Apex Legends has finally gotten its season 1 Battle Pass, and the community has responded with disappointment.
Unlike Fortnite’s popular Battle Pass, which involves completing a variety of different challenges for experience points, Apex Legends’ first season pass is a basic experience grind. And a long experience grind.
One heavily upvoted thread compared the 29,500 experience points required to unlock the first Battle Pass tier with the 18,500 experience points required to take an account from level 97 to 98. Respawn developers had to post in the thread explaining and defending their system, pointing out the potential XP bonuses players can earn to decrease the length of the grind.
When you actually run the math, Apex Legends’ Battle Pass probably doesn’t take longer to unlock than Fortnite’s, and Apex Legends actually features some quality-of-life improvements that theoretically make its leveling process more approachable for less dedicated players.
But none of that matters, because Apex Legends’ pass has a bigger problem: The rewards aren’t worth the effort.
How the Battle Pass works
Epic Games both bypassed the loot box controversy and helped popularize the new hotness for game monetization in 2017 when it started selling seasonal Battle Passes for Fortnite, mimicking the Battle Pass system from Dota 2. The pitch is that you pay a flat entry fee of $9.50 — less than the cost of a movie ticket — which gets you access to 100 tiers of unlockable content.
What Fortnite’s Battle Pass gets right
As long as you play around an hour a day, you’ll gain access to a bunch of goodies, including high-end skins, fancy emotes and dances, back bling, custom parachutes, and even enough virtual currency to get the next season’s pass for free. You can also pay $28 instead of $9.50 at the start of the season if you don’t think you’ll play enough to unlock all the tiers. Doing so automatically unlocks the first 25 tiers for you, decreasing the amount of time you’ll need to spend grinding for rewards. It’s a good system.
The trick is that you don’t get the rewards unless you complete the pass within the season. So if you don’t manage to play more than an hour a day, seven days a week, you may be behind at the end of the season. In that case you either have to grind like crazy, purchase the remaining tiers for $1.50 each, or lose the loot.
Apex Legends, Respawn Entertainment’s new battle royale game, sells loot boxes as well as the Battle Pass. That will be important later.
Apex Legends’ Battle Pass is likely an easier grind than Fortnite’s
Fortnite accounts have both a season level and a Battle Pass tier level.
You increase your Battle Pass tier level by earning Battle Pass stars, which is done by completing daily and weekly challenges, finding stars hidden in unlockable loading screens, and leveling up your season level.
Most of Fortnite’s challenges aren’t tied to the central gameplay loop of shooting and building, but instead require players to go to specific locations on the map to interact with certain objects or find hidden things. This means that even players who aren’t great at shooting can complete the challenges, if they can live long enough to get to them.
You also level up during the season by gaining experience points for doing things like killing other players, dealing damage, winning games, or just for surviving. Leveling up gets you more stars, which unlocks more tiers. You’ll need to play a lot of Fortnite to reach tier 100 of your pass.
The Fortnite team says it takes between 75 and 150 hours to complete a Fortnite Battle Pass. The lower end of that range involves leveraging all the challenges and playing with friends for experience point multipliers. It will take you much longer if you grind your tiers by hiding somewhere and going AFK while your survival experience ticks up.
Apex Legends also has 100 Battle Pass tiers. It doesn’t have any challenges, at least not yet, because Respawn wants people to focus on the core game experience rather than interacting with doodads or digging for treasure. That means you can only unlock tiers by earning experience points.
Apex Legends’ base account leveling system awards 180 experience for each minute you survive, one point for every four damage you deal during the game, 50 points for kills, 25 for reviving an ally, 300 for placing in the top three squads, 500 for winning, and 500 for killing the champion or for being on the champion’s squad. You also get 500 points for your first kill of the day.
Battle Pass experience is the same, except it adds something called the Legend Bonus. The Legend Bonus gives you double the experience points for the first 25,000 points you earn for survival time on each character, each week, if you have purchased the Battle Pass.
That means you get a lot more Battle Pass experience than you get account experience, and it also means that the amount of progress you get for survival time dwarfs the rewards for everything else to a much greater extent than it does in Apex’s account progression system. You also get 500 points of additional Battle Pass experience for the first kill each day, for each character. This stacks with the account-wide first kill bonus, so you will get 1,000 extra points for that kill.
Each tier requires 29,500 points Battle Pass experience. So if you deal zero damage and get zero kills, and get nothing but survival points, progressing through all 100 tiers will take 136 hours if you’re getting your Legend Bonus at all times. That’s comparable to the high end of Fortnite’s estimated completion time, but anything you do in game whittles some time off that total. Most players should probably be able to finish the Apex pass in 100-110 hours.
Like Fortnite, Apex Legends’ Battle Pass will also give you bonus survival experience for teaming with friends, and that bonus increases as you unlock more friend bonus tiers. If you’re not very good, you can also team up with other players who aren’t very good in order to hide from everyone and max out your experience points with the bonuses. Doing so will likely push your expected completion time for the Battle Pass below 100 hours, even without the damage or kill experience.
But the big difference, for the first season at least, is that Apex’s season lasts 90 days, while Fortnite’s season only lasts 70. That gives you three extra weeks — 30 percent longer — to grind out the Apex pass, and that makes a big difference in the daily time commitment the game demands of you.
Why the Apex Legends Battle Pass feels like a slog
A straightforward experience grind is arguably simpler than trying to play a giant piano while avoiding gunfire from griefers to complete a challenge, but the Apex Legends Battle Pass still feels disappointing compared to Fortnite’s, even with the extra time given to players to complete it.
And it’s because the rewards are so bad.
Fortnite’s season 8 Battle Pass starts you off with two new skins: Blackheart and the Hybrid. These are the “progressive skins,” which improve in multiple stages as you complete challenges, get kills, or meet experience thresholds. Blackheart starts out as a pirate-looking dude in an eye patch and a pleather hoodie, and the skin evolves over multiple stages into a ghost pirate with a glowing skull head. Hybrid starts out as a ninja but, as you level up and finish the challenges, he becomes a giant ninja lizard.
The goodies keep coming from there, with a big reward unlocked every seven tiers. You’ll get new parachutes, new skins for your pickaxe, new dances and emotes, and the Sidewinder cowgirl skin. At tier 47, you get Peely, a weird banana man skin who starts off green at the beginning of the match and ripens if you survive long enough.
There are more skins at tiers 71 and 87, a hula hoop dance at 95, and, at 100, the Luxe skin, who comes with her own special set of challenges that unlock extra color variants, along with a special pickaxe skin, wrap, back bling, and emote. It sounds like a lot of stuff, because it is, but it’s also fun and even weird stuff that makes the game more exciting to play. I look forward to unlocking each new item.
By comparison, the loot from Apex’s pass sucks. You get a badge you can use on your banner, and every five levels it upgrades a little bit, and each upgrade counts as a tier reward. The final, animated badge is kind of cool, but it winds up being a fifth of the total Battle Pass tier rewards. And does anyone really pay attention to, or care about, the badge on your banner?
The character and weapon skins you unlock as pass rewards are only rare quality, which means they’re just textures wrapped about the base model for a gun or character. Since all the characters and weapons have legendary skins available in loot boxes that can’t be used with these textures, these skins are nothing but junk that you will never use once you obtain a fancier alternative. Nine of the tiers just give you a voice line of each character saying “open season.” Many of the other rewards are just stat counters that track your kills, wins, and damage on each character.
The Battle Pass also gives you 11 loot boxes. One of these, which you get at tier 26, is guaranteed to have at least one epic or better item, and one, which you get at tier 86, is guaranteed to contain a legendary. And for completing the pass, you get the legendary Silver Storm and Golden Idol skins for the Havoc energy rifle.
These skins aren’t really different skins; they’re just two color variations on the same remodel of the weapon. And they’re cool skins! They’re reactive and become more elaborate over the course of the match as you get more kills. But even a very cool legendary customization for a single weapon is a pretty underwhelming reward for a pass that takes 100 hours to complete.
In contrast to the Fortnite pass, where you’re always within a few tiers of a cool reward, the only item arguably worth chasing in the Apex pass is the last one.
This is a major misstep in an otherwise great launch
A Battle Pass asks players to make the significant commitment of planning to play 100-plus hours of a game over the span of a few months. It is a huge blunder on Respawn’s part not to offer a reward that is commensurate to the time the studio is expecting people to spend on its game. Respawn has done a lot of things right in Apex Legends, but none of that will matter if it can’t reward players for playing its game to the same degree that other games do.
Apex Legends is a game that is attempting to compete directly with the most popular game around right now, and needs to break off a piece of that game’s audience. It got off to a strong start, but it can’t afford a mistake like this. Fortnite’s Battle Pass is stuffed with reasons to play Fortnite, and Apex Legends is offering an animated banner badge and one legendary gun skin.
If you’re a Fortnite player who switched over to check out Apex Legends and now has to choose which of these two Battle Passes to invest your effort into pursuing over the next couple of months, I can’t imagine very many people finding the Apex Legends pass more enticing.
Respawn needs to recognize that it is facing an emergency, and it needs to do whatever it can to right the ship. If it can’t develop enticing new cosmetics to add to this pass, it needs to throw more loot boxes into the tiers to make leveling up its Battle Pass more rewarding.
If it waits until the next season begins in June to try to course-correct, much of its audience may be gone.
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