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The problem with live service games is that they’re absolutely terrible at catching you up on what you missed.
If you have a life outside of spending 10 hours every day on your live service of choice, you can so easily disappear for a week and come back and everything has changed. This is even more of a problem in a competitive game, as every time you’re away from the game, those who aren’t are becoming better and better, leaving you in the dust when you eventually return.
The other issue is that due to the expectation of constant updates to keep live service games fresh, it’s easy for them to become bogged down in multiple overlapping mechanics, making the pick-up-and-play appeal of so many free-to-play games completely disappear.
Apex Legends: Breakout is the most fluid, fast-paced, and rewarding the game has felt in years by focusing on simplicity and removing as many barriers to shooting other players as possible.
The biggest change to Apex Legends with the Breakout update is Legend Upgrades. Now, at the start of every match, players will start at level 0, and they will gain experience through actions in a match, such as getting kills, engaging in firefights, or doing other tasks that are relevant to their class. They’ll then level up throughout a match, and at each level, they’ll get to pick an upgrade that augments their abilities.
Crucially, this also impacts the player’s armour. The game’s previous armour system is completely gone, and it’s now dictated entirely by what Legend Level you are at that point in the match. That means that as the game goes on for longer, you can confidently assume that all players have similar armour levels, meaning that a lucky drop no longer dictates how strong you are.
What this also means is that Apex Legends is once again rewarding engaging and positive play. While you can skulk through the map and void conflict, the quickest way to level up and start unlocking some genuinely game-changing upgrades is to get into the action.
We did ask if this could potentially create an uneven balance wherein a team could drop into a busy area, clear it, and then suddenly be significantly more powerful than everyone else on the map, but it seems that in practice, it would be very uncommon for this situation to occur.
“While you can skulk through the map and void conflict, the quickest way to level up and start unlocking some genuinely game-changing upgrades is to get into the action.”
There is also a light rubber-banding to the leveling system according to Respawn, meaning that later in the game, players that are still on the lower tiers of the leveling system will be nudged towards being balanced with the rest of the game.
We got the opportunity to play a few games with the new system, and the thing we were stuck with was just how many new combinations and potential meta changes the Legend Upgrades will bring with them. Each level has two options, apart from the final option on the tree, which is always the same. This means that every single hero in the game now has multiple different new permutations.
Sure, in some instances, this means an improvement on a Legend’s ability that won’t completely change the game, but in others, it becomes a whole new factor to consider when team building. What’s perhaps more interesting is that now there’s no way to tell exactly what kind of Legend you’re about to face, as the way players build a Legend isn’t communicated to enemy players.
In practice, this new system also means there is far less messing around when looting in the early game. By completely eliminating the need to worry about shields, we were able to refocus on our load-outs. This also meant that there was one less thing to check off the list at the start of matches, removing a lot of the tedium and making us far more inclined to just get stuck into the action.
After playing Apex Legends: Breakout for a few hours, we were desperate to jump back into the action. It’s the freshest the game has felt since it made its debut in the Battle Royale scene five years ago, and it proves that big changes to live service games don’t need to be huge, map-destroying epics.
By peeling back a lot of the admin that made the early game of Apex a slog, it’s a much faster experience and much better about funnelling you towards the best parts of a match, the actual combat.
The Legend Upgrade system is something we’re looking forward to seeing the wider Apex community get their hands on, especially with the sheer number of new team compositions that can be built when factoring in the new upgrades. Could it be broken in some cases? Absolutely, but from speaking to Respawn, that’s exactly the kind of shakeup it’s looking to foster.
Breakout is a perfect fifth birthday present for Apex Legends. It makes the game feel fresh without having to strip the paint off the walls. It will appeal to both casual players who didn’t ever engage with the eccentricities of the previous armour system and hardcore players who want to feel rewarded for dropping hot.