Apex Legends: everything you need to know about the battle royale game
If your child plays Fortnite, chances are they have already heard of its new rival Apex Legends — the newest player on the battle royale stage. Although the game is for a slightly older audience, it’s great fun to play and could possibly be the new gaming craze of 2019. It has raised eyebrows after the popular YouTuber Ninja won the first official tournament — breaking the record for most views on Twitch. The developers, Respawn Entertainment, revealed that the game had gained 25 million players in its first week on the market — and then 50 million in the first month.
What is it and how does it work?
The game is set in Titanfall universe — somewhere that will be familiar to players from one of Respawn’s other game franchises. It’s free to play and because of that it depends on loot boxes and microtransactions to make money. The players are dropped from an airship in squads of three into Kings Canyon — the world of Apex Legends. There they have to scavenge resources and eliminate the other 19 squads to win.
Image: Respawn Entertainment
Players control their characters, unlike other battle royale games, in the first-person with a focus on strategy. You can choose to play as one of eight characters — each with its own unique skill set — which makes the gameplay more nuanced and exciting.
What do you need to be aware of?
Apex Legends has the cartoonish charm the genre is known for but the game is more serious in tone than its competitors. At first glance, it seems pretty similar to Fortnite (and in many ways it is) but unlike Fortnite, it has a PEGI 16 rating.
There’s a lot more emphasis on gunplay (rather than Fortnite’s building mechanic) and when a player is shot, a small cloud of blood surrounds them. Whilst not especially gory, you might want to view some gameplay on a site like Twitch or YouTube before deciding if you’re happy with your child playing it — especially if they are under 16.
The game is fast-paced and designed so that rounds are never more than 20-30 minutes — something that’s useful to know if you’re thinking about time limits for your child. If you allow them two hours gaming, for example, they’d be able to complete approximately four rounds. The trouble with the 20-30 minute format is that it is very tempting to do ‘just one more’. It’s designed to encourage bingeing so do keep that in mind if your child struggles to stop.
The final thing to keep an eye on is that it’s a free-to-play game that makes money from microtransactions — in other words, small payments for various in-game purchases. Players can buy so-called Apex Coins with real money which can be used to buy Apex Packs. These are loot boxes containing skins, weapon camos and banners players use to customise their in-game avatars. The developers have been criticised online for charging too much for items with some costing up to £8 each. Aside from the cost, Parent Zone is particularly concerned about the way loot boxes teach gambling behaviour and skins can be used to actually gamble on unregulated sites.
How can I keep my child safe?
Online gaming is generally a pretty safe, fun activity for your children to enjoy. But of course, there are risks including gaming with strangers (not in itself dangerous but with the potential to be so), in-game chat and financial risks. Apex Legends, like any other mass player, online game, carries these risks.
To play well, it requires good communication between players and in-game chat can create some truly memorable gaming moments. Your child will be able to hook up their headset and communicate with their teammates via voice chat to collaborate, strategise and enjoy being in a social online gaming space. But the real-time chat is never moderated and they can be exposed to some pretty foul language and bullying.
It’s not uncommon in online games to be teamed up with someone who is really competitive and perhaps takes the game more seriously. If your child is teamed up with a squad of aspiring Esport athletes, they can get bombarded with mean comments if they don’t perform as well as the rest of the team. Players can, of course, be muted at any time from the inventory screen but that can still leave your child with the uncomfortable feeling that they’re playing with people who are shouting about their game playing skills.
One way to avoid this is to disable voice chat when your child is playing — which can be done from the system settings of the console — and make use of the game’s ingenious ‘ping’ system instead. The ‘ping’ system is an alternate form of communication which involves the player giving commands through button-clicking. For example, players give commands like ‘go here’, ‘enemy over there’ or ‘pick up this ammo’ by pressing buttons on their controller. This great, yet simple innovation means that children can still communicate even if you decide to ban live chat.
To avoid the risks associated with playing with strangers, your child can set up a private squad from the game’s lobby. That way they’ll automatically team up in the game and will only be able to chat with each other.
Perhaps one of the most frustrating parts of the game from a parent’s point of view is that it promotes Apex Packs quite heavily — there is no question that the developers want your child to spend your money! It’s easy for them to be tempted into buying a new weapon camo or character skin — or simply click the wrong button and end up making an accidental purchase. Avoid saving your card on the system to avoid nasty surprises when your statement arrives. If your child plays Apex Legends on a console, you can adjust the parental control settings so that they can’t buy anything without your say-so.
What reporting tools are there?
If your child experiences something problematic whilst playing Apex Legends, it’s important that they know how to report the abuse and block the player responsible. The game’s publisher Electronic Arts (EA) has instructions on how to report harassment on its website.
On PlayStation 4 and Xbox One you have to go through the consoles’ own reporting mechanisms, while on PC you go through EA’s reporting portal. Make sure to note down the username of the abusive player and include screenshots if you can. The developers also take cheating very seriously and banned around 16,000 players for cheating in the first two weeks. If you want to report someone for cheating you can do that here.