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GCU ‘Apex Legends’ players adjusting to new season for battle royale title

Blaine Patrick, a Grand Canyon “Apex Legends” varsity team captain and game community manager, enters a match of the game with teammates ahead of the teams weekend scrim against other colleges. (Photo by Reno Del Toro/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – As gamers return to “Apex Legends” for a new character and map changes, members of the Grand Canyon University esports teams must think critically to find out how to best exploit the new systems in competitions.

“Season 4: Assimilation” changes the weapon balance and introduces new characters, forcing competitive level players to shelve old strategies and scramble to come up with new ones. At the highest level, the stress on GCU players is even higher.

“We’re going to see more Wattson, Wraith and Revenant squads instead of Pathfinder, Wattson and Wraith,” said Blaine Patrick, “Apex Legends” varsity team captain and game community manager. “While he (Revenant) appears to be an aggressive character by nature, he’s actually a very defensive character.”

Seasons usually last three months in duration. “Apex Legends” released Season 4 one year after the game launched with a new legend, Revenant, along with significant environmental changes, and changes to other legends and weapons.

Jha-siah Jean (Photo by Reno Del Toro/Cronkite News)

“Apex Legends” was released on February 4, 2019, and quickly grew to one of the most popular battle royale multiplayer titles, winning Multiplayer Game of the Year for 2019 at The Game Awards. Sixty players in groups of three choose from 12 “legends” with different abilities and drop into the arena and fight until one group remains.

One of the obstacles for competitive “Apex Legends” players is the game constantly changing with the release of updates that could have an effect on the meta, the strategy in which players use to win.

“I think that’s part of the competitive nature of “Apex” and all video games,” Albert Lee, Grand Canyon University’s esports coordinator said. “That’s one of the critical differences between esports and traditional sports, where traditional sports spend many decades changing the rules and revising them. Whereas games like “Apex” or other mainstream titles, the rules are changed by the publishers – that’s the new technical challenge, everyone is the quarterback now.”

The changes made by the game publishers bring about uncertainty to how much or little the game is changed on a competitive scale.

“It’s a unique obstacle which helps that team building aspect and the learning aspect,” Lee said. “I’d say for the team it’s like additional homework but for their extracurricular. They might be handling their homework and projects for classes but during their free time they are doing these calculations and planning for the next few weeks based on these updates.”

The changes have led to GCU “Apex” players debating on whether a specific character, weapon, or tactic should be implemented to ensure a victory.

“It’s harder because let’s say Capitol City for example, there are a lot of open space and less buildings, so if somebody goes down it’s an easy disadvantage because they’re going to push right away,” Randy Ray Caseres, “Apex” JV player, said. “(The new season) changes it, but you just have to be aware of your surroundings.”

Even with a new season, “Apex Legends” is going through an adjustment of viewership and playership. During its debut in February 2019, an average of 218,000 people watched on Twitch, almost a year later in January 2020, only 18,500 watched.

Omur Akman (Photo by Reno Del Toro/Cronkite News)

“I can see why there was a drop off,” Apex JV player Jha-siah Jean said. “In the beginning the content was dry, but now they are adding content every other month so it’s better now.”

GCU puts out three competitive “Apex Legends” teams, varsity, and “Apex” Purple and “Apex” White, two JV teams. According to the College Apex Weekly Series standings, “Apex Purple” ranks third, followed by GCU varsity in fifth. “Apex” White is ranked sixth.

The team played week two of College Apex Weekly Scrims on Saturday, which was the first week with the new update implemented. While the changes will be a factor in gameplay, the team believes the new meta is not overly different.

“You gotta be ready for it,” Jean said. “You just play the game expecting changes. Everything is going to change with time, you just have to go with the meta.”