I am not going to beat around the bush here: I’m terrible at almost all online player-versus-player games. This is especially true of first-person shooters. The last online PvP game I was actually good at — and enjoyed for a sustained period — was Unreal Tournament (the original, 1999 release). When I dive into an online shooter these days, I tend to find that I take one step, get my head blown off from an unknown assailant and…well, rinse and repeat. I often feel that there’s little time to get my bearings, let alone learn and employ any kind of actual strategy.
Given this fairly pathetic background, it’s surprising — to me, especially — that I’m utterly hooked on Respawn’s Apex Legends. There are a whole host of reasons why I’m obsessed with this game (and why I’m not alone when it comes to said obsession). But this article isn’t about the many virtues of Apex Legends per se. Rather, I wanted to write this for players who are like me: new to games of this kind, terrible at such games, but determined to push through and improve.
The good news is that it is possible, even if your online gaming background mostly involves being on the wrong end of a kill-cam.
Not only am I now starting to rack up the kills myself (when I was getting noneinitially), but I’ve also become kill leader twice so far (not something for a newbie to sneeze at, given the 60-player-strong matches). The more I play — and the more I improve — the more I’m loving everything about Apex Legends.
What follows are my key tips for success, or at least, for achieving some sense of real progression early on. It’s worth noting that these tips aren’t going to be remotely useful for advanced players. And, in fact, it’s very possible that some advanced players might disagree with them. But they worked for me, and they’ve helped me to improve greatly.
Aim for a confident start
When you begin each match, the game will designate someone on your squad as the Jumpmaster. You can use the ping system (more on that in a moment) to suggest potential landing spots around the map. As you begin to learn the map, you’ll begin to get a feel for the specific conditions of each area within the world.
Each location contains different loot tiers (low/mid/high) — obviously, it’s handy to nab high-tier loot as quickly as possible, but of course, other squads will want to do the same thing. IGN have put together a great little guide that goes into more detail around this.
I guess my advice is more about paying attention to what other squads are doing. As the Dropship moves across Kings Canyon on its set flight path, you’ll be able to see where other squads are going. If you’re a new (and unconfident) player, it’s often worth avoiding the busier drop locations. Of course, nabbing high tier loot early on will certainly improve your odds of survival within the opening minutes of the match.
It’s worth noting, too, that Kings Canyon is made up of numerous discrete biomes and these are often designed somewhat like a pit — that is to say, they might have dense buildings in the middle, but the edges of the biome are at a higher elevation. There are also numerous chokepoints in between biomes. Sometimes it’s useful not to land right in the middle of a busy area, but instead, to land on the edge and work your way in carefully.
Don’t get greedy
This is probably a good tip for many combat-heavy games, but it’s a rookie mistake that I was making frequently when I first began playing Apex Legends. To put it bluntly, I was too aggressive. If someone engaged me in combat, I’d tend to go right for them and try to out-shoot them, which never worked well for me.
Things started to improve when I took a more careful and balanced approach to combat. Once someone starts shooting right at you, it means they can see you, and this often means they have an immediate advantage (especially if you can’t see them). So your first priority isn’t necessarily to return fire, but instead you should be breaking their line of sight and re-grouping to counter them (or to escape, depending on how confident you are with your current equipment).
When the shoe is on the other foot, it can also be tempting to simply pummel your enemy into submission. Maybe you caught them unawares and you’ve already done a lot of damage — sometimes it’s easy enough to just finish them off. But be careful, especially if you’re following them into an open area with little cover; they are likely to be near their two other squad mates, and you could easily become a target yourself. Depending on the situation, it can often be more useful to whittle down an opponent’s health over several small encounters — just remember to consider your surroundings and your own vulnerability, no matter how powerful you feel.
Sound can kill you
This is another tip which might seem obvious at first, but it’s something I’ve noticed a lot while playing the game. On several occasions I have been in a squad where one of my squad mates has picked up a shiny new gun and decided to try it out. That might sound fair enough, but it can lead to some immediate problems.
For one thing, whenever you fire your weapon, there is always a highly visible tracer fire — if an opponent sees the tracer fire, they can immediately determine your position with a high degree of accuracy (so, the corollary here is that you should always be looking for your opponents’ tracer fire as well). For another, sound carries for great distances in Kings Canyon — you’ll hear the sounds of combat well before it reaches you. And as you begin to learn the unique sound of weapons in the game, you’ll quickly be able to identify what weapons people are carrying just by sound (shotgun blasts are particularly unmistakeable).
So I guess my advice here is to use the dedicated training mode to practice with guns. Try to avoid firing weapons and making excess noise in-game; this includes kicking open doors. Loud noises will immediately alert nearby players to your presence, and quite often, this can lead to them seeing you well before you even know they are there.
I could write an entire article solely dedicated to the virtues of the ping system. The benefits of the system go far beyond simply being a great and efficient replacement for voice chat, too. For one thing, the ability to quickly and accurately ping the location of opponents you’ve spotted can be invaluable — rather than spending precious seconds trying to describe where your squad should focus their attention, you can quickly mark enemies in the world with the click of a button.
Of course, you can also ping locations and items in the world and that’s useful, but it’s especially useful if you use it relatively sparingly (that is to say, don’t bother pinging every single item you see, because that can have the effect of masking truly important things that your squad should be paying attention to). Whenever you see mid-to-high-tier loot (especially defensive equipment), it’s always a good idea to point it out. Remember, too, that you can respond to pings by calling dibs on an item — if your squad is courteous, they should allow you to nab any item you’ve called dibs on. I’ve found that when a squad effectively uses this system, it makes the whole experience that much smoother — and, interestingly, I think it immediately builds a sense of trust within the team. That’s pretty remarkable considering the matchmaking context, too.
Retreat can be critical
This tip probably relates back to “don’t get greedy”, but I think it goes a step further. You will often find yourself in a situation where the other two members of your squad have fallen and are bleeding out — you’ll see countdown timers on both of them, affording you precious seconds to rive them. If you fail to revive a downed squad member in time, you’ll have an opportunity to collect their banner and bring it to a respawn point to return them to the game (there’s also a timer involved here — if you don’t collect their banner within the countdown period, they’ll be on the bench for good).
In this scenario — like with combat — it can be tempting to jump in and immediately try to revive your squad or collect their banners right away. But be careful; your opponents are all-too aware of the fact that your squad has three members, and if two have been downed, the third is unlikely to be far away. It is often the case that opponents will hang around downed players in the hope of picking off their would-be rescuer.
There are, of course, occasions where it’s reasonably safe to revive someone, especially if they have managed to crawl behind a building or into a location that is not too exposed to attack. Some characters also have the ability to raise shields and barriers, which can be used to make revival a less risky proposition. If you’re playing as Bangalore, you can drop smoke canisters in the area and use the cover to revive fallen squad mates, too.
But if it’s too risky to revive squad mates, my advice is to hang back. Don’t be greedy; wait to find an opening to collect their banners. Once the banners are collected, the timers cease to be an issue — you essentially have an unrestricted amount of time to get to the nearest respawn point. So, take advantage of that. Retreating from one-sided confrontations and prioritising your squad’s banners can completely turn the tide of a match in some cases.
Close doors behind you
As I mention this one, I can already hear a strong counter-argument: keeping doors open means you can more quickly escape a room if you come under fire. Yes, that’s true. But doors can be both an invaluable defence mechanism as well as a useful trap.
One of the important strategic elements of Apex Legends — and probably any battle royale title — is being aware of the movements and potential presence of other players. One of the telltale signs of this is finding open doors, open storage bins, and so on. If you are entering an area and you can see evidence that other players have been there, then this may change how you approach the area — at the very least, it means other players might still be nearby, and you should exercise caution.
This is where doors can be pretty handy. If a player has spotted you and you’ve run into a building, closing the doors behind you can give you a tactical advantage. For one thing, you’ll hear the door open when an opponent enters the room — this means you’ll know exactly where they are, and you’ll have a better chance of targeting them close-up. And for another, if the doors are closed, an opponent is less likely to see where you are standing in the room as they approach. This can give you a brief element of surprise, especially if you happen to be playing as Mirage, and you can throw out a decoy to misdirect them. Finally, closed doors simply provide a physical barrier — you can be standing inside a building but if your enemy is a good shot, they’ll be able to hit you through a window or a doorway quite easily. Putting physical barriers between you and them always gives you more precious time.
There’s so much more to say about Apex Legends. I can think of another dozen useful tidbits I’ve learned as I’ve been playing. But I think the overriding point — especially if you’re new and not great at the game — is simply to keep practicing. The more you play, the more you’ll become familiar with the weapons, items, and the world itself. That familiarity will only give you greater advantages each time you play. And of course, familiarising yourself with the game’s characters is crucial, too; knowing their abilities — and which abilities work best for you — will definitely give you an edge.
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