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Apex Legends is reinventing itself again for its 5th anniversary

A Legend Upgrade ability is used in Apex Legends.

It’s rare for a game to get active support for half a decade. For any game to live that long, reinvention is a necessity. Apex Legends has always understood that. The developers at Respawn are again shaking the shooter up for its fifth anniversary, which will kick off its twentieth season, Apex Legends: Breakout, next month. I got an early hands-off look at the impending updates to Apex Legends, and they all seem like smart ways to reinvigorate the live service titan and make it feel new again in 2024.

Don’t worry, Apex Legends is staying a battle royale. It isn’t trying to replicate the metaverse platform approach of Fortnite. Instead, it’s making some tweaks to core gameplay systems to freshen things up. The most notable of these changes is the addition of a brand new Legend Upgrades system, which allows players to level up and select ability upgrades as they progress through four EVO Shield Tiers over the course of a match. For example, they can choose between giving Gibraltar’s Dome of Protection ability a shorter cooldown and small size or increasing the time it’s active by several seconds.

Legend upgrades in Apex Legends.

Players earn EVO throughout a match through not just combat but also exploring, finding EVO caches, and using support abilities, so this system won’t just reward the most aggressive players. Essentially, there are now more forms of in-match progression that keep players consistently engrossed and make each experience feel a bit different. Legend Game Designer John Larson emphasized that game balance was kept in mind with these changes and that any new versions of abilities that work quite differently than before will have significant tells in-game.

“It was something that was definitely at the forefront of our minds when we were thinking about what the scope of upgrades could be,” Larson told Digital Trends in a group Q&A. “At its core, we do not want players thinking wildly differently when they see any given Legend on the field. You should be able to understand what abilities could be in play when you see the same Legends. If there is a shift in that, something that perhaps changes the counterplay or interaction, we’re going to give tells. There’s adequate tells on the ability, in visual effects or sound effects, to communicate that this is kind of the same but slightly different because we understand, especially for newer players, we didn’t want to bloat the things you have to keep in the count when you’re playing.”

Respawn Entertainment is also changing how armor is obtained in Apex Legends. Body armor is not lootable anymore. Now, it’s connected to a Shield Core item that players carry. It gets better with each Legend Upgrade. If you kill a player with a higher Shield Core level than you and pick it up, you can temporarily overcharge your armor and get some extra shield. Crafting has also seen an overhaul, as Replicators are now faster and free to use but can only be used once per match.

A reworked replicator in Apex Legends.

Those aren’t all the updates that are coming, though. Respawn Entertainment is making it easier to unlock certain Legends permanently by completing a series of Breakout Rewards challenges for them before the season ends. Fuse, Loba, Mad Maggie, Rampart, Seer, and Valkyrie will be the obtainable Legends this season.

A new Mixtape map called Thunderdome is being added, and a 5th Anniversary Collection Event will temporarily introduce a Straight Shot limited-time mode, at 1.5x boost to XP gain, and 24 new cosmetic items. Ranked play is also seeing some significant changes, as players can now access it from Level 20, and LP (Ladder Points) will be replaced with RP (Ranked Points). Players earn RP by playing, getting bonuses for beating higher-ranked squads, getting lots of kills, and placing high in a match.

Matchmaking will also now be based around RP rather than a hidden MMR metric; to accommodate for that, every player’s ranked progress is being reset to  1RP with Breakout, and Provisional matches will be disabled for this season.

Apex Legends will still be recognizable after all of these updates, but these changes to Ranked and armor systems, as well as the addition of Legend Upgrades, look like they’ll do wonders at making this five-year-old battle royale feel fresh.

Apex Legends: Breakout begins on February 12. The PS5 and Xbox Series X versions of the game will also receive 120hz graphics mode on that day.

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Tomas Franzese
Gaming Staff Writer
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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