This post was written by The Dad writer Matt Fisher.
Gaming Dads walk that fine line between accepting the mantle of adulthood and goofing around on the internet with their friends. This is why so many of us are drawn to the world’s second-favorite battle royale shooter, Apex Legends. It’s the fancy French mustard of free-to-play mayhem- where Fortnite has cabin building and people running around in horse costumes; Apex Legends has an impenetrable system of guns and attachments and playable characters who are mostly evil scientists or psychotic robots. Where Fortnite has weird Day-Glo environments and surprise Travis Scott concerts, Apex Legends has, well, weird Day-Glo environments and ten-story-tall dinosaur dogs. What can I say? Weird Day-Glo environments are fun.
The Dad Gaming League is hosting an Apex Tournament on December 11th, which I highly recommend to Apex Legends Dads everywhere. (Editor’s Note: While Apex is cross-platform, this event is for PC players only, and you can sign up here.) Now, the first rule of The Dad Gaming League is that you do not need to be very good at video games to take part in The Dad Gaming League, and Apex Legends is an especially fun game to be mediocre at. So grab a fresh case of Planters Pop n’ Pour because this one’s gonna be sweaty!
The learning curve is a little tougher than most free-to-play games, so we’ve laid out a quick course in the basics below to get you over the hump and shooting your way to the top of the pack. Our advice is laid out from most general to most specific, but remember- Apex Legends is at its heart, a twitchy FPS shooter, so there’s no substitute for getting into the arena and getting a feel for the mechanics. So soak up a few tips here and fire up the old entertainment center, and we’ll meet you in the robot-corpse-strewn fields of King’s Canyon.
This Is How We Do It – The Basics
The year is apparently 2733, and since this is a battle royale shooter, you are jumping out of an airplane onto a giant island with sixty other souls to pick up armor and guns and use them to become the Apex Champion – the last player left alive. There are three island maps currently in the game’s rotation, each filled with mountains, valleys, and derelict buildings. In the standard game mode, you drop in a team of three, and working together with your teammates will mean the difference between instant death and death that’s like five or ten minutes away. As the combatants scramble around and fight, a shrinking concentric circle forces everyone to fight in closer and closer quarters until only one team remains.
Apex Legends has a very complex system of skins, emotes, and assorted doo-dads that, along with the completely nonsensical lore and character backstories, we will ignore here. If you’re the hoarding type, there are Legend Tokens, Apex Coins, gun charms, holo-sprays, personalized tomahawks, badges, stat trackers, kill quips, finishing moves, and much, much more. None of which actually affect gameplay, so we’re setting them aside. If you become a true Apex-head, there’s a universe of ludicrous sci-fi backstory and obsessive collecting for you to explore, but in the meantime, we’ve got heads to click on.
Me, Myself, and I – Picking Your Legend
One of the best aspects of Apex Legends is the character system. It incorporates elements of team-based FPS games where you play as a character with a unique set of special powers. In Apex Legends, the system is subtle; your powers will definitely affect the way you play and contribute to the team, but no matter which Legend you choose, 75% of what you’ll do, especially early as a player, is running and gunning. This makes it easy and fun to experiment with different Legends to see whose powers best accentuate your play-style. One character can set up shields; one can toss around poison traps, etc.
For new players, the best options are the ones whose powers can create a lot of value for the squad without the development of new, specialized skills. Take a spin with Lifeline, who can heal her teammates, or Bloodhound, who can emit radar pings to locate nearby enemies. A little further up the skill tree are Pathfinder, the robot who can sling around with a grappling hook, and Crypto, who has a remote camera drone that he can send around the map.
Jump Around – Dropping In
This being a battle royale shooter, a round of Apex Legends begins with you and your squad jumping out of a plane onto the island map. Choosing how and where you land will color your whole play experience. Very generally, there are two schools of thought here. A good philosophy for beginners is to try to drop somewhere out of the way, where few other people are headed, and you’ll have a minute or two to get your bearings and gear up before you’re face-to-face with other players. Whatever you do, land near your teammates and be ready to back them up as soon as you all hit the ground.
Here’s a pro-tip, though: glide to the ground right next to your teammates, but break off just before you land so that you’re within easy reach of the squad, but not directly shoulder to shoulder. The first thing you and the team will do is to begin rooting around for guns and armor, and by creating a little bit of separation, you ensure that you and your squad won’t all be rooting around in the exact same containers and loot piles. There’s such a thing as etiquette, even in 2377.
The other philosophy, favored by thrill-seekers everywhere, is to “hot-drop,” or to intentionally drop into a loot-rich area that will be crowded with fighters right from the get-go. Look for light beacons shining into the sky or just follow the smoke trails of other players as they drop to the map.
This creates an entirely different style of play: a frantic scramble of running around, looting, punching, and shooting that will either leave you well-equipped and with a kill or two under your belt, or more likely dead and gone a minute into your game. For dads on a time crunch, the hot drop is often a fun option- ensuring that you’ll see some action even in a very short game. Otherwise, you may find yourself creeping around the map, trying to find a shootout for ten minutes while your family waits in the driveway, only to get sniped out of the blue after a long and excitement-free round.
If I Had No Loot – The Gear Of Apex Legends
The only way to hold your own in Apex Legends is to gear up, and the game distinguishes itself on the breadth and complexity of the stuff you need to acquire to stay alive. Initially, you’ll pick up everything you need right off the ground or from conspicuous containers strewn all around the map. As the game progresses, though, the only way to acquire higher-level gear is to take down other players and loot the gear that they leave behind.
First are the wearable elements: armor, helmets, and backpacks. Armor and helmets will increase the amount of damage you can take in a gunfight, and backpacks increase the number of shield batteries, first-aid kits, and grenades you can carry. These items (along with gun attachments) are color-coded by quality: you’ll want to move from white to blue to purple to gold as you play through the round.
Then, of course, there are guns. Apex Legends Season 7 features 24 weapons, each with unique damage, stats, and attachments. Players can carry two guns at a time. You’ll gain expertise with the weapon system over time, but everything is color-coded to keep things comprehensible, even for new players. Thus, when you pick up a shotgun, the onscreen icon is red, and shotgun ammo boxes in the world are red as well. Same for pistols and SMGs (brown), energy weapons (green), etc.
A good baseline strategy is to prepare yourself for ranged firefights as well as close-up scraps. I like to grab a shotgun for up-close work and keep something with a better scope for finding enemies further away.
Speaking of scopes, there is a whole ecosystem of gun attachments (barrel stabilizers, extended magazines, etc.) that can mean the difference between life and death in a hectic firefight. As with so much in Apex Legends, there’s a lot here that will reward players who want to pore over the stats, but there are pretty clear onscreen guideposts to help non-experts make smart decisions. One thing to look for- when you put your crosshairs over any kind of gear, a big explanatory text box appears. For gun attachments, another box below this one will appear if the attachment works with one of the guns you’re holding, making it easy to see if you need the attachment or already have a better one equipped. Get used to looking for this bottom box to make it easier to scan over gear for what you want to snag. And remember, just as with armor, gold beats purple which beats blue which beats white.
Let Me Clear My Throat – Comms
Teamwork will give you the edge in Apex Legends, which makes communication paramount. The most fun way to play is with friends on headsets, but even if you’re solo queuing, take the time to get on mic. Especially as you start out, more experienced players will be happy that they’re paired with someone who’s paying attention, and hashing out strategy while it happens is a great way to gain expertise.
That said, Apex Legends also has a best-in-class ping system for communicating with teammates without speaking. The right shoulder button (or center mouse button) pings whatever your crosshair is pointing at, highlighting it for all your teammates. You can use this system to suggest gear that your teammates might want to grab, point out open doors and containers that indicate nearby enemies, suggest locations to move towards, and of course to shout when you see the bad guys. Ping early and often, because the best way to win firefights is to have your whole squad shooting in the same direction.
Mama Said Knock You Out – Dying In Apex Legends
When the bullets start to fly, you will inevitably catch more than a few of them. The mechanics around dying and resurrecting teammates are unique to Apex Legends and worth understanding right from the get-go.
If an enemy manages to bring down all of your shields and all of your health, you’ll be “knocked down,” leaving you technically alive but unable to shoot at anyone. You will be able to crawl around, hide behind your knockdown shield (another color-coded bit of gear to pick up in your travels), and frantically ping at the enemy standing over you while your teammates come to save the day. If they can get to you, you can be revived on the spot, with minimal health but all your gear intact. Because a knocked-down enemy is harmless, it’s often smart strategy to leave a knocked-down player alive to draw their teammates in on a doomed rescue mission.
If you lay a bit more damage onto a knocked-down player (or carry out one of your fancy finishing moves), they become really, very nearly dead. All of their gear becomes lootable, and their teammates must pick up their “beacon” and carry it to a respawn location where they can call for another ship to drop the teammate out of the sky, now stripped of gear and guns. This is a long, labor-intensive process visible for a half-mile in every direction that will generally get the whole team ambushed and killed, so it’s pretty common for even good-hearted teammates to let you rest in peace.
Don’t Sweat The Technique – Use A Little Strategy
As described above, Apex Legends gameplay can be incredibly deep if you put in the time, but Respawn has built-in plenty of guide rails to keep even newer players in the hunt. The way to distinguish yourself and reach a Top Ten finish is to use your head.
The baseline proposition of battle in Apex Legends is that you’ll win firefights where you have a numerical and strategic advantage. In all other cases, you’re leaving yourself in the hands of fate. Until you become very skilled with the controls and weapons, for instance, one-on-one fights will be a mess of jumping around in a circle and panic firing where your survival odds are very low. You should always be looking for situations where your squad is synced up and get the drop on enemies, arranging 2v1 and 3v1 fights.
The best way to do this is by placing some value on simply staying alive. Call Of Duty-style shooters with infinite respawns have led a generation of gamers to place more value on bravery than smarts. But remember- in Apex Legends, you’ve only got one precious life per round. Keep your head on a swivel and use that one life well. While other players are rushing around killing each other, you’re moving up the leaderboard just by standing there.
It’s easy to get keyed up in a battle royale game and let adrenaline carry you forward blindly to your doom. Think carefully about what you’re trying to accomplish in any given moment and move deliberately from place to place. Have a specific strategic goal in mind and an eye out for nearby enemies.
For instance, at the outset, it’s well worth your time and attention to search around for good gear. Once you’re in the blues and purples, though, and you’ve found the best gear that’s just lying around, staring into dumpsters leaves you at a tactical disadvantage, so it’s time to switch your attention from shopping to fighting. I can’t count the number of times that my squad has fully looted our landing zone and moved to an adjacent area in search of a firefight. When no one immediately presents themselves, we blindly start opening containers again just in time to get jumped.
Move deliberately, keep a low profile, and stay on the hunt for stray enemies and squads who aren’t keeping a lookout. To me, this is the real value that differentiates Apex Legends from Fortnite and the rest- even for new players, it’s very good at creating situations where you can use your noodle a bit and act as an operator. It activates that same dorky Dad gene that makes you raise a silent fist like a Marine on recon when you need the family to stop at the cereal display in the supermarket. And there’s no better crew for dorky video game heroics than the Dad Gaming squad. Make sure to register for the December 11th event, lay in get your Pop ‘n Pour in-reach, and we’ll see you on the dropship.