Respawn is changing up Apex Legends in a huge way by adding a brand new competitive mode – ‘Arenas’.
For the first time since the free-to-play BR [Battle Royale] launched in 2019, Apex is receiving a brand new permanent game mode. It’s intended to offer players an alternative mode of competitive play and will be supported alongside the BR mode moving forward.
Speaking about the Season 9 update, titled ‘Legacy’, Game Director on Apex Legends, Chad Grenier, had this to say: “Legacy is the culmination of two years of experimentation and innovation and is easily our biggest update so far.”
Grenier says that, although Apex Legends was launched as a Battle Royale title, the team’s goal was always to develop a game beyond just that. He says, “We’ve got this great cast of Legends, really tight gameplay and gunplay, and we want to offer that in more ways to compete.”
So, what is ‘Arenas’
‘Arenas’ is a 3v3 competitive mode that sees two squads fight to the death in a match consisting of several rounds. Complete with its own economic system, teams must ensure that they perform well to secure better gear than their opponents, thus improving their chances of getting the win.
At the start of each match, each player will select a Legend, as is the usual in a game of Apex BR. Once a player chooses a Legend, they’re locked into playing them for the entire match – there’s no switching between rounds.
Each round will begin with a buy phase, similar to other round based shooters like Counter-Strike or Valorant. In this phase, players can spend ‘material’ on character abilities, consumables, and weapons.
After the buy phase, the teams will be let out into the map to fight each other to the death. There’s no respawns in this mode – once you’re out, you’re out. That said, you can still revive teammates if they’re knocked down, just as you can in BR.
A circle will eventually enclose, pushing the squads together and forcing each round to an end. To win the match, teams must win at least three rounds with a two-win margin. If the score ends up 4-4, a Sudden Death round will be played to decide the ultimate winner – drawing isn’t an option. That means the lowest amount of rounds a match will last is three, with a maximum of nine.
Matches are intended to last for an average of about 15-minutes, which is shorter than some of the other round-based arena shooters out there. A ranked version of Arenas is scheduled to release in an update scheduled for later this year.
How does the economy work?
Each team will begin with the same amount of materials on round one. The amount of credits each player has to spend is dictated by their performance in the previous round. Teams can acquire additional materials by securing kills, winning rounds, or scavenging them from around the map.
Materials are used to purchase character abilities, consumables, weapons and their upgrades during the buy period. This is to ensure that all of the Legends are on a level playing field during the early rounds.
For example, if Bloodhound was able to use their cooldown scan ability several times in a round, they’d be incredibly overpowered. By tying character abilities into an economic system, it means that Respawn has less to worry about when trying to balance the Legends for both Arenas and BR simultaneously.
While ability purchases and consumables will persist between rounds, weapons and player equipment will not. That means that you’ll be required to purchase a new weapon at the start of each round. Again, this is a design choice made to favour the balancing of Arenas. Teams won’t end up being able to steamroll a win because they’ve managed to salvage the best weapons from the battlefield.
Even so, loot will be scattered across the maps, so purchasing a weapon might not be necessary – you could risk it and try to locate a weapon spawn before the enemy team finds you. Players aren’t forced to spend credits, so you can tactically save currency for later rounds if the situation requires.
What will the maps look like?
When Arenas launches on May 4th, there will be three maps available to play, two of which are custom-built for the Arenas mode. There’s ‘Party Crasher’ which appears to be set on Olympus and sees one of Mirage’s party barges crash into a plaza. The other is ‘Phase Runner’, which features another of the teleporting loops that we first encountered on Olympus.
A further three maps will also be available to play, but they’ll be pulled almost directly from areas currently available to visit in the Apex Legends BR maps. There’s ‘Artillery’ from Kings Canyon, ‘Thermal Station’ from World’s Edge, and ‘Golden Gardens’ from Olympus. These maps will be added into the rotation one after the other with two weeks separating them.
All of the maps will feature Supply Bins and Material Canisters scattered across them, so players are required to scavenge items as well as focus on the team fight at hand.
On top of that, a Supply Crate will drop halfway through every round, creating a new focal point for the team to fight over. The drop will always contain three weapons and corresponding ammunition. As the rounds progress, the weapons will be of a higher loot tier, making the loot much more lucrative and rounds more interesting. Going for the drop is intended to be a risk-reward system.
Though there will only be two custom-built maps at launch, the team is hard at work on developing more. These will be added to the game in future Season updates.
Does this mean that Battle Royale will be forgotten?
For those who remain an avid supporter of the BR mode, fear not – Grenier assures us that, although Arena will continue as a main-stay in Apex, BR “remains central to the Apex experience”. Respawn has no intention of abandoning the mode that marked Apex on the map in the first place.
Alongside the update that brings us Arenas, we’re also getting the new Legend, ‘Valkyrie’, and an entire new weapon class with the ‘Bowcek’ Combat Bow. Both will be available to use within Battle Royale as well as the Arenas.
While Arenas is intended to function alongside the BR mode, it’s unclear as to how this will affect the future balancing of Apex Legends. Certain Legend abilities could end up being overpowered in Arenas, but useless in BR. This issue is partially circumvented by the economy system, but I can still envision things getting messy when trying to keep balance consistent between the two game modes.
Either way, we’re excited to see what Arenas brings to the table for Apex. As the first new permanent mode since February 2019, I’m certainly thrilled to see Respawn experiment with what the world of Apex can offer.
Will you be jumping into the Arenas when Season 9 launches on May 4th? Let us know across our social channels.
[Featured Image Credit: Respawn Entertainment]
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