Fortnite Vs. Apex Legends: Comparing Two Titans Of Battle Royale
Apex Legends has had 50 million players join the game in its first month, according to developer Respawn Entertainment. That helped it have a huge impact on the battle royale scene, but even though a whole lot of people have checked out the new shooter, Apex's biggest competition in the battle royale subgenre, Fortnite, still managed to post record player numbers in February.
When it comes to Apex Legends, though, what's most notable is how fast Respawn's shooter has gathered such a massive community. That's causing some to speculate that Apex Legends might be the next big thing, following in the footsteps of super-popular battle royale entires Fortnite and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds before it.
For those who aren't already dedicated Fortnite players or on the Apex Legends train, that leads to a question: which of the two should you play? Both games are free, making their money from selling in-game cosmetic items. And both use the battle royale formula, in which players compete against a huge number of competitors to be the last one standing. There are a lot of differences between Apex Legends and Fortnite, though, and knowing what they are can help make the decision of which is the game you should be playing.
Here's a complete breakdown of what Fortnite does, what Apex Legends does, and how they're similar and different, to help you decide.
Third Person Versus First Person
The most noticeable difference between Apex Legends and Fortnite is the perspective each uses. Apex Legends is a first-person shooter, and everything you do other than jumping into a match from the drop ship happens from the perspective of your player character. Meanwhile, Fortnite is a third-person game, so the camera is positioned behind the player character.
The difference in camera makes for a different experience in each game. In Apex Legends, you can only see what's in front of you. Third-person games give you a little more situational awareness thanks to the distance of the camera from the character, but it generally makes for reduced accuracy when aiming.
All Squads Versus 1-Against-100
Unlike just about every other battle royale game out there, you can't play Apex Legends alone. You can jump into the game to get matched up with other players, but the game only supports three-player teams right now, who face off in a game of 20 squads until only one remains. That's an important design choice, since Apex Legends is full of elements that bolster the emphasis on team strategy and tactics--we talked about a bunch of them in our review.
Fortnite supports squad play, but it also allows you to try to survive as a single player all on your own against as many as 99 others (and sometimes throws in crazy 50-vs.-50 modes). While the ability to play alone gives you more options for how you can engage with Fortnite, it also means the experience is a little less focused than Apex is.
Apex Legends' major addition to the battle royale formula is adding characters. At the start of each match, players pick one of the current roster of eight characters, each of whom has their own special abilities. Like in Overwatch and other character-based shooters, the special abilities of the characters are best used to complement each other, and a well-balanced team can often be key to victory.
Like in all battle royale games, players in Apex Legends start with nothing and have to find their weapons on the ground. That's true of Fortnite too, but Fortnite doesn't have any characters to add extra abilities to the mix. All the player characters in Fortnite are interchangeable; the only thing they start with is a pickaxe for cutting down trees, demolishing buildings, and smashing rocks for building materials. More on that shortly.
The biggest thing that sets Fortnite apart from other games is its set of building mechanics. In Fortnite, it's as important that you cut down trees and break rocks to get building materials as that you find weapons. Having those materials allows you to construct things like walls and stairs that can help change the tide of battle. Building things can protect you from gunfire or help you escape bad situations, and can help you navigate the map.
There is no building in Apex Legends, for better or worse, although some character abilities can serve similar functions. Pathfinder's zip lines and grapple can help him reach high places and Gibraltar's shield can block bullets and grenades.
Along with the ability to build in Fortnite is the ability to destroy. Most anything can be torn down, and that includes houses and buildings you'd otherwise use for cover, as well as the structures you create yourself. Firefights in Fortnite can get pretty hairy as structures are wrecked, and when players climb up on top of things like buildings or staircases, it's even possible to eliminate them by shooting the supports out from under them and watching them fall to their deaths.
By contrast, structures are indestructible in Apex Legends, even if they're just wood huts like those found in places such as Cascades or Bridges. The one exception is doors, which can be kicked open with a melee attack, or blown open with explosives, stunning people on the other side.
Movement And Verticality
One of the main things that Fortnite has that other battle royale games don't is a big sense of verticality. The ability to build things on the fly wherever you go leads to players constructing elaborate towers and staircases, using height to get over and around enemies and find advantageous positions. The fact that you can reach extreme heights in Fortnite is one of the things that sets it apart from other battle royale games.
Apex Legends also has a number of ways it makes its game vertical. The terrain throughout the map varies greatly in elevation, so it's very possible to take high ground and shoot down on enemies below. You can't build stuff, but there are a lot of options for getting up high. First, you can grab ledges and climb up lots of things in Apex Legends, and characters have the ability to scramble up vertical faces to reach heights that are about twice as tall as they are. Pathfinder, one of the game's current eight characters, can use his grapple hook and zipline launcher to reach high places and bring the rest of the team along with them. Fortnite has Apex Legends beat in how vertical the game can get, but Apex has smoother movement mechanics for getting around in general.
Weapons, Attachments, And Loot
Like most shooters, both Fortnite and Apex Legends have a smattering of different kinds of guns to use in various scenarios, ranging from pistols and shotguns to assault rifles and sniper rifles. Apex Legends' guns come from the Titanfall universe, and therefore tend to mix in sci-fi types like energy weapons, while Fortnite's are usually a little more traditional--but also throw in a few weird ones now and again, like the Boogie Bomb, which causes enemies afflicted by it to start dancing uncontrollably.
One of Apex Legends' better improvements on the battle royale formula is how it deals with inventory management. Guns all take a specific kind of ammo, but that ammo is color-coded so that when you find some in the world, you immediately know if it goes with the guns you're carrying. When you find weapon attachments, they're added to your guns automatically if they fit. If you trade a gun with something new you find on the ground, any appropriate attachments will be added to it, as well. Anything you find in the world that's worse than what you're currently carrying is marked as such.
Fortnite, meanwhile, doesn't include attachments, but instead color-codes its weapons to denote how good they are. Rarer, higher-tier guns have better attachments like scopes and suppressors, reload faster, or do more damage. For Apex Legends, guns are all the same until you add attachments that make them better, and some attachments are higher tier--and therefore more effective--than others.
Reviving And Respawning
Fortnite and Apex Legends both support squad play with teammates. In both games, taking a certain amount of damage causes you to be "knocked down," which means you're unable to fight. You can still move around in the downed state, but in most cases, you need to wait for a teammate to revive you (in Apex, you can find a piece of equipment that lets you revive yourself--but it's very rare). If you stay down for a certain amount of time or you sustain enough more damage while knocked down, you're eliminated from the match in both games.
In Apex Legends, being eliminated doesn't necessarily mean your match is over, though. Teammates can recover your "banner" from the loot you drop when you're knocked out of a match. If they manage to take it to one of several respawn beacons scattered around the map, they can bring you back into the game--albeit without any gear--and return your team to full strength. It's an Apex Legends feature that other battle royale games don't have.
Until now, that is. Fortnite's upcoming update will add "Respawn Vans" to the map. They also offer teams the ability to bring players back after they've been knocked out, a lot like what Apex offers. We'll have to see how similar the mechanics are to each other with the Fortnite's next update.
Fortnite's main monetization feature is its Battle Pass. It's effectively a $10 subscription for each of the game's 10-week "seasons" of new content, and buying it fast-tracks players to unlock a bunch of cosmetic items for use in the game. You can still play Fortnite for free without the Battle Pass, but earning rewards is a lot tougher, and there are a lot fewer of them.
Apex Legends started its life without a Battle Pass, instead keeping its cosmetic rewards to its version of loot boxes, known as Apex Packs, and its in-game store. The release of its first content season, Wild Frontier, brings a Battle Pass to Apex, and it's pretty much the same as what Fortnite offers. The current big difference is that Fortnite's Battle Pass includes challenges you can complete to earn in-game currency, and Apex doesn't.
Secrets, Seasons, And Strange Events
One of the things that really defines Fortnite is how much it has grown and changed as a live service game. Recently, there was an in-game performance by DJ Marshmello, and each season it includes new themes, weapons, skins, events, and challenges. There are weird things to discover hidden in Fortnite, and they're constantly changing. It's one of the things that continues to keep the game compelling.
It's early yet in Apex Legends, so it's unclear just what the game will look like as a continuing live service. We know Apex Legends is starting its first season in March, when it'll add new characters, weapons, and loot to the game. Respawn has mentioned that it intends to add in-game events, and we've already seen one hidden Easter egg pop up in the game. Players discovered 10 Loch Ness monster plush toys hidden in several areas around the King's Canyon map, and when they destroyed them all, it caused a huge version of Nessy to appear in the waters just off the shore of the Swamps area. That's a pretty chill Easter egg, all things considered, but it seems Respawn might have designs to do things similar to what Epic does in Fortnite when it comes to surprises, secrets, and new events.
The Verdict: Which Is Better?
Likely if you're reading this, you're hoping to find a decision point that can help you say definitively whether you should spend your time playing with the reigning battle royale champ in Fortnite, or switch to the upstart Apex Legends. The fact is, it's impossible to boil the differences and similarities between the two games down to simply saying one is better than the other. Apex Legends and Fortnite are likely to serve very different audiences. Fortnite has caught fire among younger players, it's true, but Epic is also pushing the game to become something more like a platform for various experiences than just a battle royale game--of which the Marshmello concert is a good example.
Meanwhile, Apex Legends is more for the traditional FPS crowd, leaning on tight shooting and movement mechanics. The addition of characters makes it more of a melding between Overwatch and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's Blackout mode than something more akin to the jumpy, flighty nature of Fortnite. Apex is about team strategy over Fortnite's twitch reaction. In a big way, the two games are serving totally different goals.
Choosing which one is right for you comes down to deciding what kind of experience you want. Is it goofier, jumpier, buildier, and generally more chaotic? You want Fortnite. Is it more tactical, more team-based, with a bigger focus on strategy and gunplay? Apex Legends is for you. But luckily, both games are free--which means you can try both.