Apex Legends Legacy Update Preview
A hands-on look at the new Arena Mode, the new Legend Valkyrie, and other updates coming to Apex Legends with the Legacy Update.
The Legacy Update coming to Apex Legends with Season Nine is a big one. Like previous season updates it adds a new Legend, in this case Valkyrie, a new weapon, and a map update, but it goes above and beyond those prior seasons by introducing an entire new mode to the game. And this isn’t just some limited-run Battle Royale variant – it’s a whole new mode that will become a permanent part of the game. I had the chance to take all of the updates coming with Legacy out for a test drive, but let’s start with the one that’s probably piqued your interest the most, Arena Mode.
Like Apex Legends’ Battle Royale mode, Arena is a team-based mode. In this case, though, only two teams compete in a match, with three players per team. The mode will look familiar when a match begins as each player selects a Legend to play in turn, but things will be completely different after that. Before we get into how things diverge, let’s cover the basics of competition in this mode.
Arena mode is round-based, with the last team standing taking the round – you can still revive players before they bleed out, but after they do its permadeath for the round. The first team to get to three wins takes the match, but the catch is that you need to win by two rounds to take the match. If one team reaches three wins while the other is sitting at two, the game will add another round. Play continues in this manner until one team has a two round lead or the eighth round is completed without a winner. In the latter case, the teams will compete in a winner-take-all final round. This may make it seem that Arena will require a greater time commitment than Battle Royale, but that’s not necessarily the case. The maps in this mode are much smaller than the Battle Royale maps and the two teams will begin to engage pretty early in each round even though the starting positions are set at each end of each map.
Now back to how things will look different once your team has selected its Legends. Rather than moving straight to deployment you’ll find yourself at a loadout selection screen known as the Buy Menu. You’ll be given a budget with which you can purchase the weapons and consumables that you’ll bring with you into the next round. For each weapon that you purchase, you’ll also have the option of upgrading it to a higher rarity. Your Legend’s skills also count as a part of your loadout, and you’ll have to invest even more currency in them if you want to have the option of using them multiple times. You’ll have a limited time to select your loadout before you’re pulled into the round with whatever you’ve purchased at that point. You’ll see what your teammates have selected as their primary weapon as well as what’s in store for the round’s Care Package drop as an aid to making your selections.
This isn’t the only time you’ll see this screen – you’ll visit it before each round. There is no weapon carryover, so each time you’ll be starting from scratch. You’ll have a bit more to spend each round, though, as unspent currency transfers to the next round, you’ll earn bonuses from your play in prior rounds, and there are loot cannisters to find on the maps. The round bonuses certainly help with your shopping, but the developers were careful not to make things a case of the rich getting richer and making it impossible for the team that’s behind to come close to matching the other team’s firepower.
The Arena maps are large enough that you’ll have a little time before you encounter the other squad, but the action can begin pretty quickly if both teams rush to the center. To prevent each team from camping near its start zone, the familiar ring from Battle Royale also appears in Arena mode and before long starts shrinking the map’s safe zone. Two maps were made available during the hands-on preview, Party Crusher and Phase Runner. Party Crusher is the smaller of the two maps – you get into the action faster and the battles are more up close and personal. Phase Runner is made for longer range battles, with a ring of structures and a large open central area. When Arena launches there will be additional maps drawn from locations within the existing Battle Royale maps.
I enjoyed playing Arena mode – it’s at once familiar and a new experience. The Legends are familiar and you can play your favorites with the same strategies that you’ve honed through Battle Royale mode. It’s an interesting change of pace to enter the battle with your weapon of choice rather than hoping you’ll get a decent drop on your first pick-up. And those long periods of dead time during which your team is heading to the center of the ring and scouring for better loot without seeing any other players. Teamwork is important in Battle Royale, but becomes even more so in Arena mode. You have more of a margin of error on the larger maps of Battle Royale, and with more teams involved your enemies can often distract each other rather than making you pay for your mistake.
The Legacy Update wouldn’t be a proper Apex Legends update if it didn’t include a new Legend. The new Legend who comes with Legacy is Valkyrie. Valkyrie’s origin story ties her to the lore of one of Respawn Entertainment’s prior games in that Valkyrie is the daughter of the Titan pilot Viper from Titanfall 2. Her signature item, a jetpack that allows her to fly above the battlefield, was built from parts taken from the wreckage of Viper’s Northstar Titan. The jetpack also powers Valkyrie’s ultimate – a rocket-like ascent to deployment altitude followed by a controlled drop to another map location. You can even carry allies with you while you make the leap.
Valkyrie was available for play during the Legacy preview event, and I was able to take her out for a test flight in more than one match in both Arena and Battle Royale modes. First a few practical notes, starting with the possibly disappointing news that the jetpack doesn’t give you unlimited flight. The jetpack requires fuel to power your flight, which in gaming terms amounts to an energy bar that you drain as you thrust and that recharges when you’re not using the jetpack. The next thing that you need to be aware of is that you can’t fly wherever you’d like to. There are out-of-bounds barriers, and I wasn’t really able to tell where they were until I hit them – I committed suicide on a couple of occasions when I found myself crossing into out-of-bounds territory and couldn’t figure out where to go to get myself back into bounds. When armed with a sniper rifle I was tempted to immediately jet pack my way to the highest firing position that I could find, but the maps aren’t built for that. The jetpack is still a great way to get a height advantage quickly, but you have to stick to the spots that are reachable in conventional ways as well.
Another thing to bear in mind is that when you’re airborne you are visible from a wide area of the map. Many of your opponents will know where you are, and if they’re close enough you’ll draw their fire. You won’t be able to fire back while boosting, so you’re a bit of a sitting, or rather jetpacking, duck. Well, you won’t be able to fire your normal weapons. Valkyrie’s jetpack is also equipped with a missile swarm weapon, which does precisely what it sounds like it does. This weapon can be fired while you’re thrusting, as well as while you’re on foot, but it’s not quite as devastating as its name implies. It’s less of a high damage weapon and more of a stun weapon, so you won’t rain death from above, but at least you can’t stop people from shooting at you for a bit. The short of it is that Valkyrie is a unique and fun legend to play as, but her jetpack isn’t a total game changer. Like all of the other Legends she has her advantages and disadvantages, and you’ll know how to play to them.
The other new Legacy Update feature I had a chance to play with, the Bocek Bow. It is indeed a bow, but you can think of it as a medium range marksman weapon. However, there’s only one kind of ammunition that can be used with it, and that’s, of course, arrows. Arrows are a little hard to come by – that’s an intentional, you don’t want the Bocek Bow to be an overpowered game-changer after all – so you want to be judicious about when and how you use the bow. Unlike other forms of ammo, though, arrows are recoverable – you can retrieve them out of whatever they hit or help yourself to someone else’s misses. For your shot to be at its most effective you’ll need to pull back on the bow string to build up tension, so it’s the kind of weapon you’ll want to line up your shots with and you’ll want to avoid walking into a gun fight carrying a bow.
In addition to spending some time with Arena Mode, I was able to play a few Battle Royale matches on the Olympus map update coming with Legacy, Infested Olympus. A spaceship, the Icarus, has docked with Olympus, but unfortunately it was infested by a parasitic alien plant. Massive roots have emanated from the Icarus at its crash and are beginning to strangle Olympus. The Icarus rests at the Bonsai Plaza location and has become a feature of the map itself. The ship is filled with loot, so it’s a natural magnet for teams and leads to a lot of battles in the ships massive cargo holds. As you fight through the Icarus, you’ll see the bodies of its crew scattered about the ship. Each match one of these dead crew members is randomly assigned a key to the bridge. Find the key and unlock the bridge, and find the best loot available on the ship waiting for you there. Of course, you have to survive the fight as you make your way to the bridge, and if you die another player can grab the key from your loot locker. A smart team just might decide it’s best to lie in wait outside the bridge and wait for the key to come to them. I wasn’t lucky enough to find the key in my time with the game, but I can tell you that the loot that sits in the corridor leading to the bridge is pretty good itself.
That’s a quick look at what I saw in my time playing the Legacy Update. I hope that you have as much fun with it as I did when it launches on May 4th.
Transmitted: 9/22/2021 8:55:44 AM