Apex Legends: Breakout Hands-on Preview – Major Changes Incoming

In the bustling area known as Chatsworth, California, an unassuming building belies the passionate work taking place within. Respawn Entertainment has been busy laboring over Apex Legends’ 20th season, dubbed Apex Legends: Breakout, in celebration of their runaway hit battle royale hero shooter game that launched five years ago as of yesterday. We were invited to spend a couple of hours getting our hands on the many new features launching next week, and can finally share the details with you in our preview.

Introducing Legends Upgrades

First and foremost, Respawn has opted to not introduce a new Legend for Season 20. Instead, they have focused on large meta and quality-of-life updates. One of the most obvious changes is Legends Upgrades, which is billed as an in-match progression system. Most actions you perform earn you points, and when you earn enough your character levels up, at which point you can choose between two upgrades. Each character starts the match at their base level, as everyone starts fresh.

Upgrading is simple to understand, as you simply hold down on the d-pad if using a controller, or hold a key on the keyboard, and two choices are laid out in front of you. If you’re in the heat of battle, it’ll be easy to forget to upgrade, but a persistent notification near the top of the HUD reminds you when you have an available upgrade for when you have a second in between skirmishes. I’m sure the more competitive among us will get used to upgrading as they fight, because it might come in handy to essentially double your character’s ultimate move’s effectiveness now as opposed to after (and if) you survive your current firefight. This feels like an exciting change that many players will no doubt exploit to the fullest.

Armor: No Longer Lootable?!

Alongside these new upgrades is an update to armor. Body armor is no longer found as loot. Instead, each time your legend levels up, your armor reaches a higher tier. Armor is powered by shield cores, which downed players will drop in place of armor. If you manage to take out a player who had a higher-tier armor than what you currently have equipped, you’ll earn a temporary overcharge which will grant you extra shield HP that gradually decreases over time back to your tier’s maximum capacity. This feels like a more balanced approach to armor, where currently it can come down to a luck of the draw if you just happen to jump to an area that has higher tier armor, which might make some fights feel unfair.

A ranked reset is also coming with Season 20. Every player’s rank, now called RP, will be reset to 1RP and Provisional matches will be disabled. While starting from scratch may irritate a few players who spent a lot of time ranking up, there’s also a ton of fun to be had in starting fresh, and racing to Apex Legends’ highest rank, Apex Predator. The new RP system also incentivizes combat, with more rewards the more you engage with enemy squads. Ranked Splits will also make a reappearance, while Promotion Trials have been removed due to feedback from players. You can also enter ranked matches beginning at level 20, instead of 50 as it has been, meaning it’ll take you less time to get to the matches that matter.

Unlock Legends for Free

As a free-to-play battle royale, some of Apex Legends’ characters, called Legends, are locked behind various requirements, in a carrot-on-a-stick method to encourage continued, long-term play. For Season 20, Respawn will make a new Legend free-to-play for the remainder of the season. Confirmed to be unlocked via this method includes: Fuse, Seer, Rampart, Mad Maggie, Loba, and Valkyrie. Each of these Legends come with their own set of unique challenges. Complete those before Season 20 ends, and the Legend is permanently unlocked for your account! One final challenge for the hardcore fan requires you to complete all of those Legends challenges, achieve Battle Pass level 60, and the gifting of six unique freebies before the season ends. Your reward, besides bragging rights? A reactive Flatline weapon skin, a legendary skin for Wraith, matching cosmetics, and more. All that work almost sounds like having a second job, but is it really work if you’re having fun?

Other updates include a tweak to crafting: each station can only be used once, however crafting is free. There is also a new mixtape map: an upgraded Thunderdome. It includes a new crowd mechanic, which will cause the audience to occasionally cheer you or your teammates on as you perform various actions (but especially if you earn a knockdown or squad wipe). The audience will never heckle you, though, so no sweat if you’re just not feeling the current match. A new LTM (limited-time mode) called Straight Shot seeks to speed up the pace, with 10 squads who drop into predetermined POIs. All guns found in the battlefield come fully-loaded, too, so there’s no time spent in harvesting upgrades. Ring rounds are faster, there is no Jumpmaster, the map is smaller, and you can re-queue if you get eliminated early directly from the game over screen, without ever returning to the lobby. During the 5th anniversary event, you’ll also earn 1.5x XP towards your account level.

Gonna Be Busy This Season!

This is a lot of new stuff to take in, and indeed we were shown various aspects of this update over the span of two days. So, how did it feel? Admittedly, I was quite rusty going into the event, but the concepts are straightforward enough that I was able to fully level up my Legend by the time we reached the latter stages of most matches. As I’m nowhere near competitive level, I mostly supported my squad and tried to ambush opposing teams when I could. This strategy mostly paid off with several second-place finishes. While I may not have been winning, I was still having fun as I watched the slow drip-feed of unlockables heading my way the more I played. Straight Shot really kept that momentum going, as I headed from match to match even with a very limited pool of players (there were two dozen or so journalists, a couple of influencers, and an occasional dev team member to fill in the ranks).

While we couldn’t disclose everything coming up for the new Season, what has been publicly revealed so far is no doubt exciting for veteran players. The major changes to the shield system might alarm some, and there is little doubt tweaking will be needed with so many Legend upgrade combinations that are possible, but I’m sure Respawn is ready to go with patches, and any major issues should be snuffed out in a fairly short amount of time. After five years, Respawn Entertainment is still doing new, exciting things to their popular shooter, and with the latest season, it should appeal to veterans and new fans alike.