Apex Legends is a squad-based, battle-royale, freemium, first-person-shooter video game that has taken the console and PC world by storm.
It's not quite as big as Fortnite, but the spiritual successor is well on its way. After hitting 50 million players in March, Apex has carved out its niche and is ready for a resurgence as its player base anticipates the game's first widescale updates.
And if you ever played Fortnite and thought, "This is kind of cool, but the whole chopping down trees and building towers with the wood is a load of hooey," chances are you're going to enjoy Apex Legends.
If you want to give this new-ish game a whirl—or if you're just trying to figure out what the heck your kids are addicted to now—consider this your "For Beginners, By Beginners" guide.
I occasionally play video games, but I'm not what you might call a gamer. Up until four days before writing this guide, I didn't know a single thing about Apex Legends. So unlike the so-called beginners guides out there which are clearly written by people who spend like 80 hours per week playing video games, I won't make you feel like too much of a n00b. (Is that still a term the kids are using these days?) Rather, these are just some tips and things I really wish I would have known before I started playing.
First things first: Apex Legends is free to download, there are a ton of things you can buy via "microtransactions," but you aren't missing out on anything important if you choose to not spend a dime. There are a few characters you could unlock right away by spending money, but you can eventually unlock them for free just by playing and accruing "Legend Tokens."
Speaking of Legends, that's one of the biggest draws to this game. Each Legend has three unique abilities: a passive, a tactical and an ultimate. For example, Pathfinder's passive ability is scanning beacons, his tactical ability is a grappling hook and his ultimate ability is a zip line. Those words might not mean much of anything to you right now, but he's the only character who can do those three things. This effectively brings an Overwatch- or MOBA-like level of teamwork and character nuance to the battle royale genre.
More on the Legends later, but here is the first major tip...
Tip No. 1: Practice, practice, practice.
When I wrote a similar article about Fortnite last year, one of my biggest grievances with the game was the lack of a tutorial or practice mode. You just had to drop in, chop down some trees and hope for the best.
With Apex Legends, however, training is an available (and important) option for us newbies.
At the very least, you'll want to run through the training mode once to get a feel for the button layout. It can be completed in under five minutes, which is a minor sacrifice to reduce the risk of accidentally reloading when you're trying to melee, or crouching when you're trying to sprint.
But the real value in training is getting a feel for each of the weapons in the game.
For the time being, there are 20 unique guns. They come in six classes (pistol, submachine gun, assault rifle, light machine gun, shotgun and sniper) with varying fire rates (semi-automatic, full automatic, three-round or five-round burst, bolt-action and lever) and ammunition rounds (light, energy, heavy and shotgun). All 20 guns are right there for the shooting in training mode. It is strongly advised that you introduce yourself to each one, and its unique recoil and idle sway, in this format to figure out which you like and don't like.
Two of them—the Mastiff shotgun and Kraber sniper—are powerful but extremely rare. They only appear in supply drops, and I have yet to find one after playing at least 50 games. The other 18 can be found all over Kings Canyon, though, so you'll want to have at least a basic understanding of each.
Tip No. 2: Until your inventory is full, grab everything.
You drop in with no weapons, no ammo, no health kits, no shield, no nothing except your fists. And considering each punch or kick only does 30 damage (you start with 100 health), you would need to land four melee attacks to knock down an opponent. Good luck trying to accomplish that before an entire squad shoots you in the face.
Thus, for the first minute or so of each game, beggars can't be choosers.
Even if the first gun you encounter is one of the worst in the game—Mozambique here!—it's much better to have a bad weapon than no weapon. (This is also why it's crucial to have toyed around with each gun in training.) You'll also want to grab whatever ammo you stumble upon in case you decide to swap guns at some point.
Guns, and the projectiles to shoot from them, are just the tip of the iceberg, though. You also want to grab a helmet and a body shield for extra protection, shield cells and batteries to recharge your shield as needed, syringes and med kits to nurse your wounds, a backpack (to increase your inventory space), grenades (whether they be arc stars or frag and even thermite grenades), knock-down shields, ultimate accelerants and the all-important weapon attachments. (More on those shortly.)
Basically, unless you know you landed in a safe area away from other squads, you're going to want to start the round out by running around smashing the interact button, just to make sure you have something to protect yourself.
Tip No. 3: Your gun is only as good as its attachments.
There are five types of attachments for guns: barrel stabilizers, extended mags, stocks, optic sights, shotgun bolts and "hop-ups."
Barrel stabilizers reduce recoil, which is quite the perk for automatic weapons. Extended mags increase the number of bullets per magazine, a major benefit for heavy guns especially. Stocks improve your handling (speed at which you swap to or away from a gun) and reduce your gun's idle sway (particularly useful for snipers). Optic sights can help your aim by providing holographic red dots and/or the capacity to zoom in. Bolts, meanwhile, increase the fire rate for shotguns.
Then there's the hop-ups, which there are four of: Skullpiercer (increased damage for headshots), Selectfire Receiver (switch between single/burst/automatic fire modes), Precision Choke (charged shot reduces spread) and Turbocharger (speeds up the "warm-up" period for energy weapons' rate of fire).
Not every gun is compatible with all six types of attachment, and each hop-up only applies to one or two guns. In fact, the Longbow (sniper) is the only one that can accommodate all five non-shotgun attachment types. You can tell what fits on your gun by looking at the slots in the bottom left corner of the weapon bar in the bottom right corner of your screen. If that's too small to see, the same information is available (and enlarged) if you open your inventory screen.
With the exception of the rare "fully-kitted" gold weapons, guns are found with no attachments. You have to find them in the same way you would find anything else. Fortunately, you don't have to manually equip the attachments, though. If you pick one up that is eligible to be attached to one of your two weapons, it will do so automatically. Conversely, if you drop your weapon and either don't have room in your backpack to store the attachments or cannot attach them to your new weapon, the attachments will also drop to the ground.
To the seasoned gamer, the attachments are second nature. Several games have used this type of weapon enhancement system for years. But I'm no seasoned gamer, and after about 25 games of having no clue which attachments did what for which guns, I made a spreadsheet to help keep it all straight. Yeah, a spreadsheet for a video game is next-level nerdy, but it helped reduce the learning curve by a lot.
Tip No. 4: Communication is imperative.
If you don't work together with your squad, you won't last long Maybe you can get away with some lone-wolf tactics once you're an expert, but not until you're good enough to take down three enemies at once. And if you're reading this guide, you are nowhere near that point.
Now, the good news is that there is a state-of-the-art ping system for those who either don't have a headset or don't like to use it.
In other words, you don't need to actually talk with your teammates in order to communicate with them.
You can point at a location on the map and hit the ping button to suggest your squad's next move.
Found an enemy—or perhaps an entire squad of foes? Great job! Double-tap the ping button to let your squad mates know their location.
You can also hit the ping button while looking at an item to let your squad mates know where it is. For example, if you already have a max (purple) body shield and you find another one, give it a ping.
On the listening side of communication, you can ping your teammate's ping to let them know that you received the message. It's not a necessary response to an enemy/enemies notification, but if you want the body shield that someone else found, ping it to call "Dibs." Not only does calling dibs let your teammates know that you want it, but it also keeps it on your screen so you can find it. (Pings fade away after a few seconds otherwise.)
There's a lot more that you can do with the ping system, too. If you hold the ping button, a menu wheel will pop up, including options such as "looting this area," "someone's been here" and a few others. You can also open your inventory and ping something you need—health, ammo or weapon attachments, usually—in hopes that one of your teammates has something to spare.
For those more "advanced" pings, you're better off just having a microphone and saying what you see or what you need. But the quick pings are clutch even if you're in a party with two talkative friends.
Bonus Tip: If someone in your squad is Lifeline, ping Ultimate Accelerants for her. Her ultimate (care package) takes the longest to regenerate, but is arguably the most helpful to the entire squad. Find a few accelerants in the first two minutes of the game and you'll be getting a care package before anyone else. The fairly randomized loot it provides could mean a huge advantage.
Tip No. 5: Familiarize yourself with the colors.
White/gray items are common, blue items are rare, purple items are epic and gold/yellow items are legendary. Commit that hierarchy to memory, and always be on the lookout for epic and legendary items.
The likelihood of encountering items of each color depends on a variety of circumstances.
If you're in the hot zone—the area of the map with a blue circle around it at the beginning of the game—you're much more likely to find high-level loot. You're also much more likely to get slaughtered five seconds after you land, since everyone else wants that loot, too. It's a major risk/reward situation, but if you can survive the initial chaos, you should be in good shape for the rest of the game.
There's also a high probability of finding epic and legendary items in care packages and supply drops. But, again, it's a risk/reward proposition, as enemies can also see supply drops on their radar and are liable to see care packages during their descent to the ground. While both emanate a blue light upward until they are opened, you can tell whether it's a care package or a supply drop because the latter will have blue rings marking where it will land on your radar. If you go for those pods, don't loiter—especially with supply drops, which are much more likely to have legendary items.
But for the majority of loot that you find, either on the ground or in supply bins, it seems like (my rough estimates) 75 percent is common, 20 percent is rare, 4.9 percent is epic and, every once in a blue moon (0.1 percent), you'll find something legendary.
Tip No. 6: Death boxes often have the best loot.
What are "death boxes" you ask? Basically, when a player dies, his or her entire inventory turns into a large coffin, and other players can take the items that the player was carrying.
A death box will glow the color of the best item inside it. This means a white/gray box is most likely a waste of time, but a purple or gold box might be worth risking life and limb to loot.
Within the first two minutes, most death boxes are worthless. But once the game gets down to the final 10 squads or so, pretty much everyone has epic shields, helmets and attachments. If you're looking for good stuff, you're more likely to find it among the recently deceased.
As with the care packages and supply drops, though, stay frosty. It's one thing to take your time if your squad got the kill and you know the area is (relatively) clear. But if you stumble upon a purple or gold death box while running around, there might be a stick attached to that carrot. And by stick, I mean a sniper with deadly aim.
Tip No. 7: Find a Legend that fits your style, but have a Plan B and a Plan C, just in case.
As previously discussed, one of the coolest features of Apex Legends is the abilities that are unique to each character. Only Bangalore is able to throw smoke grenades. Only Lifeline can call in care packages. Only Gibraltar can throw down a dome shield. And so on and so forth.
But one of the most frustrating things about Apex Legends is that a character can only be used once within each squad, and the order of selection is randomized for each game.
If you're in a squad with two friends and you're all sticking with the same Legend for the day, no big deal. But if you're by yourself and jumping into random squads, you might get paired up with two other players who like the same Legend as you, and you might be the third player to pick.
I learned this one the hard way. I was third to pick in a group where all three of us wanted Lifeline. After the first guy picked, I decided I would take Bangalore. And when the second guy chose her, I panicked, picked someone I had never used before and died in a hurry.
As much as you can help it, though, it's a good idea to stick with one Legend for an entire session of gaming. That way, you're comfortable with the three unique abilities and not constantly needing to remind yourself what your character does.
And I recommend either Lifeline or Bangalore as your introductory Legend. Some of the unique abilities—like Wraith's "Move in the Void" or Bloodhound's "Ultimate Hunter Mode"—might be too advanced when you're first starting out.
Tip No. 8: It's not over until it's over.
If you're the only remaining member of your squad standing and you lose a firefight, game over. Back to the menu screen.
But as long as you still have a teammate alive, you don't instantly die.
First, you get "knocked" and begin bleeding out. You can no longer fire your weapon, but you can still crawl, ping and open doors. If you have a knockdown shield, you can also deploy that to make it that much more difficult for the enemy to finish you off.
If you can get to a teammate (or vice versa) before you die, either from bleeding out or from getting shot more, that teammate can revive you. If that happens, you'll be extremely low on health with no shield, but you'll still have all of your items. Provided you're able to heal up, it's a "No Harm, No Foul" situation. The only damage done is that the next time you get knocked, your bleed-out timer* will be even shorter.
*There's no timer on your screen, but it should be 90 seconds for the first knock, 60 seconds for the next and a continual drop from there.
If you are unable to get revived by a teammate, there's still a chance you can be respawned. After you die, if a teammate gets to your death box within 90 seconds, they can grab your banner and take it to one of the many respawn beacons on the map. After which, you get to return to action.
In this scenario, though, you drop back in with full but health but no items, and enemy teams may know where you are if they can locate the plane that drops you. Still, you've got a puncher's chance, especially if a teammate drops a good thing or two for you to grab immediately.
Tip No. 9: Beware the closing rings.
If you've played Fortnite, you are already all too familiar with this game feature. If not, here's a quick explanation.
At first, you'll have all of Kings Canyon to work with. But every few minutes, the safe area shrinks into smaller circles, forcing teams to encounter each other in battle. Most games don't last more than three or four rounds of shrinking. But the map can shrink up to eight times, at which point each round lasts less than 30 seconds and teams are basically standing on top of each other.
Your map/radar will tell you if you're within the next safe zone or which direction will bring you there. As long as you aren't negligent or pinned down, it's not that hard to stay inside the ring.
If you get caught outside the ring, though, you will incur health damage (it ignores your shield) until you get back inside. For the first round, it's just one damage point for every 1.5 seconds. At that rate, if you start with full health, you could stay outside the ring for almost 2.5 minutes before dying. It's not a big deal if you get stuck outside the ring early on.
By round three, it's five damage points every 1.5 seconds. For rounds 5-8, it is 10 damage points. At that point, a fully healthy person would die after just 15 seconds outside the ring.
Tip No. 10: Slide to the left, slide to the right.
Always move with purpose and speed. If you're not sprinting around the map, you're just wasting time that could be spent finding items and enemies.
This is true of the vast majority of battle royale games, but Apex Legends also has a sliding function.
If you're running down a hill, you should be sliding instead. It's faster. Even if you're running on flat ground, sliding in a bunny-hop fashion—sliding, popping up and sliding again on repeat—appears to move a little bit swifter than a plain sprint.
Moreover, sliding makes you a much smaller (read: harder) target for enemies to shoot. You can even heal, shoot, reload or whatever while sliding, so it doesn't put you at any sort of tactical disadvantage.
While we're on the subject of how to traverse the terrain of Kings Canyon, you can also climb walls to reach higher levels by running at them and holding the jump button. You'll have to get a feel for how high of a wall (or mountainside) you can actually climb with this technique, but it will quickly become an indispensable part of your movement arsenal. Also, as with sprinting—if you holster your weapon,
High ground is beneficial because a lot of people simply don't look up when scanning for enemies. Rather than running into a building to escape a firefight, you might be able to take the upper hand by climbing on top of said building.
And two more things: First, holstering your weapons lets you sprint faster and climb higher. Second, Ziplines and balloons (essentially a vertical zipline that you can go up before launching in any direction of your choice) are the fastest ways to cover ground—but also some of the "best" ways to let opponents know where you are.
Tip No. 11: The wave-drop method
When the game first begins, getting to the ground as quickly as possible can be the difference between life and death. Even if you're just a split-second behind an enemy, that's a weapon someone is finding before you.
Each squad is designated one "Jumpmaster" (typically the third player to select their character) who controls the team's initial descent. Fortunately, you can relinquish the role if you think a teammate might be more familiar with the map and more comfortable with free-falling to the ground. That's why we're making this the bonus 11th tip, since it's not something you need to know in order to succeed at the game.
If you want to learn, though, the general idea is that you'll reach your destination faster if you weave through the air like a majestic dolphin.
When you jump, you'll see a meter on the left side of the screen that shows your speed and glide. Initially, you want to nosedive until that speedometer hits 145. Then you want to pull back and glide until it drops to around 130-135. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Ideally, you jump when you're around 700 meters from your intended destination. (Ping it before jumping so it tells you the distance.) If you follow that wave-drop method to perfection, you should be the first one to hit the ground in that location.
Now, you're ready to download the game and dive in with both feet.
Just make sure you're sliding and grabbing everything you can once you land.
Kerry Miller is a multisport writer for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.