2021 has been a big year for Apex Legends. It’s seen some phenomenal growth in terms of its player base and community, and it seems to be on track to continue that growth in the years to come. Although it’s faced some issues like the controversial “Save Titanfall” hacking campaign that took place earlier this year, many fans would agree that Apex has continued getting better and better to the point where, now, it’s as good as it’s ever been to play.
The list below highlights the absolute best changes that have come to Apex Legends over the past year. There are plenty of great things that have come to the game in 2021, but the ones below are just ten of the most outstanding.
More Verticality Options
Season 7 started in November 2020, but its introduction of the new Legend Horizon changed a lot for 2021. She was the first Legend to introduce true verticality with her tactical ability, the Gravity Lift, and much of what followed in 2021 utilized similar gameplay elements. After her introduction, players would need to add “above” to the list of potential places where they could be attacked from, and it seems like Respawn has no interest in making her the only Legend who can take advantage of the skies.
Season 9 added Valkyrie to the game’s roster, cementing the fact that shootouts were no longer going to be fought exclusively on the ground. Now, players have more choices than ever before in terms of what angle they want to take when it comes to fighting enemy squads, and it seems like it’s not out of the question for Respawn to add even more vertical-centric characters to Apex in 2022.
Introduction of the Marksman Class
Respawn has generally done a good job with its weapon classifications telling players exactly what they need to know about each firearm and what situations they’ll be useful in. Classifying weapons like the G7 Scout as an assault rifle, however, never felt right as it, along with weapons like the 30-30 Repeater and Triple Take, felt like outliers from the rest of the game’s arsenal as they all fit somewhere between sniper rifles and assault rifles. The introduction of the Bocek Bow with Season 9, however, brought with it a new weapon class to the game: the Marksman.
Marksman weapons finally gave a home to the rifles that felt in between several classes and also opened the door for other weapons to be added to the game in future seasons like the Bocek Bow which has its own unique quirks as it isn’t even a gun. Respawn has set itself up for exciting developments in future seasons with the Marksman class that, hopefully, it will continue to make good on in 2022.
Shotgun Balance Changes
All weapons in Apex Legends go through changes from season to season, but more than most, the game’s shotguns have seen some pretty major shakeups over 2021. Up until March, the Mastiff shotgun was one of the game’s absolute best weapons with the ability to completely wipe a squad if the right circumstances were present, but the patch that came alongside the Chaos Theory Collection Event on March 9 nerfed it to be much more in line with the rest of the balance of the game.
Many then saw the Peacekeeper become ground loot once more, breathing life into the debate of which shotgun is best. With the Mastiff nerf and the Peacekeeper buff, the shotguns feel much more balanced than they once were, but luckily one part of the shotgun meta remains unchanged: the Mozambique still wears the crown of the worst weapon in Apex (even if it is better).
A New Map and Plenty of Map Variation
One thing that sets Apex Legends apart from a lot of other battle royale shooters is the fact that it features plenty of maps that alternate every few hours. Respawn has made it clear in 2021 that new maps and changes to old ones are just as important to it as Legend additions and weapon changes. The studio introduced a new map, Storm Point, to the mix with Season 11, and plenty of changes to Kings Canyon, World’s Edge, and Olympus have come throughout the year.
Storm Point speaks for itself as it brings a lot of new, interesting mechanics to the table like the Gravity Cannons and the hostile monsters (more on that below,) while the changes to older maps do a lot to help keep the game fresh in the minds of the players. The pacing of the changes is consistent enough to let players really get to know one variant of a map before switching things up just enough to create new gameplay situations and introduce new battle tactics.
Hostile Monster Farming
One of the biggest changes to come to Apex this year is the addition of hostile monsters in Storm Point. Now, players need to keep an eye out for both opposing teams and the many different monsters that pose a threat to players. While changing Apex to a PvPvE-style game doesn’t seem like it would be the biggest change on the surface, it actually adds a lot of layers to the experience.
Seeking out monster lairs can net players high-tier loot if they’re able to clean them all out, but it’s also a risky move as fighting them all is loud and can take several minutes, leaving players open to attack from other squads. Storm Point feels like a turning point for the game and, hopefully, Respawn takes the PvPvE elements even further with upcoming seasons and updates.
Major Wattson Buffs
After she was introduced in 2019, Wattson quickly fell to the bottom of Apex‘s Legend tier lists as her abilities just weren’t offensive or defensive enough for her to be competitively viable when compared to other, better-equipped Legends. Wattson spent so long at the bottom that many fans wondered why she was even still included in the game if Respawn was going to continue neglecting her while other Legends were being introduced. However, all of that changed in November 2021 when Wattson got a major buff that’s fully realized her potential as a character.
It’s still a little too early to say how much the buff changed her competitive status, but the laundry list of changes to her and her abilities has caused plenty of fans to rethink their ideas of how powerful she actually is. Wattson’s big changes are hopefully emblematic of Respawn’s commitment to continuing its efforts to balance the game and make sure that no weapon or Legend is left behind in favor of newer additions.
Removing Low Profile
Low Profile was a controversial element of Apex Legends that was at the center of plenty of balance debates among fans. All small characters were given the status effect that increased the damage they received by 5% to make up for their smaller hitboxes when compared to the likes of bigger Legends such as Gibraltar and Caustic. Many fans felt as if Low Profile didn’t add much to the overall game and felt like the 5% increase made their favorite characters far too flimsy.
As the seasons went on, certain Legends were taken off the Low Profile list while others were added until the status effect was finally removed with the start of Season 9. Many fans cite it as one of the best changes to come to the game in all of 2021 as it helped the game’s balance in a major way.
The ever-encroaching wall of death is a staple of the battle royale genre, but very few games do anything to make the wall a mechanic that players can engage with, outside just avoiding and surviving it. Apex Legends introduced the Heat Shield in March to allow players to get tricky with their strategies when it comes to the wall. The Heat Shield is a versatile tool for strategizing as throwing one down can simply give players a moment of respite and healing if a squad is caught far outside of the wall, but it also allows players who were killed outside of the wall to be recovered when before they were completely out of luck. Players have also used the Heat Shield to allow their squad to pick off unsuspecting stragglers who are booking it to reenter the circle in order to steal loot while making it out alive.
Perhaps the biggest change to Apex Legends this year was the game’s introduction of a second game mode: Apex Arenas. Arenas changed up a lot about Apex by allowing players to hone their combat skills and better understand some of the mechanics present in the game. While the Metas surrounding both the battle royale and Arenas are similar, they certainly have their own distinctions making Arenas feel like a truly new version of Apex.
Since its launch, Arenas has received continued support through balance changes and new maps making for an experience that never feels secondary to the battle royale. This major change marks an important turning point for Apex Legends as it opens the door for limitless possibilities when it comes to other game modes that could be included in the future.
Respawn Entertainment made a name for itself with the release of Titanfall in 2014, but the series really broke through in terms of popularity when Titanfall 2 was released with a single-player campaign that surprised fans and critics alike with its deep narrative and excellent mechanics. The Titanfall series is one of modern gaming’s most beloved and, while it’s been long established that Apex Legends takes place within Titanfall‘s universe, 2021 really cemented that fact with its many events, plotlines, weapons, and characters that crossover between the two franchises.
Between Valkyrie’s modified Titan armor to Ash’s story of following the events of her assumed death in Titanfall 2, the connections between the two franchises have never been clearer. Now that Apex has continued its full-blown Titanfall content, it seems as if Respawn still has an interest in exploring the events of its previous titles with more content to come in 2022.
Apex Legends is available now for PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One. Mobile, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S versions are in development.
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