Released in 2019, Apex Legends brought Titanfall 2-style multiplayer to the battle royale format. Despite missing out on a few fan favourite elements, such as wall running and universal use of a grapple, it was well received and, two years later, still holds a “Very Positive” rating on Steam. Apex Legends didn’t need to reinvent the battle royale wheel to be popular. By utilising solid map design, an interesting loot pool, and satisfying gun mechanics, it quickly became a go-to alternative to the reigning champ at the time, Fortnite.
An often overlooked fundamental in games is movement. Movement is essential in the vast majority of titles, and often how responsive the movement of a game is can make or break it. Battle royales before Apex Legends didn’t change too much with their movement systems. Fortnite’s terrain building ended up being an ability that players utilised to gain a tactical height advantage instead of, you know, building forts with it, but Apex Legends matched its fast and frenetic combat with an equally impressive movement system.
I’d like to think I’m good at Apex Legends. I’ve not got the most hours in the game, but I can pull off a convincing win every now and again. How you move in the game is one of the main reasons why I come back to it death after death, predominantly because of how cool it makes you feel. Battle royales always have you constantly moving away from an ever-closing ring, and sometimes the arduous treks across the maps can create stale and boring gameplay. In Apex Legends, these treks feel like adventures with your squad, when you’re shooting up and down ziplines, sliding down huge hills, or utilising one of the strategically-placed jump towers. These jump towers allow for effective repositioning before a fight or as an escape rope to allow you to scrounge as much loot as you can before the ring closes in. Stowing your weapon increases your movement speed at the cost of leaving you open to ambush, but during these long stretches towards the start of the match when shootouts are fragmented, it makes it a lot more enjoyable.
However, movement isn’t just a case of getting from A to B in Apex Legends, and this is where it really shines. Name another battle royale where you can start a fight, jump from a building, slide down a
hill, grab onto a zipline and, if you’re a particular character, even grapple onto some terrain, all while shooting at the enemy. Now, this might not be the best strategy in most fights, but it is an option and that’s the important thing here. Apex gives you the freedom to strategise against your enemy in unexpected and inventive ways, allowing you to change your approach to each fight in a way that other battle royales don’t. This isn’t to say that Apex Legends is the only one that does this, but I feel it is the most successful.
Movement is as powerful as a weapon if used correctly, unlike other battle royales, which rely predominantly on the gunplay or even your chosen attachments. Like with many things in the game, movement can be mastered and it has a very high skill ceiling. Popular techniques in pro play rely heavily on sliding and hopping to avoid gunfire and increase speed. This game is all about speed, and the movement plays directly into this. Deep tactical questions, with a key focus on movement, are something you think about constantly during fights. This is partly due to the way that movement is engrained into the kits of the various champions that you can play as.
At launch, four of the six champions allowed you to choose from featured a movement element at their core. Further champions have been added since then which have movement skils within their kit, namely Octane. One of these launch champions, Pathfinder, is equipped with a grapple that is straight out of Titanfall 2. This grapple allows for tactical advantages and quick repositioning—and it can also be used to pull enemies towards you in order to easily kill them. Despite this incredibly useful ability, Pathfinder is often picked for his ultimate, the “Zipline Gun.” As the name suggests, Pathfinder fires out a long range zipline that can be set up almost anywhere, usable by all of his squad mates along with enemies (which can be very useful in an ambush). This ultimate comes back to traversal and the ease of movement that the game offers. Escaping from an enemy ultimate? Pop a zipline. Can’t be bothered to walk up that hill? Jump on the zipline! Pathfinder’s versatility and popularity directly relate to his utilisation of movement within his core kit and is the perfect example of weaponised momentum.
While Pathfinder offers movement skills on a macro level to his entire squad, Revenant, a champion released in season four, is very much in it for himself. Revenant’s passive ability “Stalker” allows him to climb buildings higher and crouch walk faster than other champions, which stems from the character’s backstory as a hitman. Revenant’s wall climbing can prove useful for surprise attacks that are impossible for others to achieve. Although his movement features are on a smaller scale, the freedom he is offered in how he approaches battles can turn the tide for a more static and less movement-oriented squad.
This injection of variety, directly provided by movement, is what keeps the game constantly fresh and interesting. Apex Legends is a great game. It has so much to offer, but what makes it so successful is that the fundamental elements are fun! Nothing about the game is mundane, and this is illustrated best by the incredible movement system. There is a strong sense of momentum in everything you do, and it is such a joy to explore the world and loot every nook and cranny of the map because doing so is simple and constantly interesting.