My Apex Legends: Escape hands-on preview is no joke. With an aggressive new Legend, a gigantic new map, and a gun straight out of Titanfall 2, there are times during my play session that I feel like I'm getting whiplash. This upcoming Apex Legends season will be highly combative and fast as hell, perfect for highly skilled players and an absolute gauntlet for those just getting into it all.
Respawn is clearly injecting Apex Legends with a hyper dose of adrenaline with Escape, offering a Legend that's all about attacking enemies head-on, eliminating respawn balloons, and dropping an SMG that's almost unmatched at close range into the loot pool. Here's what I took away from my Apex Legends: Escape hands-on time, and what you can expect when it drops with Season 11 on November 2.
Storm Point is undeniably the biggest thing coming in Apex Legends: Escape: a brand-new map that has the potential to drastically change the way the game is played. And that's not just a throwaway statement – after a few rounds of Apex Legends: Escape, it's clear that this map isn't for the faint of heart. Storm Point may look like a beachside getaway worthy of a Sandals commercial, but this is a gigantic and dangerous map with plenty of rotations you'll need to learn – after all, it's 15% larger than World's Edge.
As far as danger goes, you don't just have enemy Legends to worry about, as the island of Storm Point is full of creatures that want to take a chunk out of you. The prowlers we're all very familiar with have nests across the island, and disturbing them will get you swarmed – but that's not the only creature you'll have to deal with. There are giant spider eggs tucked into the rocks with the eight-legged freaks just waiting to run out and attack you. You'll get some gear for felling any of the island's beasts, but you'll also have to deal with them nipping at your heels mid-firefight if you don't pay attention to your surroundings.
Storm Point doesn't seem like a map that will be kind to those who avoid firefights either, at least not when it comes to respawn towers – because this map has removed nearly all of them. In fact, I didn't come across one during my hands-on at all. Instead, there are gravity cannons that will help you outrun the ring or your opponents by shooting you in a predetermined direction (but you do have pitch control and can land on the outside of the receiving cannon to avoid traps and whatnot).
But the best part of the new cannons is that players can freely use weapons, grenades, and abilities while traveling through them – which is a very telling feature. Swapping out the more passive respawn towers for gravity cannons that cover less ground and allow for firefights to continue while using them means Respawn is pushing Storm Point to be a much more aggressive map. It's Apex Legends, but harder, better, and faster. And we haven't even gotten to the new Legend yet.
The Titanfall 2 connection
Titanfall fans will be happy to see how much deeper the Apex Legends and Titanfall connection goes in Apex Legends: Escape. Sure, it's no Titanfall 3, but it's great to see some fan-favorite characters enter the arena. And Ash may have been running the Apex games since Season 9, but her entering the fray as a playable character makes for a very interesting dynamic shift. The anger in Horizon's voice whenever she's on a squad with Ash is searing hot, and for good reason.
Ash is a different kind of simulacrum than Revenant: she has an organic brain in her head, the brain of a scientist named Dr. Ashleigh Reid, who was once Horizon's apprentice. After years of psychologically manipulating Horizon's research team, Dr. Reid betrayed her on a mission to obtain the substance known as Branthium. When she tried to keep it all for herself, Reid was stabbed by Wattson's grandmother, who was a member of a collective known as "The Group" (they designed Pathfinder). It was Dr. Reid's wish to have her brain housed in a simulacrum, which is how Ash the successful Titan pilot was born. Titanfall 2 players will recognize as the liaison for mercenary pilots in the multiplayer game, and the pilot who gets crushed to death in BT's iron grip, but Apex fans now know the dark depth of Ash's backstory.
Ash didn't die on Typhon, but was rebuilt by arms manufacturer Vinson Dynamics and lives with a fractured personality likely due to amnesia from her severe injuries. One side is cold and calculating, the other more human and vulnerable, and the two are at war. She's certainly one of the more interesting characters to join the Apex games in a while, with a storyline that can seriously up the battle royale's ante.
And then there's the C.A.R. SMG, a Titanfall 2 weapon that seriously shakes up the loot game. The new SMG can take both Light and Heavy ammo, and other than an increased mag size between the two, the ammo behaves identically. But the mixed-use weapon means you'll be able to approach inventory management from a completely different angle; the C.A.R.'s strength when pulled straight off the ground can't be denied. It fires great from the hip, with a bit more kick than the other SMGs, and absolutely melts faces up close. Speedy, aggressive players will absolutely love this thing.
Ashes to ashes
New Legend Ash may be a different kinda simulacrum than Revenant, but her playstyle will be very familiar to fans of the creepy robot dude. Like Revenant, Ash is a highly aggressive Legend with a fairly similar kit. Her passive, Marked for Death, has two key components: she can see death boxes on the map for a period of time after they appear, and she can use her data knife on death boxes to locate the rest of that player's team. Her tactical ability is Arc Snare, and it's a lot like Revenant's Silence in that it temporarily disables players, paralyzing them in an electrical snare. And her ultimate ability, Phase Breach, lets you use a sword to open up a one-way portal that closes gaps with lightning-fast speed.
But it makes sense that the hyper-aggressive ultimates don't jive with my playstyle. I tend to play a slightly more passive game, preferring Legends like Bangalore to help me escape firefights and protect my teammates or Wattson to ensure we have a safe stronghold – but Ash is the kind of Legend that will appeal to the solo queuer or the player who runs into a firefight gun blazing. Super aggressive players who can think fast on their feet and hit every shot with precision will gravitate towards Ash, and her one-way, attack-heavy ultimate may free up space for Legends like Wraith to settle into more supportive positions.
At times, Apex Legends: Escape feels harder than other Apex Legends Seasons. As a partially lapsed player, the speed at which my matches play out is initially overwhelming, and Ash's kit is clearly better in the hands of a much more skilled player. But as I spend time running around the shores of the new map and firing off C.A.R. rounds from the hip, I can't help but imagine Daft Punk's 'Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger' is playing in my headset.
Apex Legends: Escape Season 11 launches November 2.
All you need to know about the Apex Legends Storm Point map.