Apex Legend’s sixth season not only catapulted an exciting new Legend – Rampart – into the fray, it also tweaked gun rotations and introduced gameplay mechanics like crafting. Some of these changes were met with open arms; others received immediate pushback. While the badlands of Apex Legends aren’t immune to controversy (see Season 2’s shield-shredding disruptor rounds and Season 3’s competitive split), Season 6 has seen its fair share of immediate fixes and reverted updates despite being out for less than a month. Here’s what’s causing all of the trouble:
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Season 6’s new Volt SMG is right at home in the ever-expanding list of firearms. Because the fan-favorite R-99 SMG was removed from the base-game weapon rotation and reclassified as rare care-package-loot, the Volt has emerged as the optimal choice for close-quarter engagements in Season 6. The Volt touts some of the highest SMG DPS numbers in the game and a recoil pattern that’s surprisingly easy to master, giving casual and competitive players a chance to find success with the gun. If players also equip the notoriously overpowered Devotion LMG as a secondary and enhance it with the turbocharger attachment to remove the weapon’s slow ramp-up rate, they can win an irregular amount of 1v3 scenarios because of their superior loadout.
Previous balancing issues with the Devotion forced Respawn to sideline the LMG as a care-package weapon during Season 4’s launch. Now that the gun is back in the loot pool, win conditions have once again been skewed. The Devotion’s forgiving magazine capacity – 54 energy rounds per clip! – and incomparable rate of fire means that high-tier players can obliterate their lesser-skilled foes in the blink of an eye and vice versa. The skill gap is once again at a stalemate.
To counteract these easy victories and quell the complainers, Respawn implemented a patch that reduced the spawn frequency and increased the vertical recoil of the LMG. At first glance, the changes seem appropriate, but as long as the Devotion remains in rotation, these gun-balance problems will persist.
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Everyone anticipates map changes. It’s one of the most exciting reveals every season because geography redefines the flow of combat, showcases extra vantage points, and creates surprising final-circle locations. More importantly, it’s always fun to explore the new large-scale constructs and small-scale settlements that litter the arena. In Season 6, World’s Edge has been redesigned once again. Serene outposts are now multi-floor construction sites, while vivid prairies give way to jutting rocks and armored walls. The influx of heavily fortified positions like Launch Site and Staging means that cover is abundant and easily accessible.
Even though Season 6’s map geography caters to drawn-out, long-range fights, we all know that our wins and losses are decided in the trenches. With more nooks to camp in and excess walls of cover, ambushes are more prevalent and team-fights are more exhaustive and dangerous than ever before. This becomes particularly distressing when you factor in the Volt and Devotion; guns that excel in close to mid-range engagements. Both weapons can shred armor and health pools in an instant, making subpar accuracy and positioning far more costly regardless of skill level.
Permanent Evo Shields
Evo shields – shields that increase based on player damage – were first brought to the arena back in Season 4. Originally, they were uncommon drops so that players equipped with red shields (the highest evo tier), were few and far between. In Season 6, however, evo shields are the new standard and have replaced their traditional counterparts. Moreover, every player now begins the match with an evo shield. Scouring the battlefield for body gear is a thing of the past. Instead, the evo-shield update encourages players to pick up the first weapon they find and start blasting. This makes combat more fast-paced and urgent.
At the start of Season 6, shield health pools were downgraded so time-to-kill ratios were deliberately lowered. Powerful firearms were obliterating players faster than ever, and there seemed to be no surefire answer to the onslaught. Should squads fall back, snipe from relative safety, and have a lower chance to incapacitate and finish adversaries? Or would it be better to adopt a rush-first-ask-questions-later playstyle despite the risk of a swift and utter defeat? Respawn offered its own solution and reverted the shield changes back to their pre-Season 6 glory.
The introduction of the Replicator and loot-crafting mechanic this season has made some big ripples in Apex Legends’ gameplay loop. Across two maps, players can find an array of large canisters containing crafting materials. These materials can be collected and exchanged at Replicators to repair and decrease the damage needed to level up an evo shield as well as to obtain specific weapons, ammo types, attachments, consumables, and body equipment. Additionally, the Replicator loot rotates on a daily and weekly basis, keeping available loadouts fresh and exciting.
In some ways, this new feature redesigns much of the traditional RNG looting mechanics that battle royales are known for. For example, if unparalleled guns like the Wingman, Prowler, or Devotion – weapons which are bolstered by extremely rare, but valuable attachments – are craftable in the Replicator, players could have access to late-game firearms during the earlier stages of any given match. In this way, the level-playing-field of RNG is severely reduced.
Once again, Apex Legends’ meta has shifted. To soothe the tensions that often come with sudden and unforeseeable change, Respawn has responded with small tweaks to loot spawns and large updates to gameplay mechanics. But you have to wonder if these “reversal” patches are doing more harm than good. By reverting these seasonal updates instead of replacing them with other engaging features, Season 6 is starting to feel more and more like a pale imitation of Season 5.
We’ve continued to enjoy Apex Legends despite Season 6’s infrequent highs and lows. In many ways, the game has redefined and built upon the classic battle-royale formula. If you haven’t already heard about it, check out how Nintendo is also trying to make its own waves in the popular genre.