Best Ongoing Game 2021: Apex Legends

Game of the Year 2021
(Image credit: Future)

PC Gamer's Best Ongoing award celebrates an older game that offered the best updates, new content and support across the past year. This year we honour Respawn's killer battle royale, Apex Legends. We'll be updating our Game of the Year 2021 hub with new awards and staff picks each day throughout the rest of December.

Nat Clayton, Features Producer and Space Mom: Apex Legends has always been good. But for those first few years, it felt like Respawn was still figuring out how to run an ongoing battle royale. This year, the studio nailed it. Season 9 is the clear standout, bringing us not only a strong new character in Valkyrie but also an entirely new Arenas game mode—a distinctly Respawn take on Counter-Strike in which you immediately get into a fair fight. Arenas proved that Apex has legs beyond battle royale, cementing the game as not just a good BR, but one of the best team shooters around.

But it also feels like Apex is just so much more confident this year, both as a game and as a world. Respawn's storytelling has gone into overdrive, bringing in community artists and animators to help flesh out the world while leaning fully into voice lines and BR downtime to bring the game's cast to life. Apex is a soap opera now, and every new season fleshes out relationships and escalates the drama between our far-future murderbuds.

The latest season, Escape, has reinvigorated my excitement after a somewhat lacklustre 10th season. Like Olympus, Storm Point is a gorgeous reimagining of what an Apex map can look like, and Ash is a strong initiator who manages to be more than mere Titanfall 2 nostalgia. Even this year's weakest season, Emergence, still managed to give World's Edge a much-needed makeover—even if it neglected to blow up Fragment.

Ultimately, Apex is still the best and only shooter for punting yourself down a hill at 400 mph as a floating Scottish lass. What more could you ever ask for?

Phil Savage, UK Editor-in-Chief: Apex's maps have a lot of personality, and—as each gets tweaked and upgraded over its seasons and through Town Takeover events—plenty of history, too. King's Canyon has covered its vast empty spaces with new attractions, and World's Edge is tearing itself apart under the weight of its mining industry. Despite this, each new map manages to bring its own personality. The recent Storm Point feels like a strong reaction to earlier maps, with more clearly defined routes that funnel players into a handful of combat arenas.

I don't quite love the new map yet—its design can lead to an intense series of fights harried by the closing of the ring, but seems just as likely to result in long stretches of interminable downtime. Everything feels just a little too spread out; the next circle just slightly too far away—at least until you reach the next flashpoint and stumble into another big battle. But the enduring appeal of Apex is that, whatever the my issues with the current map rotation, the whole game is built on solid fundamentals. Try sliding into a teamfight, SMGs blazing, and tell me any other battle royale is worth your time.

Apex Legends' new series 11 hero Ash.

(Image credit: Respawn Entertainment)

Alan Dexter, Senior Hardware Editor: I haven't had much chance to play Apex Legend this year, what with so many other new games taking up my time (361 hours in New World and counting.) Even so, after a brief dalliance in Halo Infinite's multiplayer, I found myself hankering after Apex once again. No other game manages to nail the feel that Apex manages—player control feels so damn good, that just about every other first-person shooter feels clunky in comparison. If I can't effortlessly run, jump, and slide my way to victory the way I can in Apex, then whatever game is trying to grab my attention is ultimately doomed.

The only problem I have with Apex is that even a relatively small break can feel like a lifetime. Returning to find myself in a new season with new characters, maps, and weapons makes for an uphill battle—one that no amount of sliding is going to remedy. I haven't managed to thoughtlessly throw myself off Storm Point yet, but I'm sure it's coming. I certainly don't have a feel for the new map yet, that's for sure. And I haven't had a chance to try out Ash either, defaulting to Caustic and Lifeline in the few games I have managed to jump into. Still, the old feel is still there, and Apex Legends still stands head and shoulders above most competitive shooters.

Graeme Meredith, Video Producer: "Stealthy goblin" is what I’ve been referred to as in Apex Legends. I started playing this year after some fellow PCG colleagues got me hooked, but more often than not I happily play alone, and only look to make mischief. Yes, some play for the team based meta, but being a solo player who’s solely seeking to disrupt others' playtime is its own reward—there’s a genuine delight and terror in carefully tracking an undoubtedly better equiped team across the map. Survival is often unlikely, but creeping quietly and choosing my moment carefully has become a heart pounding addiction (one day I might even win…). That’s what makes Apex so great—with friends it’s the best battle royale there is, but for solo me, it’s actually the best survival horror of the year.

Natalie Clayton
Features Producer

20 years ago, Nat played Jet Set Radio Future for the first time, and she's not stopped thinking about games since. Joining PC Gamer in 2020, she comes from three years of freelance reporting at Rock Paper Shotgun, Waypoint, VG247 and more. Embedded in the European indie scene and a part-time game developer herself, Nat is always looking for a new curiosity to scream about—whether it's the next best indie darling, or simply someone modding a Scotmid into Black Mesa. She also unofficially appears in Apex Legends under the pseudonym Horizon.