Apex Legends Mobile Review - Pocket-Sized Royale

  • First Released May 17, 2022
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Apex Legends Mobile introduces exclusive mechanics and features into Respawn's battle royale, some of which improve the experience while others don't add anything.

Apex Legends has gone pocket-sized with Apex Legends Mobile, an entirely separate version of the battle royale game for Android and iOS devices. Apex Legends Mobile is quite different from its older sibling, featuring a unique roster, maps, modes, and progression track--some of which unfortunately detract from the overall experience. However, Apex Legends Mobile streamlines the process of playing a battle royale to create a fairly rewarding experience that's fun to play.

Apex Legends Mobile is a battle royale game first and foremost. You and your squadmates pick from a roster of hero characters called "legends," before then dropping onto a map. To win, you need to loot supplies and weapons, escape the encroaching energy wall that slowly corrals squads into an ever-dwindling space, and be the last team standing. When you fall in battle, your allies can grab your banner from the deathbox you leave behind and respawn you, keeping the whole team in the fight.

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There's a satisfying heft to shooting and smoothness to movement, and the unique strengths and weaknesses of each playable legend encourage teams to stay and work together. Color-coded attachments and ammo types ensure the momentum of the match is constantly moving forward--at a glance, you know whether a pile of loot contains anything you might want or need--so you aren't wasting time navigating menus and can get back to the action.

All of this, of course, is directly pulled from the already superb Apex Legends. If it ain't broke, don't try and fix it.

The game features two other modes beyond battle royale: Arenas and Team Deathmatch. Arenas is a 3v3 mode in which teams compete in a collection of rounds where items, legend abilities, and weapons need to be purchased with currency at the start of every match. Arenas offers a much higher skill threshold than the standard battle royale mode, as there are no respawns. TDM, meanwhile, is far more approachable, putting players into 6v6 matches where you can change your weapon or legend whenever, with infinite respawns.

Arenas is great. TDM isn't. Arenas leans into why the battle royale's combat is so compelling: Teams have to work together, intelligently using their firearms, abilities, and knowledge of the map to plan an attack, execute, and adapt if necessary. None of that exists in TDM, which is your standard mindless shoot-'em-up game mode seen in practically every shooter--it lacks the same uniqueness and brand of flavor Respawn has captured in Arenas and battle royale. Even as an on-ramp for new players, the mode is not compelling, since TDM has to be unlocked and you'll likely have a few hours under your belt by the time you do. And with a firing range and non-ranked playlists, TDM isn't an ideal warm-up mode either.

Apex Legends Mobile offers rewards to players in a number of tracks. Daily and weekly challenges are available to further your progression in both the free and premium tiers of a battle pass, experience points earned by playing the game contribute to your player level, Apex Packs unlock cosmetics for legends and weapons, and there is also the perk system.

All those different types of progression are a lot to keep track of, but it ensures that you're often earning something or working towards unlocking some sort of reward with every match you play. Most of it is your typical live-service game fare and provides a compelling enough reason to turn on the game every day and play a quick match or two, though the perk system, in particular, presents an interesting twist.

In Apex Legends Mobile, playing as a certain legend nets you points towards unlocking unique perks for them, allowing you to further customize a character to fit your ideal playstyle. You can make the speed demon Octane even more difficult to catch by equipping the ¡Vámanos! perk, for example, which gives him a speed boost if his armor is ever shattered, or dabble in a riskier playstyle with his Stunt Mode perk, which changes his Stim so it can be toggled on and off--allowing you to maintain your enhanced speed at the cost of constantly losing health.

Each character can only be equipped with three of these perks at a time, and they're divided into categories to prevent any unfair combinations from forming (at least, from what I've seen). The system adds a welcome complexity to every character in Apex Legends Mobile--none of these perks can fundamentally alter a legend's place in the meta, but they do add fun considerations in every match. Plus, perks ensure you're still feeling a sense of progression and variety even if you're only playing with the same two or three characters.

Regarding characters, Apex Legends Mobile starts with a healthy ensemble of 10 (though only a few are unlocked from the get-go). Thankfully you unlock new characters far faster than you can in Apex Legends, so you won't be stuck with the same faces for long. Interestingly, Apex Legends Mobile has an exclusive legend named Fade. Fade is a fun character and a much-needed addition for Mobile--with no cross-progression or cross-play between this game and Apex Legends, having a strong incentive like a new legend to play ensures Mobile remains a complimentary choice for long-time Apex Legends players.

Jumping into this game doesn't feel like simply starting over in the literal same experience, largely for how Fade affects the in-match meta. The only true downside to his inclusion is that he contributes to Apex Legends Mobile's offensive legend overstuffing. This is also an issue in Apex Legends, but is especially egregious in Mobile where half of the starting roster is geared towards attacking other teams (in Apex Legends, only three of the starting legends were offensive characters). The roster is seriously lacking in options for players wanting to focus on defense, recon, or support.

Whereas Apex Legends' control scheme is designed in a way to encourage players to use the ping system, Apex Legends Mobile is, at least mechanically, more focused on the fact that players can only play with their thumbs. As such, all inputs need to be condensed so you can play with just two fingers.

Apex Legends Mobile implements some smart quality-of-life improvements to streamline the mechanics of its battle royale. The game is never playing for you--victory remains a rewarding result as it is still largely determined by individual skill and a squad's teamwork. Instead, Apex Legends Mobile automates the process of looting deathboxes, for example, quickly grabbing the attachments and ammo that fit your equipped guns. If you want to slowly scroll through a deathbox's contents for grenades, extra healing, or attachments you can't use right now but may want to hold onto for later, you still can, but Apex Legends Mobile speeds up that process for anyone who may not be dextrous enough to do so in the midst of a firefight.

Features like this ensure the small amount of real estate available on a smartphone's screen isn't wasted on buttons that may not add as much to the experience as the actual shooting. Though most are aimed at speeding up the looting process, allowing you to get back to the fight as quickly as possible, a few exist on the combat side, as well. For instance, you automatically aim down sights when shooting, removing the hassle of needing to press and hold down an additional button while trying to hit a target that's further away.

Playing on the screen is still not an ideal setup--this is a fast-paced shooter after all, and a touchscreen just isn't as responsive as a good ol' fashioned gamepad. Plus, even on a substantially sized phone screen (I play on a Samsung Galaxy S10), I still accidentally fire my gun on occasion when I only mean to look around--everything is just so close together that if my thumb drifts even a little, I accidentally pull the trigger. And if my teammates' habit of randomly firing into the air or at a wall where there is no enemy is any indication, I'm not the only one accidentally doing this. In a game like Apex Legends Mobile, where conserving your ammo is crucial and ensuring enemies you're sneaking up on can't hear you, shooting when you don't mean to is frustrating. Support for every gamepad controller and handheld attachment isn't available at launch, but Respawn says full support is coming eventually.

At launch, Apex Legends Mobile features 10 playable characters, nine of which come from the 21-person roster in Apex Legends as of Season 13.
At launch, Apex Legends Mobile features 10 playable characters, nine of which come from the 21-person roster in Apex Legends as of Season 13.

Like the Switch version of Apex Legends, Apex Legends Mobile compromises on graphical detail, draw distance, and the speed at which assets are loaded in order to run on Android and iOS devices. This means long-range precision weapons are harder to use (especially with touchscreen controls), which unfortunately favors the meta towards needing automatic and semi-automatic firearms in order to win. Regular frame rate issues also persist, often dipping when you're redeploying, bouncing off a jump pad, or traveling on a zipline. Apex Legends Mobile can also stutter if multiple squads are fighting within the same enclosed space.

Unlike the Switch version, Apex Legends Mobile does not support cross-play with the Xbox, PlayStation, and PC versions of Apex Legends, so these technical issues aren't as drastic a problem. However, these issues are annoying whenever they pop up (brief as they may be) and become frustrating when the result is a missed shot or poorly timed dodge.

Overall, Apex Legends Mobile is exactly what's being advertised: This is Apex Legends, but on mobile devices. This means Respawn has made some serious concessions to its battle royale in order to make the whole thing work, especially when it comes to visuals and performance. And not all of the new additions to the formula, like Team Deathmatch, add anything compelling. But the perk system and first mobile-exclusive legend create a strong draw for Apex Legends Mobile existing alongside Apex Legends as a companion game. If you want to play Apex Legends on the go, this fulfills that need. Just don't come into it thinking this is the best way to play Respawn's battle royale game.

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The Good

  • Fade is a compelling hook to differentiate the mobile roster from console/PC
  • Plenty of fulfilling rewards to chase at the jump
  • Automating less important mechanics streamlines control scheme, keeping screen real estate relatively free

The Bad

  • Team Deathmatch doesn't fit the Apex Legends feel you get in battle royale and Arenas
  • Has a "too many offensive legends" problem

About the Author

Jordan has put about 1,400 hours into Apex Legends, and looks forward to doing the same in Apex Legends Mobile. He thinks Fade is pretty cool, and hopes the character eventually makes his way to the console/PC version of Respawn's battle royale game, though he isn't holding his breath.