Apex Legends had its first major event at X Games Minneapolis this past weekend as 20 of the game's top teams battled for medals in the Twin Cities. Team SoloMid emerged victorious with Team Reciprocity taking home silver and Sentinels taking the bronze. As the fledgling Apex Legends competitive scene continues to find its identity, there are lessons to be learned and success to build on coming out of battle royale's X Games weekend.
Here are a few key takeaways from the EXP Apex Legends Invitational.
The battle royale spectator experience remains difficult to master
It has been said many times, many ways, but I'll reiterate it again here: Battle royale games are difficult to spectate. Regardless of how good the spectator experience is, there will still be action happening off screen -- unless all screens are shown at once, which is a dizzying and overwhelming prospect -- at any given time due to the amount of people in the game. These difficulties were on full display at X Games, especially on Day 1, as observers attempted to figure out which teams and players to watch.
This was the first major Apex Legends event, and it generally had few hiccups outside minor audio issues at the start of Day 1 and awkward transitions. Alex "Goldenboy" Mendez and Daniel "ddk" Kapadia, the latter of whom casted the FACEIT Pro Series, did an admirable job keeping up with the action, and both Rachel "Seltzer" Quirico and Wade "Dreadnaught" Penfold were good on the desk.
That being said, there are a lot of small details that could be fixed for the next Apex Legends series, starting with cuts to a top-down view of Kings Canyon to show where the participating teams are on the map at a given time. This is one of the details I like most in OGN's coverage of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, another battle royale game, and also in the spectator experiences of both Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch among other games. While the map overview popped up a few times, mostly when players were looking at the collapsing ring themselves. Positioning is key in Apex Legends, and it would be beneficial to the viewer to see where teams are on the map at a given time, especially when the casters are referencing setups around key map points.
Another helpful, hopefully quick, user interface fix for the overlay in competitive tournaments would be a notification when an entire team is eliminated completely. With possible resurrections available in two forms in Apex Legends, sometimes there's a delay in discovering when a team is eliminated, but this would be another helpful improvement for spectators.
- ESPN Esports (@ESPN_Esports) August 4, 2019
Players seem to really love Apex Legends
This sounds like a no-brainer. After all, why would someone compete in a game they didn't love? Yet thinking on it further, esports, like any other profession, has plenty of people doing something they used to love and now mildly tolerate but are still exceptional at, or it might be something they actively dislike but won't pass up a chance to win a lot of money.
Apex Legends doesn't appear to be one of those games. The caveat is that the game itself hasn't been out for very long. It enjoyed a meteoric rise to popularity after dropping out from nowhere on Feb. 4, and then it stagnated for a while with minor events until recently.
The competitive scene is now beginning to take shape with the Apex Legends Preseason Invitational coming up in September, and pro players at the EXP Invitational certainly seemed to love the game itself a lot, even while having sometimes extensive experience in other games like Halo, Counter-Strike, Overwatch or Call of Duty. Either Apex Legends players are the best liars in the world, or they actually really love the game of Apex Legends with a refreshing enthusiasm that's difficult to come by once games have shifted to more regulated esports leagues and circuit tournaments.
- �������� �������� �� X Games Apex Legends then EVO (@Arda) August 3, 2019
It pays to be good at first-person shooter games
One of the more interesting stories prior to the tournament was that of Eric "Snip3down" Wrona who competed in the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen and won a gold medal for Halo. His team, formed specifically for this event, wasn't on the radar as a top contender at all, certainly not with the likes of T1, eventual gold medalists TSM, or even other teams considered potential title contenders like NRG Esports, Rogue or Alliance.
Yet Snip3down is now a two-time X Games medalist in two different esports: a feat that will be difficult for anyone to match, let alone surpass, unless it's Snip3down switching to a third FPS game and breaking his own record. Also, keep an eye out for his teammates at this event: Sebastian "Mimu" Vesala and Niko "ZeroNothing" Suominen, who each had their own highlight plays throughout the tournament.
Randomness felt minimal, and that's a good thing
As Apex Legends evolves both as a game and potentially as a competitive esport, more facets of how loot randomness (RNG) can affect a team's performance and standings will be revealed. RNG in battle royale games frequently feels cheap and can make victories feel unearned in competitive play. Although the standings were fairly fluid when it came to the middle of the pack in particular, few things about this weekend felt unearned by the teams that won.
As Sentinels player Jared "zombs" Gitlin joked onstage regarding his team's strategy, "Pray that we get loot." It's a somewhat legitimate statement, but nothing about the Sentinels' gameplay on Day 2 felt as if it came without merit. Sentinels might have had some fortunate loot or map drops, but their wins came from their own mechanical skill and setups. TSM and Team Reciprocity had completely different approaches to the game, and both teams were able to showcase that without any RNG elements overshadowing their skill. This, above all else, is possibly the best case for Apex Legends' future as an esport worth investing in.