With the arrival of Wattson and the destruction of Repulsor Station on July 2nd, Apex Legends Season 2: Battle Charge kicked off with the single biggest content patch and competitive rebalance in the game’s young life. Thanks to the overwhelming amount of changes, tweaks, and adjustments, matches during the first week of Season 2 have felt completely different, a dynamic shift with more weapon variety, more balanced team compositions, and some fascinating changes to combat-heavy areas of the map.
Here are 10 takeaways from my first week in the new, Leviathan-occupied King’s Canyon:
Season 2 saw the introduction of the new Disrupter and Hammerpoint Round hop-ups, designed to make weak early-game guns — Mozambique, P2020, RE-45, and Alternator — more viable. Three of those guns were useless in season 1; quietly, the Alternator was one of the game’s most underrated early-game weapons, a competent SMG with a solid fire-rate and surprisingly good range. Enter the Disruptor Rounds hop-up (plus a 2-point damage buff), and the Alternator is now hands-down the most dominant weapon in the game, an absolute monster of shield-shredding badassery that sounds like an aggressive laser when used. Enjoy it while it lasts; Respawn’s already given it a slight nerf, so its time at the top is bound to be short.
… Adios, R-301
Perhaps the single biggest change to the gameplay loop of Apex Legends in season 2 is how little you hear the pointed rat-tat-tat of the R-301, easily the most popular assault rifle in the game’s first season. Though the gun’s stats haven’t changed in a meaningful way, just about every other gun in the game has been made more viable in one way or another, naturally reducing the need to hunt down the trusty light ammo-spewing rifle as often as you would during The Wild Hunt.
We Stan Wattson
Season 2 is all about the introduction of Natalie Paquette, designer of King Canyon’s “ring of death”, otherwise known as Wattson, maker of fences and bombardment-neutralizing devices. And what an introduction she’s been offered: from the game’s masterful cinematic introduction, to the beautiful character design and voice-over work, Wattson’s easily one of the game’s most enigmatic personalities. More importantly, she’s fun as hell to play: her electric fence-producing pylons can fundamentally shift terms of engagement, while her ultimate ability ensures that nobody can spam arc stars into your strategically fortified position.
Wattson’s a fun character to play on her own (the versatility of the pylons is particularly impressive), but the way her abilities coalesce with others is what gives her incredible potential. Got a team of campers? Trap them in with Wattson’s fences, then drop a Caustic bomb on them. Need a quick getaway? Drop Bangalore’s ultimate, throw up a fence in front of it, and run like hell, letting Natalie’s endearing French accent serenade you as you make a hasty escape.
Battle Pass 2.0: One Step Forward, One Step Back
Apex Legends’ first battle pass was roundly criticized for its lackluster content and slow progression: in season two, Respawn promised new, better ways to unlock content, including daily/weekly challenge, ranked mode rewards, and a vastly improved collection of premium pass rewards. They delivered wonderfully on all of these things – except they bungled up the pass progression in the process, undercutting the only consistent part of season one. Though some weekly challenges offer a full level of progression, the small rewards (3000 stars, which is exactly the same as XP) for daily challenges, combined with the increased XP/star requirement for each level (54,000 for each level), encourages an even harder grind to reach level 110 by the end of the season.
Over time, the XP bonuses unlocked in the pass itself might help alleviate this: but that doesn’t deny the first week was a strange, uneven experience. After reaching level 10 in the first 48 hours, I was only able to climb to level 13 by the end of the game’s first week. Thankfully, the rewards are, generally speaking, a lot better: though some of the gun skins are lacking, the game’s other plentiful piles of rewards (currency, crafting materials, character skins, etc.) are a vast improvement over The Wild Hunt’s offerings.
(note: it appears XP counter per level resets each week, and begins increasing from 18,000 with each level again after that. So confusing.)
Mirage’s Ultimate Rules
Though this change took place towards the tail end of season 1, it’s viability in the opening week of season 2 hasn’t changed at all: Mirage’s ultimate ability is amazing, and has become a personal favorite of mine to use. Early on, Mirage’s cloaking ability was thoroughly underutilized; his cloak maintained a shimmer of his outline, which made him easily visible – now, triggering his ultimate ability renders him completely invisible for its duration, giving him so many fun, engaging strategic options to employ. Wondering if a house is full of campers? Send a mirage through to scope out the scene, and nobody notices. Trying to reposition while getting third-partied? Trigger the cloak, run behind the enemies, then stack those knockdowns – whatever the use, Mirage’s ultimate has become one of the game’s best.
Don’t F*ck With the Ring
Remember in season one, when game’s map-shrinking Ring was but a tickle, a slight annoyance that could be completely circumvented in early rounds with a couple easy healing tricks? RIP to those days – Apex Legends’ infamous ring is now an orange-tinted harbinger of death, an absolute force of artificial nature to be reckoned with, even in its earliest forms. Traversing across the entire map while still in the Ring is no longer a viable option, unless one enjoys watching their own deaths roll across the death feed: hearing the alarm and the robotic incantation of “Ring closing” is no longer the joke it once it was – it is now a haunting aria of sorrow, an ominous reminder of promising games lost to the treacherous circle of death.
Ranked Mode Is Intriguing (and Insane)
Season 2 also introduces a Ranked mode to Apex Legends, a point-based system with six tiers to progress through. Early on, lower level ranked matches have imitated those in normal queue: there’s a lot of early scrambling, third-party action, and consistent repositioning of teams around the map. But once players reach higher levels (where simply playing a match costs a fixed amount of RP), Apex Legends Ranked mode transforms into a completely different type of game: wherein normal queue there might be 4-10 teams left by Round 3, most high-tier ranked matches have 12-15 remaining, condensing a huge amount number of players into a random, confined section of the map – which leads to absolute insanity in the game’s final ten minutes. Positioning, resource management, and situational awareness take on new life in this format – and though it can be frustrating to watch, it makes for some seriously thrilling endgames.
This leads to an entirely different strategic approach, one playing to advantageous angles and early positioning: with everyone waiting until the very last seconds of each round to make their plays, each match is full of tense downtime – a divisive change to the core gameplay loop of Apex Legends, and one I’m interested to see develop over the next month, as the focus shifts to team composition and balance, unlocking some of the unexplored synergistic possibilities in the game’s 10 playable characters.
Sniper Game (Still) Strong
The first few months of Apex Legends were disappointing for players looking to exercise their skills as long-distance snipers, with the strongest option arguably not even a sniper (the game’s earliest OP weapon, the Wingman revolver). After a series of buffs to the Triple Take, G7 Scout, and Longbow, however, sniping’s become an incredibly viable element of team strategy – sometimes to the point of frustration, considering the impressive all-around performance of all three weapons (especially the Longbow – the sound of one firing across the Canyon is enough to frighten anyone).
Throw in the care package-exclusive Kraber (which is now by far the single most powerful gun in the game, in terms of per-round damage), and season two’s remained an absolute playground for snipers – but thanks to the increased effectiveness of weapons across the board (and the aforementioned Ring changes), the poke-and-prod-from-distance tactics rampant at the end of season one aren’t dominating games anymore.
Welcome Back, Big Boys
Season 1 was tough for Gibraltar and Caustic fans: initially, the former’s hitbox size and the latter’s weak ability set were a hindrance for two of the game’s most dynamic personalities and their fans. A series of buffs between seasons culminated in a damage reduction for tanks, and specific ability buffs to Caustic’s gas traps at the beginning of Battle Charge, and made Apex Legends‘ big boys viable again. This has lead to more engaging, varied gunfights, thanks to the potential of Gibraltar’s bomb-dropping ultimate and the versatile properties of Caustic’s signature black-and-red poison bubbles. It also means if you hear cheering in the canyon, it’s probably the joyful cries of those who love throwin’ cover for their bruddahs, celebrating the return of the bulky brothers to prominence in the game’s meta.
The Destruction (and Resurrection) of Cascades
Long a meme in the Apex Legends community, the Cascades area of King’s Canyon was long considered one of the worst places to drop or fight in the game, a series of repetitive buildings with bad loot and worse sightlines, one of the easiest places to get blindsided by multiple teams during a match.
To rectify this problem, Cascades has been utterly destroyed by the hangry Leviathans, and replaced with new structures on both sides of the river cutting through it, transforming the area into a well-equipped, wide open field to battle in. It is a blast to watch other players get accidentally crushed by the big, lumbering vegetarians – it’s even more fun to have some combat variety in one of the map’s most underwhelming areas, a new playground of danger for players to fight to the death in.
Bonus: Code: Leaf Reigns Supreme
I saved this one for last, because it is the only disappointment in a season full of welcome improvements: since the launch of season two, consoles and PC alike have been plagued by connection issues, led by the now-infamous “Code:Leaf” error, which, at times, leads to 10-minute down times between matches as players quit/rejoin lobbies, reboot, re-invite squadmates, and pray to the Gods of the Canyon to grant access into the next match. With all the progress Respawn’s made on their net code in the first four months of the game, I assume this problem will be shored up soon – but for now, it is an absolute bummer.