Apex Legends Season 8 launched just over a week ago, introducing a major overhaul to Kings Canyon and a new weapon. In keeping with previous seasons, it also added a new legend to the roster.
Fuse is an offensive character that harnesses the power of grenades, cluster bombs, and mortars to overwhelm enemy squads. He's capable of whittling down enemy shields and health bars in a matter of seconds. However, he doesn't appear to have made much of a dent in the Apex meta thus far.
While it's unsurprising that a brand new character hasn't managed to strongarm their way into high-level Ranked lobbies just yet, I'm not convinced there will be a place for Fuse anytime soon. Apex's meta dictates a specific style of play in competitive Apex matches, which is quite different to the casual games many of us hop into to complete our daily quests.
Even as we embrace a fresh season, it doesn't feel as though there's room for an aggressive legend that's armed to the teeth with explosives and a lacklustre ultimate.
A previously inseparable trio
There are now 16 characters in Apex Legends' roster, but some legends have had a much tighter grasp on the meta than others over Apex's life. In its opening year, the top tier legends created a team composed of two-parts mobility, and one-part defense.
Wraith has been a staple in most teams since the game's inception thanks to her tiny hitbox and ability to move quickly. Even after several nerfs, she continues to hold her position as one of the most popular legends in 2021.
Pathfinder was also a common choice in Ranked play, until recently. The friendly Titanfall MRVN has superior movement options compared to every other legend, with access to a grapple hook, a deployable zipline, and a passive ability that allows players to scan survey beacons to reveal where the next ring location will be. A couple of nerfs have since chipped away at Pathfinder's powers, even going as far as sharing some of them with the other Recon legends, Bloodhound and Crypto.
Arriving later in 2019, Wattson's static defences previously cemented her importance in Apex's late game. Her ultimate ability lets her place an Interception Pylon that gobbles up incoming ordnance, while repairing damaged shields. She's able to fully charge her ultimate with an Ultimate Accelerant, and stack two of these per inventory slot to ensure that she's always ready to plant her pylon.
For months, Wattson's abilities single-handedly drove players inside buildings during the final moments of competitive Apex matches. By placing her security nodes in doorways, dropping her pylon, and guarding entrances, squads could fortify buildings until the last few seconds, when the ring had closed entirely. High-level play often descended into Wraiths using their portals to avoid damage, while others would hop on and off Pathfinder's zipline. This strategy was difficult to pull off, and quickly became boring to watch.
Making room for newcomers
Very few of Apex's 13 remaining legends managed to disrupt the Wraith/Pathfinder/Wattson gold standard until Respawn stepped in with serious balance adjustments. We saw Caustic claw his way into more teams last year, as his Nox Gas Traps benefitted Wattson's late-game strategies. Bloodhound's Season 6 buffs also transformed them from a good Recon legend to one of the best characters in the game. Finally, Gibraltar has surfaced as a strong 2021 legend with his dome of protection and Defensive Bombardment ability.
Unfortunately, the majority of 2020's new legends haven't managed to secure their footing in high-level play. Last year, Revenant, Loba, and Rampart were all added to the roster, but you'd be hard pressed to spot them in a match of Apex Predators on Twitch now.
Thankfully, Respawn managed to rectify this with their final legend of the year, Horizon. Her Gravity Lift tactical is just as useful for chasing down enemy squads as it is retreating, making her a versatile addition to a team. Interestingly, her ultimate—which creates a micro black hole and drags enemies into it—appears to have sparked a turning point in the meta.
Where does Fuse fit in?
Apex's meta is far more flexible than it once was, but we're still not seeing much of Fuse a week after Mayhem launched. It takes time to master a new legend, so it's understandable why players aren't choosing him to grind RP in Ranked. As we spend more time with him, is there a spot for him in team compositions further down the line?
"He can definitely become viable, but a 'for sure' pick? I don't believe so," says professional Apex Legends player Tanner "Rogue" Trebb. "Any character can be played in ranked, if the player doesn't throw. Aim can definitely win fights regardless—but Fuse is a new pick, he has a decent tactical ability and an insane passive ability." Rogue thinks that Fuse's passive ability is likely his best advantage, and "he can spam and definitely win based on that alone."
Unfortunately, it seems that Fuse's lack of a potent ultimate could be what's holding him back. Horizon, Gibraltar, and Caustic all have ultimates that complement each other. Wraith can use hers to transport her team to safety, and Bloodhound can use theirs proactively to hunt down multiple enemies. So, there's simply no room for a legend with a subpar ultimate right now. Even if Fuse's other abilities do prove strong enough to carve a spot for him in the meta, I think we'd swiftly see Wattson return to directly counter his grenade-slinging skills.
2021 dream teams
Respawn is still a ways off when it comes to finding the sweet spot for Apex Legends' balancing. Introducing a new legend to the mix every three months, while continuing to adjust overtuned launch legends has meant that the best team compositions have developed slowly.
"Overall I think the game is working toward a good spot, but there are some downfalls", says Rogue. Alongside bugs and other issues, balancing is an ongoing discussion amongst Apex players. Focusing on this in particular, Rogue explained how Apex's philosophy has changed, particularly in high-level competitive and Ranked play:
"The original philosophy with Apex Legends was one of guns first, abilities second. But recently, in higher level play, the game has become a bit of an ability-first type game. The skill ceiling is at the highest point we have ever seen right now, but the average player can win any fight and close the gap between skill floor and ceiling with gun RNG off spawn, combined with certain legends and abilities." Rogue listed Caustic as an example. His ultimate, "used on any solo unsuspecting player can instantly turn the fight toward the Caustic's favor, unless the player has an escape."
With this in mind, and the Apex Legends Global Series well underway, Rogue reckons there are a few winning squads at present:
"A few comps have done well—one being ours. Horizon, Gibraltar, and Caustic has never been run outside of the ALGS Winter Circuit #1 before, and we placed 2nd", Rogue told me. "Other winning comps include: Wraith/Gibraltar/Bloodhound, and Wraith/Gibraltar/Caustic."
Judging by the stats shared by ApexTracker.gg, the leaderboards reflect a similar pool of legends across Apex's Ranked mode as a whole. Along with her useful tactical and passive, Horizon's ultimate synergises with legends like Gibraltar and Caustic, who can each deal AoE damage. Caustic can push enemy squads away with his Nox Gas Traps, and Gibraltar's tactical dome offers vital protection during firefights. It's no surprise to still see Wraith headlining, and Bloodhound's dominance continues.
Some of the best players are likely still experimenting with Fuse to test what he's actually capable of. However, I can't see him muscling in and stealing the show this season. The current competitive meta operates around tight synergies, and while he can decimate other legends one-on-one, he doesn't have a hard-hitting ultimate that can help his allies finish off a squad. Here's hoping Respawn has a few adjustments in mind for The Motherlode in the future.