with a flurry of Collection Events and limited-time modes. Our complaints regarding legend balancing feel as though they're being heard, and after over a year-and-half of pining for the Iron Crown solo mode, we now have the 'no-fill' queue option. It's unlikely that we'll ever see a permanent solo mode—which devs believed 'negatively impacted' the game—so it looks as though this is as close as we'll get.
Season 8's plentiful rewards and events are a far cry from the messy battle pass changes we experienced back in November when Season 7 launched, and it's great to have even more reasons to log in. Unlike Ascension, where I took an almost season-long break, I've been hopping into Mayhem at least four times a week because there's so much to do.
With other battle royales like Fortnite pumping out new material like clockwork, and Verdansk's imminent explosion in Warzone, it's nice to see more frequent updates in Apex. It's also really surprising to see this all happen at the same time that it's releasing on the Nintendo Switch. I just hope Mayhem hasn't been frontloaded with all its best content early: here's hoping there's even more surprises before the next season launches in May.