Apex Legends is the newest kid on the block, full of bright ideas like contextual pinging, deeply ingrained team play and characters, and the incredible rate at which it’s passed 50 million players is thoroughly deserved in my opinion. But everything gradually gets old and tiresome and the Battle Royale genre, with its laser-like focus on dropping into combat and then scavenging and fighting to survive, only has so much variety.
Bringing that variety is Octane, an over the top speed runner who lost his legs by using grenades to boost himself to the Titanfall 2 Gauntlet record – it’s a lovely tribute to a community fan. With new bionic replacements, his abilities are all about speed and manoeuvrability, and while his looks scream Borderlands, this offers something a little new and interesting.
His main ability is Adrenaline Junkie, which saps a little health in return for a big speed boost for a few moments, before he reclaims it through passive health regeneration. Meanwhile his ultimate throws down a little jump pad that bounces you up and over most walls. There’s a lot of common ground with Wraith’s abilities, even if they take a different form. Octane costs 750 Apex Coins or requires you to grind through enough levels to earn 12,000 Legends Tokens (600 every time you level up regularly), but that’s not the only grind that Season 1 brings.
People have poured tens, if not hundreds of hours into Apex already, finding their favourite characters, mastering strategies, racking up win after win. It might be churlish have demanded more content, just a month after launch, but it’s a demand that Respawn will have expected. For them to see the negativity to something they’ve worked on for months will no doubt be disheartening, but the annoyance and renewed memes do have a point: the Season 1 battle pass for Apex Legends is a dull slog.
Each level in the battle pass depends on you earning a flat 29,500XP, based primarily off the XP you earn for time survived. That can be doubled by the Legend you play as, each of which can provide 25,000 bonus XP per week, and there’s bonuses like 500XP for a Legend’s first kill per day and if you place highly or win. It feels like a trudge because it is. You can earn XP boosts up to around 10% through the course of the season, if teaming up with friends, but the calculations put it at roughly 150 hours of game time over the course of the season to hit level 100. Add in a few bad matches each day and time spent waiting between rounds and you’ll have to devote two hours every day. I hope you didn’t want to play anything else after you came home from work.
That’s part of where Fortnite excels, in giving you challenges that encourage you to try different things as well as simple levelling. Arguably they distract from the main aim of the game at times, having players rush to a particular area to try and grab chests each week, and can give you an unfair challenge at times if, for example, you suck at sniping. Respawn’s stated goal instead was to make sure newcomers are getting to grips with the game instead of having to perform technical feats, but this battle pass does little to feel particularly engaging.
More disappointing is that what you get is just as uninspiring. There’s a mixture of weapon skins, level tokens, stat trackers, but an almost complete absence of new Legend skins to earn – you get three for buying it, and that’s about it. The battle pass also does nothing to push you to play the game in different ways.
The sheer amount of time needed is a similar problem to the one that Black Ops 4 faced when introducing its own battle pass and the Contraband loot stream. Players calculated just how insanely long it would take to level up through regular play and Treyarch were forced to tone it down, in part by offering level skips each day. There, at least, you had more engaging loot to earn, instead of the watered down fluff of stat trackers and badges.
And so Respawn find themselves in a surprisingly awkward position. I don’t think this battle pass is scratching a particular itch that players have in terms of rewards to earn, and that’s something that Respawn can’t pivot on all that quickly. What they can address in the short term is the amount of grinding required to level up and progress through the ranks. I’ve no doubt that fans are going to keep playing it anyway, so it’s just about making sure they feel rewarded and respected for their time.