I feel like I've been thinking one thing to myself for most of 2020: "This could be Apex Legends's most significant update yet!" Respawn's battle royale game has been building and building and building over the last year which, aside from just being what you'd expect a game as a service to naturally do, has really come to a head with Season 6: Boosted.
Gone are the standard body shields, replaced with Evo armor that builds up better resistance the more damage you deal. Derailed is the train circling the World's Edge map (good night, sweet prince), bringing to a halt one of the more exciting variables in the game. Thrown in the mix is an entirely new crafting system, with rotational crafting rewards every day and week.
This is a season of big change for Apex Legends. You could say that for just about every seasonal event so far—hell, I literally said it about the previous Season 5—but Season 6 feels so experimental. Season 6 hasn't just swapped out one weapon for another, or changed the cooldown timer of an ability. Instead, there's plenty of changes that impact the way Apex is fundamentally played.
Doing away with conventional body armor is a bigger change than you think. Evo shields build up their protective rating in correspondence with the damage you've dealt to enemies, which actively rewards players for seeking out and finding danger. It doesn't really feel like playing it safe and skulking in the shadows is a viable option any more, since you're only going to go so long before running into a team with suped-up Evo shields as a result of playing aggressively (which I definitely never did, no sir).
I actually quite like the change—or I think I do, at least. It's been over a year now since Apex Legends first sprung to life, and the body armor situation has remained virtually unchanged since: you seek out armor with the best defensive value nearly always at random, unless you can get your hands on a prized care package. I like Respawn being bold enough to do away with a pretty fundamental part of their game. After all, they could always reintroduce standard body shields like they did Evo shields, putting them in their own separate mode later down the line.
Crafting is having a big impact on the game's meta as well. I couldn't really get my head around the thought of crafting in Apex Legends when it was first announced, but once I saw the setup it all made sense. Crafting is all run on a points currency, which you earn for opening Supply Bins and draining currency stations rooted throughout the map. Then you take the points to any given Crafting Station and select an armor upgrade, a weapon attachment, or an ammo resupply.
Walking a fine line between a finicky and simplistic crafting system is a tough balancing act, but it's one that Apex has nailed. The player-to-currency stations ratio means it's incredibly hard for any one team to have an overriding amount of Crafting Points. There's never been a point at which I could upgrade my armor to the highest level for example, or buy enough ammo to supply a small army. Apex Legends's crafting system is perfect because it doesn't impact the wider game at all. It's just there to provide a small buff to your armor or weapons, and just like the Evo shields, it rewards players for exploring and pushing into new areas.
Apex feels like it's earned the right to be experimental with Season 6: Boosted. Not too long ago we re-reviewed Apex Legends just over a year removed from launch, and I can't help but agree with our reporter Mat Olson's assertion that it's one of the best battle royale games out there. The game walks a brilliant line between Fortnite's cartoonish colors and Call of Duty: Warzone's weighted and gritty gunplay, and a superb mix of charisma and reflex-based action have proved Apex Legends is here to stay.
I said Season 5 was the biggest change to Apex Legends yet, even when considering how Season 3 introduced a whole new map for the first time, but now I'm going to replace that statement with Season 6. The seemingly subtle but surprisingly influential combination of crafting and Evo shields has ushered Apex in a bold direction where it wants to push players toward action and confrontation rather than caution and stealth. What it all boils down to is a game that's more involved now, amping up the general tempo of matches for some breakneck action.
I always like developers trying something new and assertive, especially when the base formula has remained the same for an extended period. Apex Legends has proved it's one of the best battle royale games around, and with Season 6, it's showing yet again that it's not afraid to throw shit at the wall and see what sticks.