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A Week in the Canyon: 10 Takeaways from ‘Apex Legends’ Season 2

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Apex Legends Season 2

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:

Apex Legends Season 2

Hello, Alternator…

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.

Apex Legends Season 2

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.

Apex Legends Season 2

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.

Apex Legends Season 2

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.

A TV critic since the pre-Peak TV days of 2011, Randy is a critic and editor formerly of Sound on Sight, Processed Media, TVOvermind, Pop Optiq, and many, many others.

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PAX Online: ‘Unpacking’ and ‘Infernax’

Our PAX Online coverage continues with a game the calm and relaxing Unpacking and the not-so calm and relaxing Infernax.

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Unpacking and Infernax

Our PAX Online coverage continues with a game that takes a hated activity and somehow makes it relaxing and another game that will leave you clenching your buttocks.

Unpacking

Unpacking game

Platforms: PC
Release: 2021

As someone who is coming fresh off of moving just a little over a month ago, you couldn’t have blamed me for being a little skeptical going into what was dubbed a “zen puzzle” game based on the final stretch of the process. Unpacking is just that, though. It’s a calming, almost therapeutic exercise that happened to serve as a wonderful way for me to unwind at the end of a day.

Unpacking is exactly what it says on the tin. There are no scores, no timers, no leaderboards, just you, and a few boxes with various items in them that need to be placed somewhere. The demo starts with a single bedroom in 1997. There’s nothing in the game that tells you where something should go, only your own taste and intuition; a locked diary would probably go in a desk-drawer while a soccer trophy would probably be displayed on a shelf.

As I slowly unearthed items one-by-one, I gradually got a feel for what the room’s new inhabitant was most likely like. The endless supply of stuffed animals implied someone of younger age while the numerous art supplies indicated someone inclined to right brain thinking. It’s rather engaging to learn about this person’s life purely by their belongings.

Every item taken out was like a delightful surprise and would sometimes even make me feel a little sentimental such as when I took out a small device that was clearly a Tamagotchi. More importantly, Unpacking nails that sinking feeling of when you feel like you’ve used all your available space but still have boxes left. Reaching the point of just throwing stuff wherever it fits is such an immediately relatable feeling that I was almost offended. And that was only for a single bedroom!

Unpacking game

The demo’s second stage was a little more involved with a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen in the year of 2004. The hilarious moments of finding a boot in your kitchenware box or a bra with your toiletries also felt like a call-out to my own hodge-podge packing methods. It’s something I can’t help but let out an exasperated chuckle at.

It was also neat to see how this person has grown since their earlier abode. Much fewer stuffed animals but more art supplies and a brand new computer imply this character is maybe entering the working adult world. I’ve never actually seen this character, but I can’t help but feel a connection to them already, and that was only after two moves. The full game will have eight total moves to follow them through and I am genuinely curious to see how our nameless and faceless protagonist grows throughout them.

Now if only unpacking in real life could be this soothing.

Infernax

Infernax

Platforms: PC
Release: TBA

Some players may recognize Berzerk Studio for their excellent 2018 bullet-hell, rhythm game Just Shapes & Beats. Coming hot of the heels of that hit they immediately pivoted in the new direction with Infernax, a delightfully edgy 8-bit adventure platformer that takes cues from old-school Castlevania titles.

Our hero returns to his land after a successful crusade only to find it overrun by horrible monstrosities in every which direction. With nothing but mace in hand, he sets out on a quest anew to rid the land of the undead filth. Immediately apparent upon starting is just how tightly the game controls; anyone fond of earlier NES titles will feel right at home with Infernax. I quickly got a handle on my exact attack reach down to the pixel and began mowing down the zombies in front of me. It emphasized how much joy a game is possible of eliciting from simply a jump and attack button.

Getting to that proficiency is important too because the game doesn’t waste any time in taking off the training wheels! Even the base enemies shaved off half my HP if I got careless and that difficulty ramped up at a rapid rate as new enemy types were introduced at a decent clip such as flying evil eyes and jumping rodents. Not only do these foes burst into tasty experience points and gold to be spent on upgrades, but also into extremely satisfying fountains of blood.

Infernax isn’t particularly shy about turning up the gore factor, but it’s still impressive by just how creative they get with it using simple pixel art. Nowhere is this more apparent than when you are killed. Every single enemy type has a unique kill animation when they deal the final blow to our hero. From the chump ass pillbugs to the big bad bosses, all of them mutilate you in a different way and it’s honestly morbidly mesmerizing to witness. It made me want to suicide against every enemy I came across just so I could see what creative way they took my life.

Infernax

Depending on your playstyle you might not want to do this, though, as Infernax features two different ways to respawn when you die. Hardcore respawn sends you all the way back to your last save point, just like in those classic NES titles. Casual respawn lets you restart right where you left off with no loss in progress, but choosing to do so locks you out from Hardcore the rest of the game. It’s a sort of mark of shame that I was glad to wear during the demo after I came up against the final boss and promptly got my ass handed to me. It sounds a little cheeky on paper but is actually very consistent with the game’s overtly edgy tone.

Infernax feels like a game that was lost to time during the NES era and is just now being rediscovered. Those looking for for a game that harkens back to the simplicity of the olden days need not look any further.

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Indie Games Spotlight – Going Full Circle

We’re featuring five exciting indie games in our latest spotlight, including the internship roguelike Going Under and the cozy puzzles of Lonesome Village.

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Journey of the Broken Circle

Indie Games Spotlight is Goomba Stomp’s biweekly column where we highlight some of the most exciting new and upcoming independent games. Summer may have come to a close, but that hasn’t stopped big announcements from rolling in. With events like PAX Online and the recent PlayStation 5 Showcase flooding the web with announcements, trailers, and gameplay footage, there’s been a constant deluge of news to keep up with. With so much coming on the horizon, we’re spotlighting five exciting indies that you’ll be able to play sooner rather than later. Whether you’re in the mood for a brutally addictive action game or a cozy adventure and social sim, there’s bound to be a game that speaks to you in this spotlight.

Moving Up Professionally in Going Under

Work is its own payment in Going Under. In this action game from developer Aggro Crab, you’re put in the shoes of an unpaid intern who must explore the endless ruins of failed tech startups while fighting off the monsters that spawn within them. It’s hard work to do without a single paycheck—but hey, at least you’re gaining valuable experience!

As a former unpaid intern myself, the writing in Going Under certainly resonates with me and it’s sure to strike a chord with anyone who’s ever felt underappreciated or overworked. Its vibrant and colorful 3D graphics, as well as its satirical story, only make it all the more enticing. It really should offer a great working experience when it hits all consoles and PC via Steam on September 24.

Animated GIF

Fill in the Gaps in Journey of the Broken Circle

Something’s missing in Journey of the Broken Circle. Like its name would suggest, this puzzle platformer follows a Pacman-like circle with a hole to fill. It wanders through a world that is whimsical and existential at once, searching for a companion to fill its gaps. As the circle rolls through ethereal environments, it encounters different shapes to use that allow for new gameplay mechanics.

Journey of the Broken Circle might be about an abstract shape, but in its quest to become whole, it strives to capture the human experience. It promises to be an intimate experience that clocks in at about five hours to complete. If you’re interested in getting this ball rolling, it’s already available now on Switch and Steam.

Prepare to Get GORSD

There’s a delicate balance between unsettling the player without being outright scary. GORSD treads the line here as a one-hit-kill shooter that stars humans encased in the skins of octopuses, dragons with human faces, and nightmarish environments. Something feels off about GORSD, but that’s exactly what makes it so interesting.

Brought to life with detailed pixel art, GORSD supports up to four players who can face off in chaotic matches in varied arenas. It also features a full-fledged single-player campaign with a vast overworld with dozens of unique stages. Its concept is inspired by its developers’ native Southeast Asian cultures, making for a unique gameplay and aesthetic experience. If you’re ready to dive in and see it for yourself, it’s available now on all consoles and PC via Steam.

Get Ready For a Foregone Conclusion

Saying Foregone is a 2D Dark Souls would be cliché, but accurate nonetheless. It’s a hardcore action game where you’ll fight against insurmountable odds to prevent monsters from overrunning the world. It has a brutally addictive gameplay loop—its difficulty may be excruciating, but because it offers a wide assortment of abilities to leverage, it’s immensely euphoric once you overcome the challenges before you.

This beautiful 3D/pixelated hybrid action game has been available on PC in early access since February, but at long last, it’s seeing its full console release in October. It’s been a promising title ever since its pre-release days, and now that it’s finally seeing its complete iteration, there’s never been a better time to dive in and give it a shot. It’s hitting all platforms on October 5, so there’s not long to wait!

Finding Good Company in a Lonesome Village

Mix Zelda with Animal Crossing and you might get something like Lonesome Village. This newly-revealed puzzle adventure game features Zelda-like adventure in a hand-drawn world populated by animal characters. Players control a wandering coyote who stumbles upon a strange village and decides to investigate its mysterious happenings by interacting with villagers, solving puzzles, and exploring its dungeons.

It’s more than a simple adventure game. In addition to puzzle-solving, you’ll interact with Lonesome Village’s eclectic cast of characters to forge relationships and unravel brooding mysteries. It’s showing plenty of potential with its cozy gameplay loop, and if you want to give it a shot, check out its official demo from its Kickstarter page! It’s already been fully funded in less than 24 hours, but if you want to help the developers out even further, consider contributing to their campaign.

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PAX Online: ‘Inkulinati’ and ‘Pumpkin Jack’

The PAX Online celebrations continue with the strategy game, Inkulinati, and spooky Halloween themed Pumpkin Jack.

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Inkulinati and Pumpkin Jack

The PAX Online celebrations continue with a strategy game whose tales are writ in ink and a game sure to put you in an early Halloween mood.

Inkulinati

Inkulinati

Platforms: Switch and Steam
Release: 2021

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Competitive strategy games stress me out. Chess? Stresses me out. Checkers? Stresses me out. Star Craft? Stresses me out. Managing that stress as a form of stimulation is what makes the best strategy games shine, though, and Inkulinati is so far demonstrating all the facets of such a game.

The titular Inkulinati are masters of a craft that brings their inked creatures to life on parchment, including a caricature of themselves. The two Inkulinati do written battle with each other until only one is left standing. The battles are carried out in a charming medieval art style that looks like it was taken straight out of a manuscript you’d find carefully stored in a library. These aren’t the masterpieces of Da Vinci or Van Gogh, but the kinds of scribbles you’d find the layman making on the edges of pages either out of boredom or mischievousness. The playful art makes for a playful tone and jolly times.

The core thrust of the gameplay is that each Inkulinati utilizes ink points to conjure units, or “creatures”, onto the parchment in a turn-based manner and sends them into the fray. There were a fair amount of creatures available in the demo — ranging from a simple swordsdog with well-rounded stats to a donkey capable of stunning foes with its trusty butt trumpet. Many many more creature types are promised in the full game, but I found even with the limited selection of the demo the gameplay was still able to be showcased well.

Your primary Inkulinati also has some tricks up its depending on the type you’ve chosen to take into battle. Instant damage to or healing a unit were the two shown off in the demo, as well as being able to shove units. Shoving is particularly useful as you can push enemies into the hellfires that encroach the battlefield as the battle wages on, instantly defeating them.

Doing battle with an opponent it all well and good, but what’s the point if it’s not immortalized for generations to experience down the line? Inkulimati understands this need and will record every single action of the battlefield in written word. It’s infinitely charming, and the amount of variations in how to say what amounts to just “X unit attacked Y enemy” is astonishing. How can you not chuckle at, “Powerful Morpheus killed the enemy and may those who failed to witness this live in constant pain and regret”?

Pumpkin Jack

Pumpkin Jack

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Steam
Release: Q4 2020

Halloween may be a little over a month away but that didn’t stop the 3D action platformer Pumpkin Jack getting me in the spookyween mood. The human realm is suffering from the Devil’s curse and have elected the aid of a wizarding champion to save them from it. Not to be outdone, the Devil also chooses his own champion to stop the wizard, choosing the despicable spirit Jack. With the tasty reward of being able to pass on from hell, Jack dons his pumpkin head and a wooden & straw body on his quest to keep the world ruined. The premise sounds slightly grim but make no mistake that this is a goofy game through and through, a fact only emphasized by a brilliant opening narration dripping with sarcasm and morbid glee.

The demo took us through Pumpkin Jack‘s first stage, a dilapidated farmland full of ambient lanterns abandoned storehouses. The visuals are compliments by a wonderfully corny soundtrack full of all the tubas, xylophones, and ghost whistles one would expect a title that is eternally in the Halloween mood.

We got the basics of traversal, like dodge rolling and double jumps, before coming upon a terrified murder of crows. Turns out their favorite field has been occupied by a dastardly living scarecrow and they want Jack to take care of it. One crow joins Jack on his quest, taking the form of a projectile attack that he can sic on enemies. Jack also obtains a shovel he can use to whack on the animated skeletons with a simple three-hit combo. There’s nothing particularly standout about the combat, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be this early on. More weapons such as a rifle and scythe are promised in the full game and should go a way towards developing the combat along with more enemy variety.

Pumpkin Jack

Collectible crow skulls also dot the map and seem to be cleverly hidden as even when I felt like I was carefully searching the whole stage I had only found 12 out of 20 by the end. Their purpose is unknown in the demo, so here’s hopping they amount to something making me want to find those last eight in the full version.

After accidentally lighting a barn ablaze and escaping in a dramatic sequence we came across the scarecrow in question. Defeating it was a rather simple affair that was just a matter of shooting it out of the air with the crow then wailing on it with Jack’s shovel. We were awarded a new glaive-type weapon as a reward but unable to give it a whirl in the demo, unfortunately. All-in-all, Pumpkin Jack shows promise as a follow-up to action 3D platformers of yore like Jak & Daxter, so here’s hoping to a solid haunting when it releases later this year.

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