The Future of Battle Royale: ‘Apex Legends’ and ‘Tetris 99’

By Tanner Mondok

Battle royale games have been at the forefront of gaming since the launch of “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” in 2017 and ever since the free-to-play “Fortnite” essentially became the most popular video game in the world.

With those two games being the leaders of the genre for a while and then eventually the introduction of the battle royale blackout mode in “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4” in 2018, the genre has become incredibly popular.

After EA announced at E3 in 2018 that “Battlefield V” would be receiving a battle royale mode as well, the genre was starting to get stale and it was easy to speculate every game would have a battle royale mode, and no one would be trying to do something different with it.

When EA stealth launched “Apex Legends” on Feb. 4, the idea of another battle royale game seemed like a questionable idea, especially from EA with their track record of poor implementation of microtransactions.

Developed by Respawn Entertainment, the game is a free-to-play hero-based battle royale set in the “Titanfall” universe that borrows a lot from their critically acclaimed 2016 release “Titanfall 2,” except for such notable absences as titans and wall running.

What Respawn has managed to do with “Apex Legends” is very impressive and totally unexpected. They have a great track record with shooters after working on several “Call of Duty” games and the “Titanfall” games, but I can’t remember the last time “Fortnite” hasn’t been the top streamed game on Twitch, and “Apex” has changed that.

I’ve never been one to get hooked on a competitive multiplayer shooter that isn’t “Halo 3,” and I’m also notoriously bad at them. I had my fun with other battle royale games such as “Fortnite” and put a lot of time into other hero based shooters such as “Overwatch,” but I was never in love with them and I wouldn’t play them often without friends.

For me, “Apex Legends” is different. I’m not getting bored after an hour, I’m not getting frustrated by my struggles and I feel like I’m getting a quality multiplayer experience.

The game features a ton of mechanics so that after you’ve been playing the game for awhile you’re almost forced to ask yourself, “How has no one else implemented these kinds of mechanics into a multiplayer shooter before?”

By far the most notable feature “Apex” has to offer is its revolutionary ping system.

One of the most frustrating parts for me when I play multiplayer shooters is poor communication and lack thereof.

“Hey, they’re over there in that building.”

“What building?”

“Hey, come get this gun up here.”

“What gun? Where?”

“Enemies to the east.”

“OK. East, but where? I can’t see them.”

In “Apex Legends,” you can simply ping an enemy, gun or location and those awkward and frustrating interactions are completely avoidable.

Walk up to a gun, ping it, your character announces what the item is and it’s visible to the rest of your team. Found a body shield? Ping it, your character announces what it is, its level and whether it’s visible on the map.

Same goes for enemies. No longer do you have to try and explain an enemy’s location to your team; just ping it and now everyone knows their location.

Although I have been almost exclusively playing with friends and talking over voice chat, “Apex Legends” was designed so that you don’t have to talk to your teammates if you’re playing alone.

Playing with friends and communicating clearly while also utilizing the ping system is obviously the superior choice, but when I’m playing alone I never feel like I’m at a disadvantage. The ping system works, and it is the closest a competitive video game that requires teamwork to succeed has gotten to making voice chat unnecessary.

“Apex Legends” isn’t the first shooter to implement a hero system, but the way it works in the sense of three person squads in a battle royale game is done really well.

There are currently eight playable heroes, or legends, with more on the way.

I’ve been mostly playing as Wraith, as well as occasionally switching to either Caustic or Bangalore.

Each legend has their own unique passive ability, tactical ability and then an ultimate. The best part about the characters is that while there are effective ways of pairing different legends together, they all play the same, with the exception of abilities, making it easier to learn and jump from character to character.

Like other free to play battle royale games that came before it, “Apex” will eventually have a battle pass available for purchase and I honestly can’t wait to put some money into this game.

“Apex Legends” feels like the true next step in competitive multiplayer shooters, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the state of the game will be like several months from now.

The game has a clear path to a long run of success, but it’s up to EA and Respawn to give this game the continued attention it deserves. There’s no reason why “Apex Legends” shouldn’t become a massive money generating success and a hit with a steady player base years down the road.  

Competitive shooters as battle royale games will probably always be the most popular version of the genre but it’s interesting to see the game mode evolve into something entirely new with “Tetris 99.”

During the Nintendo Direct broadcast on Feb. 13, one of the smaller game announcements was that a new “Tetris” game was available for Nintendo Switch Online members for free. With a name like “Tetris 99” it was clear this wasn’t just a standard “Tetris” game.

Obviously there have been competitive “Tetris” games in the past, but a battle royale take on the classic game feels entirely original in comparison to what the genre has always been.

“Tetris 99” is so simple that it doesn’t even feel finished, but in a good way.

When you start up a match for the first time, nothing is explained to you. Yes, it’s “Tetris,” so you should know what you’re doing already, but there are some interesting tweaks to the game to make it work as a battle royale.

At the top of your board are gameplay options labeled “Random,” “Badges,”“Attackers” and “K.O.s.”  

One of the key features to a battle royale is the killing and taking out other opponents so you can work your way towards being the last one standing. In “Tetris 99,” you’re always targeting someone, and you’re able to move an analog stick to target specific players that you can see on both sides of your board.

“Random” selects a random player to target and is basically the equivalent to cowering away in a bathroom or hiding in a bush in other battle royales like “Fortnite” or “PUBG”.

The other options are where the real fun is. “Attackers” makes you target everyone who is targeting you, “K.O.s” targets players who are close to being defeated and “Badges” sets your sights on those who have badges available for you to steal.

Just like in other competitive “Tetris” games, when your opponent clears a line they send garbage over to your board. In “Tetris 99,” there isn’t just one player you have to worry about, though. I’ve had as many as eight people targeting me at once which quickly led to my demise.

The game is incredibly minimal. No tutorial, not a lot of features and levelling up doesn’t seem to mean much. But I’m totally OK with all of that because of how fresh this game feels and how much fun I’m having — and it’s free with zero microtransactions.

In the words of Reggie Fils-Aimé, soon-to-be-former Nintendo of America president and COO who recently announced his retirement, “The game is fun. The game is a battle. If it’s not fun, why bother?”

“Tetris 99” is fun and something that I never would have expected to exist, but the fact that it does exist makes me happy that someone bothered to make this game in the first place and has me intrigued at the thought of what this genre can become next.

As I’m playing a ton of “Apex Legends” and “Tetris 99,” I’m starting to realize that there’s a lot of hope in regards to the future of battle royale games.

No longer shall the game mode be defined by “Fortnite,” but rather be a unique platform for developers to get creative with new ideas or take old tried and true mechanics and apply them to the every player for themselves format.

My prediction for the future of battle royales? Let me leave you with this simple idea.

100 Pokémon trainers drop onto an island …