To completely understand the circumstances of the battle royale genre one must understand the root of this genre. The “original” or “Genre defining” game that set battle royale in motion was PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (Original spelling and formatting preserved. Commonly abbreviated as PUBG). The game pits 100 people against each other in a combination of survival of the fittest and king of the hill. The game garnered successful reviews that commented heavily on real life mechanics that were present. Mechanics such as “sighting in” and “bullet drop” meaning that physics influences the bullet once it crosses a certain threshold. A common term is Damage falloff, or at what point the gun deals less damage after reaching a certain range. In classic first-person shooter (FPS) games this distance does not matter as you are engaging your opponents at a much shorter range, and when you are engaging over “long distances” you are using a weapon that compensates for this by having a higher damage output. With respect to genre defining PUBG, this means that all aspects of the game are affected by the same forces be it fall damage, grenade physics, and (in certain cases) environment conditions. PUBG for example has realistic sounds and auditory cues, environmental sounds such as rain or thunder affect your ability to hear an incoming enemy. Because of all this simulated realism it sold millions of copies and the thrill of the win became the driving force behind playing more rounds.
Fortnite, The Bringer of The Masses
With that foundation, let’s explore this pervasive side of the genre. Fortnite was originally an early access game that emphasized building a base to survive an onslaught of zombies in a classic form of adapt, improvise, overcome. The mechanics here allow you to craft buildings on the fly and defend or rescue a series of objectives. Fortnite as battle royale was not originally an idea until Epic Games saw the money they could possibly create from piggy-backing onto this craze of gamers. And so Fortnite became a split game, one being the zombie shooter, the other being the 100-player battle. The advantage that Fortnite Battle Royale (Fortnite BR) wasn’t in the realism of the gun or the graphics, but it was the Free to play model as well as the unorthodox building that could occur in the game world. This turned into 2 games, one being who was the quickest shoot and the other being quickest builder. While in and of itself, Fortnite BR has no connection to its survival-based brother, it has a story seemingly all its own. I won’t go into detail there but suffice it to say that it has an evolving story.
Standby for Titanfall
During all of this, developers at Respawn Entertainment, those who brought the Titanfall series and some of the Star Wars franchise to life were forging their own entry to the genre. To give an idea of what I mean for the title of this section we will quickly explore the Titanfall universe in which Apex Legends is a part of.
Titanfall 2, the master of movement and gunplay
From the onset of Titanfall 2’s life as part of the gamer lexicon of gaming. It quickly established itself as the forefront of advanced movement that no game has accomplished before or since. From the slides to the wall-running. The player could use walls as a movement platform which lead to entire battles occurring from wall to wall. This combined with the weapons that range from filling the body with lead to frying it, turned into an instant classic to always come back to. The environment was filled with trick shots and the sense that an attack could come from literally any angle. This is but half of the story of what make this a great game. This game has a second side of any battle that turns you from an active player moving from wall to wall, to a walking tank with destructive power. Titanfall 2 players will recognize the call of “Standby for Titanfall” and as quickly as their movement they switch to a different style of play, from one of the gun to one of the fist. Titans in the game are walking mechs that leave a destructive wake and only the best can defeat them. Apex Legends takes place in the universe of Titanfall.
Show me game, and let me discover it
Apex Legends lore-wise is set 30 years after the events of Titanfall 2. The setting is you are a legend in your own right coming to play the “Apex Games” to fight others to become the Champion. This is achieved by deserting 80 players on the island to find the equipment needed to take out foes. This is a merging of many different mechanics, from the bullet drop found in PUBG to the classes found in Overwatch. It blends these together with the preestablished lore-base found in Titanfall.
Now I said that this was a lesson in “Show, don’t Tell”.
Respawn did nothing in terms of marketing the game. From announcement to release was less than 6 hours. Respawn wisely understood that games like it in the genre had issues and that they would be highlighted in the first few days of the release. They also understood that a community of loyal gamers were expecting a third installment to the Titanfall universe. So, while this game is not that third installment, it certainly builds upon the Titanfall universe as a whole and to the genre in general. It has now become the juggernaut that Fortnite and PUBG have become. So much so that the future of those games is often questioned, especially with PUBG’s inherent bugs and Fortnite’s openness, that same openness that allows players of all ages to partake in its combat.
What lies ahead?
With another player in the ring contenting for the most players, things will have to develop soon for PUBG and Fortnite if they ever hope to take on the success that Apex Legends brings to the genre. If Apex Legends continues its current trend, I believe it will have the ability to knock one or both big names down the ladder in the near future. Who knows we may yet be on the cusp of another release that blows all three out of the water, but for the time being we have these games to occupy our time.