In April 2021, I had a modest 70 hours in Apex Legends. My most-played legends perhaps had about as many kills, and whereas I might been enjoying since day one, it is a recreation I might beloved from a distance—taking frequent breaks and forgetting concerning the recreation for whole seasons at a time.
In December 2021, at time of writing, I’ve properly over 700 hours in Apex Legends. I’ve over 3,000 kills as Horizon alone, and fought my bitter method up the ranks to succeed in Diamond. I am obsessively checking (very selective) leaderboards to see if I am within the prime 100 this week, and diving into the spiciest drops for a shot at lastly snagging these elusive 20 Kills / 4,000 Injury badges.
In a weird yr that noticed me briefly turn out to be a aggressive Splatoon 2 match participant, Apex nonetheless managed to be not simply the multiplayer shooter, however the singular recreation that completely outlined my whole yr.
I’ve at all times been keen on Apex Legends. Since day one I have been obsessive about its slippery buttslides and extra frenetic tackle the historically sluggish battle royale format. However Apex is a bloody laborious recreation and, initially, I by no means put within the time to grok its gunplay—which, regardless of the quick tempo of play, nonetheless requires you to know bullet drop and recoil patterns.
Early Apex additionally appeared like its world hadn’t actually discovered its footing. Nonetheless tied to the Blomkamp-esque army sci-fi of Titanfall, the sport had a form of muddy really feel throughout its setting and characters. The launch legends had been enjoyable, however not absolutely fleshed out into the bizarre and wild characters they could possibly be. And whereas King’s Canyon was a improbable first step for this newer, quicker battle royale, it could possibly be terrible boring to have a look at typically.
Nonetheless, I popped in each different season, every time proclaiming this was the multiplayer shooter I might been ready to be hooked by since Hawken’s premature demise. World’s Edge introduced an explosion of color and public transport to the sport (earlier than Respawn tragically blew it up). Olympus went even additional, taking the sport to a pristine floating metropolis—an attractive, willfully synthetic enviornment so vibrant as to rival the sport’s personal launch cinematics.
However there was nonetheless one thing conserving me at arm’s size. For all its enhancements, I used to be but to find crucial ingredient of any hero-driven shooter in Apex. I nonetheless hadn’t discovered my foremost.
In hindsight, it is kinda weird that it took me so lengthy to latch onto Apex Legends’ resident astrophysicist, Dr Mary “Horizon” Somers. I completely wrote news posts about her arrival final November for this very web site, not as soon as making the connection that, as a dorky, neurodivergent Scottish lass with flawless purple hair and a penchant for house nonsense, Respawn had mainly gone and put me in their wildly popular battle royale—and it wasn’t till a couple of ex-RPS friends requested me to affix their stream again in Might that every little thing lastly clicked.
There are mechanical causes I am keen on enjoying as her, thoughts. Her toolkit performs completely into every little thing I like about Respawn shooters—a passive that lets her ignore fall stagger and transfer with elevated air management, making traversing maps a pleasure. Going again to different characters (even movement-centric legends like Octane) feels sluggish when house mother’s gravity-defying strikes allow you to certain throughout even the most important map with easy whimsy.
However Apex does a phenomenally good job of serving to you “embody” the character you are enjoying. It is not simply talents—every little thing from the place the digital camera sits and shakes to first individual animations, voice barks and interactions with different characters sells the concept that you are enjoying an individual, not a loadout. When that character so occurs to be an idealised model of your self, the pull is not possible to disregard.
To get a wee bit private for a second—as a trans individual with (most likely) ADHD myself, I usually discover I’ve a really unfastened sense of self. Due to that, I hyperfixate laborious on characters that present elements of myself I recognise, or aspire to. With Horizon that is every little thing, from an absolute thicket of purple hair to her anxious, fidgety idle animations.
I am properly conscious that I am not, truly, a fictional astrophysicist. I’ve no want to be a mom, and any risk of me going into the sciences was extinguished again in highschool. However in attempting to be only a tad extra Horizon, I’ve found elements of myself I’ve discovered to like extra. That I just like the sound of my voice extra after I lean into the (considerably latent) Scottish-ness of it. That my hair appears straight-up unimaginable with it minimize in the identical top-heavy weight. That in exercising extra usually to suit a dressing up I am commissioning (at a frankly irresponsible value), I’ve turn out to be way more snug in my very own physique.
It is finally not that daring of Apex to place a middle-aged white girl in a recreation. There are broader discussions round the place Respawn continues to succeed and fail in representing completely different cultures, races, and genders (although I do largely really feel it succeeds). However on a intestine degree, I discover worth in seeing that Respawn felt a personality that appears, sounds and acts like me can be a worthwhile addition to its roster.
It is not simply yer house maw I fell in love with this yr. Apex Legends’ storytelling has been in overdrive the previous few seasons. There’s now a motive to care concerning the characters, in a method that was by no means current on the recreation’s launch.
Over time, characters have developed rivalries, friendships, romances and fallouts, specified by cinematics and enjoying out by way of a rising internet of interpersonal voice traces. Your squadmates aren’t simply pleasant weapons, they’re individuals who bicker and flirt and hold bitter grudges against each other.
However a lot extra character has been given to this solid by the group—an effort that Respawn hasn’t simply tolerated, however actively inspired. Fan-made comics, artwork and animated shorts have been made canon, and whereas Respawn nonetheless finally has management over canonical works, the variety of voices which have helped form the Apex universe is staggering.
These tales may need larger-than-life stakes and sci-fi nonsense, however greater than something they exist to humanise a solid of remarkably grounded murderbuds. The Apex roster could include nefarious scientists, Mad Max pit fighters, cyberpunk hackers and literal skeletons, however these shorts and comics reveal a lot of those to be wrestling-style facades. Extravagant personas that masks a solid of deeply flawed, acquainted human beings.
(And, err, three robots).
The Apex Video games is perhaps a bloodsport, however more and more they’re a vessel for a gaggle of queer disasters, burnt-out fighters and delusional simulacra to air out their grievances on a bloody stage.
However none of this, not the solid nor the world nor my floaty doppelganger, would work if Apex wasn’t simply an absolute blast to play. It’s nonetheless a pleasure, an ideal stability between Titanfall’s instantly frenetic gunfights and the tense downtime and scavenging of a battle royale, performed out in delightfully paced 20-minute chunks.
Previously yr, it is solely gotten greater and higher. The massive new addition is Arenas, a form of Valorant-like 3v3 mode that sees groups face off in elimination rounds, shopping for weapons with a lightweight economic system system that pushes you to assert riskier elements of the map for foreign money. It is a improbable approach to get straight right into a battle with the weapons you want and facilitates some brutally tense comebacks.
Each new season has added one thing new to the pool. Olympus established itself as the sport’s finest map by far, one which solely wanted slight adjustments in Season 9. That season’s new legend, Valkyrie, was a quick favorite together with her instant-use jetpacks and unashamedly lesbian flirting. Even Season 10, the low-point of the yr, nonetheless made some much-needed adjustments to World’s Edge—although sadly did not go as far as to blow up Fragment.
Underperforming legends like Rampart and Wattson have gotten some a lot wanted love this yr, too. And whereas it took a minute to develop on me, the huge jungle island of Storm Level is developing quickly on Olympus as my favorite map, having helped carry me to Diamond this ranked season. With each passing month, the group additionally finds new methods to wrangle additional velocity out of the sport’s engine. You’ve got heard of tap-strafing, however do you know the new new motion approach is solely to punch the ground?
See, I am continuously looking out for a brand new shooter to take over my life. For years, Apex Legends was virtually that recreation, but it surely wasn’t fairly able to convey me all the way in which on board. Since these Might streams, nevertheless, barely a night has handed the place I have never stepped off the dropship for one more spherical of the Outlands’ favorite bloodsport—and with each session’s enchancment, I discover extra pleasure within the sheer act of working and gunning (and sometimes floating) throughout Apex’s battlegrounds.
2021 was filled with video games I adored. Attractive, ingenious, heartfelt video games like Sable, Townscaper and Exo One, video games that’ll keep on with me for a very long time but. But when I am actually sincere with myself, Apex Legends is the sport that outlined my 2021—embodying an idealised model of myself, sliding down hills at supersonic speeds, climbing the ranks by steadily enhancing my goal and sometimes hurling my singularity-spewin’ robotic son at baddies.
At this tempo, Apex Legends will most likely be my defining recreation of 2022, too. Catch you after I attain Apex Predator, aye?