Apex Legends is getting a makeover next week as Electronic Arts’ Respawn Entertainment releases a new map dubbed Olympus, a Trident hovercraft that you can use to travel on it, and a new character.
Season 7 is set to start November 4. I played it with a bunch of sharpshooters yesterday via Origin on the PC, and I used my trusty Xbox controller … only to get wiped out in just about every match I played. I’m afraid I’ve gotten rusty at the game, which hit a player base of 70 million people about a year ago.
Respawn has teased the map, the third one in the battle royale game, as adding a new kind of gameplay. It’s a city floating in space, with a lot of manicured gardens, shopping centers, industrial docks, wide highways, and pristine skyscrapers. While it’s all abandoned, it has a luxury feel, in contrast to the dirty environs of Kings Canyon and World’s Edge. It has a lot of open spaces where you can drive the new vehicle, a three-person hovercraft that can zip around those fields and open spaces easily. The map is larger than Kings Canyon but smaller than World’s Edge.
The map has a lot of sectors. One place is called the Bonsai Plaza, a downtown area that is home to restaurants, cherry blossom gardens, and two big towers with a lounge restaurant at the top.
The game also features Horizon, a new Legend, or playable character, who has a heavy Scottish accent and a touching backstory. Horizon is a brilliant astrophysicist who has fashioned gadgets such as a machine that creates a mini-black hole that sucks nearby players into it and holds them in stasis while enemies can shoot at them. She also has a gravity lift that you can toss on the ground. When you step on it, you fly into the air. You can have whole team use it to bounce up to the tops of tall buildings.
“There’s a lot of room for creativity here, to help your teammates or launch an enemy into the sky,” said Respawn’s Chris Winder said in a press briefing.
Horizon is a different kind of character that illustrates some diversity in the lineup of rogues and Hunger Games-esque murderers. She’s a mother who promises her son that she will return after a trip to find some crystals that she needs to solve an energy crisis for a planet. But her overseers decide to get rid of her and maroon her in space. She uses the crystals to create a black hole. She goes into it, and emerges 87 years later, too late to find her son. She tries to find her way back to the right time, but in the meantime, she’s stuck on Olympus.
That black hole works like a gravity star from Titanfall 2, said Winder. The black hole is a little different in that it doesn’t spell instant doom. Rather, if you have a fast character, you can escape the pull of gravity that tugs at you. That way, the black hole isn’t all-powerful, and it isn’t as frustrating for players stuck in it, he said.
The game has cross-play and account progression, where your rank and items carry over when you switch to supported platforms. Apex Legends hasn’t launched on the Switch yet, though that day is coming, and EA hasn’t described how the cross-play will work natively with next-generation consoles yet, said game director Chad Grenier in a briefing.
Players can also join clubs with their friends, much like clans in other games. You can only be in one club at a time. There’s a leaderboard in the club, and you get recognition within the club if you are one of the top five players. The clubs have a max of 30 players.
With Season 7, EA is launching a Champion Edition for $40, unlocking every character from the previous versions. Apex Legends is already on Origin on the PC, the PlayStation 4, and the Xbox One. It will launch on Steam on November 4, and the Switch is coming sometime next year.
I got to ride in or drive the Trident a couple of times in my sessions. It was easy to steer and maneuver, and it even did OK scraping through walls inside some buildings. But it’s really made for mad dashes across the map, when the circle is closing in and you have to escape the closing gas and make it to safety. The team added the vehicle so that teams could more confidently explore the outer edges of the map without worrying they wouldn’t be able to make it to the circle when the time came.
You can’t use the Trident to run over other players, so it isn’t useful as a weapon. If you shoot at it, you can hurt everyone on board. But the vehicle doesn’t blow up. If there’s an effect on gameplay, it’s that fast action gets even faster, as you can use the Trident to quickly join distant firefights or ambush teams on the run.
I played as Horizon a few times and saw that the black hole capability was something that you could use once in a while, as it is on a timer that resets when you use it once. I accidentally tossed out a black hole once and hoped my comrades didn’t notice. I found that when I used it intentionally, I could toss it quite a distance to where enemies were sniping at us. Those foes managed to escape to cover, so I didn’t catch anyone. There was another time when I was in a firefight with another group where it would have worked splendidly, but I didn’t have the presence of mind to use it and got gun downed instead. I can only imagine how satisfying it is to use the black hole on a team and end up wiping them out as they float helplessly in its orbit.
There are many ways to die. My team went through a portal from one part of the map to another, but when we got to the other end, there was another team waiting for us that slaughtered us. I wasn’t expecting that at the end of the super-quick portal from one side of the map to another.
I searched for guns with green ammo, as they’re my favorite. But I couldn’t find the most powerful gun, the M600 Spitfire. That was sad. Without it, I had my Hemlok or the Flatline. While the map was fairly large, my teams kept landing near others and we had to fight before we had weapons lots of times. I played for a few hours, but I realized it would take a lot of practice to get back into the swing of Apex Legends. One of my teams got second place once, but we never won. It’s still a lot of fun, but it ain’t easy.
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