Next week sees the start of a huge new season of Apex Legends, with a new map, a new hero and a new weapon all dropping in with Season 11: Escape on 2nd November
But first, let’s start with a message from Respawn. Yes, they have seen and understand the pain that many people are feeling with the game’s servers right now, and are hard at work trying to find meaningful solutions to the problems the game has on that front. To that end, they’ve been expanding the server team and trying to reduce bandwidth demands to set more solid foundations for the game’s continued popularity.
In the more immediate future, the servers might be put under a bit more strain than usual with the launch of the new season, and in particular, a brand new map. Storm Point is the fourth map to be added to Apex Legends, and this deadly tropical island is its biggest map yet. Even bigger than King’s Canyon.
On the whole there’s a greater elevation change to be found across the map as a whole, the map rising to higher planes than before, and viewed from above as you prepare to drop in, it looks very, very busy. There’s 17 named locations across the island, paths carved through towering buttes, and with the highest point contrasting with the idyllic lagoon-like blues of the shallow waters at the other end of the map.
With so many locations, there’s a lot of details that players will be able to dig into when the season starts on 2nd November, but the overarching design choices that Respawn has made are fascinating. For one thing, if you’re starting to feel that your chosen drop target is actually a bit too busy for your liking, there will usually be a smaller camp near to each location that you can veer off to and try to get a slightly quieter start.
There’s also some new ways to loot the map, thanks to the indigenous wildlife. These break down into a few types, with Prowlers living in nests and striking out if you get too close, while Spider nests only become dangerous if you start to mess with their eggs. In both cases, there’s loot to be had for clearing them out. Similarly, you have the Flyers, who will drop death boxes with random loot if you gun them down. Damaging animals will also help charge up your Evo shields, but nowhere near enough to max them out. You can ‘jungle’ like it’s a MOBA to a certain extent, but you’ll still have to contend with rival teams.
Another conscious design change is that there are no redeploy balloons for players to zip up and skydive back down to ground. In their place are gravity cannons that act like the bounce pads from Quake III, firing you off in a direction and giving you only limited control to shape your path through the sky. You’ll still be able to get around the map more quickly, but the routes you can take are more clearly defined because of this.
Of course, all of that can change over the course of future seasons, as the battle royale genre’s penchant for change sees maps suffering various calamities from season to season. Except Storm Point is different. Respawn has a clearer plan of how they will change the map over time and part of the two years spent designing it has been used to expand map, instead of simply destroying parts of it.
Each new season comes with a healthy dose of lore, and for Titanfall fans that have become hooked on Apex Legends, there’s a big payoff as Ash joins the arena. Having been one of the antagonists in Titanfall 2, it’s interesting to see her abilities inspired by that game, even if the lore is pretty convoluted for anyone that hasn’t been following along. To boil it down, Ash has got a history with Horizon, she was reconstructed by Loba in Kings Canyon, was in charge of the Arenas that were introduced earlier this year, and now she wants to prove that she’s transcended humanity.
Ash’s abilities take inspiration from the Titanfall 2 titans, with her throwable Arc Snare based on the Northstar’s Tether Trap to stun enemies, and the Phase Breach based on the Ronin’s Phase Dash to let Ash dive through a void portal. That’s similar in some ways to Wraith’s void portal abilities, but this is a one way trip and Ash needs to have line of sight to where she’s going, with only a short time for other players to follow. It will need more coordination and commitment to get the best from it.
Alongside this, Ash’s passive ability lets her see death boxes on the minimap, helping to identify where fights are occurring, while her data knife can then be used on the death box to see where the team that killed this player is now. Quite powerful when Respawn are constantly trying to make ‘third partying’ of teams feel more fair within the game.
For fans of Wattson’s character, the good news is that she’s getting a significant buff for this season. Fence cooldowns have been halved, you can place more of them, and doing so is much snappier. To ensure that they give you an actual advantage, crossing fences is more punishing to enemies. Additionally, Wattson’s Trophy system now has a health pool, similar to Lifeline’s drone, so it will feel more persistent and you won’t have to keep an eye on the timer.
And lastly, we come to the new gun, another inductee from Titanfall. The CAR is another SMG being added to the weapon pool, but Respawn has done a lot to make it feel distinct. Its full-auto fire is faster than the Volt and comes with more recoil, but it’s unique in being able to use either heavy or light ammo. You can toggle between the two ammo types, with Respawn pitching this as a way to really maximise your team’s inventory. A player with a CAR can hoard both heavy and light ammo and then switch and share as a buddy needs it.
All in all, Season 11 Escape is looking to be a huge one for Apex Legends.