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Apex Legends: How a Battle Royale Game is Saving Titanfall

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Apex Legends

The internet is talking more about Titanfall 2 now than it has since the game launched. Twitter riots for a sequel to what many call one of the best shooter campaigns of the past decade are taking place. GamesRadar even reported that the current player base for Titanfall 2 has doubled on all fronts, but why? The one thing that brought Titanfall 2 back from commercial failure with little issue was not a sudden PlayStation Plus release or Games Pass inclusion. No—the one thing resuscitating the Titanfall franchise from obscurity is a free-to-play, multiplayer shooter called Apex Legends.

Three weeks ago, Apex Legends did not exist. Rumors of Respawn Entertainment’s next game were there, sure, but, for many, the EA-owned developer had been out of mind since 2016. Even Respawn’s Star Wars contribution, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, is so early in development that little discussion can be had about it.

Now, Legends has more than 25 million players in total and has remained in the top five viewed Twitch games since its launch. Respawn made waves overnight after its first big public down period.

That is not to say Respawn has been releasing subpar content, of course. Respawn made its debut in 2014 with the “Call of Duty-killer,” Titanfall. This first entry in the Titanfall saga never got a proper story mode, but still received critical acclaim across the board. Despite this and initially solid player numbers, the game’s player base fell off fairly quickly after launch. EA has never officially given sales for the first Titanfall though, pointing to what may have been disappointing numbers for the publisher.

Only two years later, Respawn would launch Titanfall 2. Critical acclaim does not do this second entry justice, though. As stated earlier, plenty of fans will rush to defend Titanfall 2 as one of the greatest single-player shooter campaigns ever. Great platforming sections, colorful characters, and the tightest shooting in a long time were some of the highlights of the unorthodox entry.

Even so, Titanfall 2 marked a trend toward unsatisfactory commercial success. Respawn CEO Vince Zampella interviewed with GameSpot in 2017 and said “[Titanfall 2] was successful, but didn’t quite sell as well as it should have.” The game’s launch was sandwiched between Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Battlefield 1, giving Titanfall 2 some of the fiercest competition in the industry. Sales numbers were never officially released for the sequel either.

Apex LegendsTitanfall 2 sales estimates point toward PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC sales not touching the numbers the original game made with only Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC releases. Poor release scheduling certainly aided in a lack of interest across all platforms, but the trend is still present regardless. Most of the general gaming population will sooner recognize Titanfall 2 as “that game from the bargain bin” before thinking of its groundbreaking single-player component. Respawn had proven itself as a capable developer but even with units moving enough to make money, the downward trend was concerning. At this point, who knows what EA could have been thinking in terms of the Titanfall franchise.

Three weeks ago, Respawn was famous for being underappreciated, which is a look that publishers such as EA do not like. With the 2017 shutdown of Visceral Games and mistreatment of the Star Wars license, EA has proven that it has no intention of sparing anyone incapable of printing money. In more ways than one, Respawn’s future depended on its next project.

If Respawn had carried on, Titanfall would have almost surely met its demise. If the market is showing signs of growing less interested in a franchise (especially after relentless praise) then the next logical step is to drop said franchise.

Apex LegendsWhether Titanfall would have failed if another title was released is impossible to determine. That said, a few examples that will stand as a warning for developers in the future. As mentioned earlier, Visceral had a tumultuous decade before its closure, but its history is still remembered fondly.

Visceral’s Dead Space and Dead Space 2 are still looked back on as highlights in the gaming space, with the original marking a strong beginning for the seventh generation of consoles. Like Titanfall though, the series never saw much commercial success. Instead of taking a more creative route, Visceral eventually pushed out Dead Space 3. As well as missing the mark in more than a few areas in terms of content, microtransactions helped play a crucial role in this third installment’s lack of sales. Ever since Dead Space 3’s release, the Dead Space series has been on hiatus. EA is even the same company that oversaw the Visceral decline and eventual death. The resemblance between what Visceral and Respawn went through is uncanny, and if Titanfall 3 released to a market that was not asking for more then who knows where Respawn could be now.

Apex LegendsWhat the market is begging for, however, is multiplayer that is either free, battle royale, or both. Fortnite is the undisputed champion of the entertainment space and has been for about a year. Epic’s builder royale took the world by storm, thus transcending the medium. Piggy-backing off the hype surrounding the success of battle royale games is not necessarily just a cheap or easy move, but it can be a smart one. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 ditched single-player entirely so that its battle royale mode—Blackout—could take the spotlight. The now-closed Boss Key Productions, like many other studios, chose to release its own spin on the genre with Radical Heights.

However, Respawn opted to avoid the beaten path in favor of a spin-off in the Titanfall universe that no one saw coming. In the same GameSpot interview mentioned earlier, Zampella alluded to Respawn’s plans going forward.

“We have our franchise creative director, who’s in charge of safeguarding the (Titanfall) franchise in multiple formats and making sure it continues to grow. There’s some other things we’re doing that haven’t been announced just yet, but we’re heavily invested in the Titanfall universe.”

Apex LegendsZampella did not lie, as about two years later, Respawn would combine a battle-royale-hungry market, a commercially waning franchise, free to play, and its top-notch gameplay to create Apex Legends.

Apex Legends was, both literally and metaphorically, created from the remains of Titanfall. Like a phoenix from the ashes, Apex Legends was made from what was left over from Titanfall 3 and created a special experience on every front. Not only does Respawn uphold its standard of games with character in Apex Legends, but now everyone who is anyone is in on the fun too. Just as Zampella mentioned year ago, this new title is part of the Titanfall universe. while also remaining as far away from that franchise as possible. The game is missing a story, yet still feels contextualized in the world of Titanfall. The overdone battle royale formula is the game’s primary mode, practically cementing the battle royale shooter as Titanfall 2’s polar opposite. Add in nothing but rumors to serve as the game’s prelaunch marketing strategy and Apex Legends suddenly becomes the underdog Respawn needed to rise from obscurity.

Though Apex Legends stands as an opposite to the primary reason players are fighting for Titanfall to return, the game is a shining example of why developers should do whatever it takes to promote their names and abilities. Dead Space in its truest form may never return, but Respawn’s efforts are what have ensured Titanfall’s bright future. Surely promotions will read “from the team that brought you Apex Legends” on every Titanfall 3 poster and trailer when the game is inevitably revealed. Yes, a multiplayer-centric gaming world can muster a sour taste in the mouth, but both single player and multiplayer can coexist in the same ecosystem. Without Apex Legends there would be no Titanfall and vice versa. Single-player games are not dying, and Respawn’s battle royale, Apex Legends, is making sure of that.

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Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in May 2019

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May

May offers no respite from the big, bold games that have released so far in 2019, bringing with it a host of games almost certain to appeal to gamers of every stripe.

Close to the Sun

Release Date: May 2, 2019
Platforms: PC, consoles later in the year

May’s first major release may also be its most intriguing. Close to the Sun has regularly attracted comparisons to BioShock for its art style and premise, though the relationship between the two titles is, at best, spiritual.

Players take the role of journalist Rose Archer as she steps aboard Nikola Tesla’s ship, the Helios in 1897. Like Andrew Ryan before him (or after him, depending on perspective), Tesla has created a microcosm in which scientific freedom is unrestricted, with disastrous outcomes. Rose’s first impression is of a quarantine sign at the entrance to a still, dead ship, but she presses on regardless in search of her lost sister.

With Close to the Sun, developer Storm in a Teacup aims to provide an intense horror experience. The Helios holds none of BioShock’s shotguns or Plasmids. Instead, players have no means to defend themselves, with gameplay focusing on hiding from and escaping the threats on board.

Check out OnlySP’s final review of the game here.

RAGE 2

Release Date: May 14, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

For anyone to whom the slow, meditative approach does not appeal, Bethesda is busting out the big guns with the long-awaited, little-expected sequel, RAGE 2.

This time around, id Software has tapped Just Cause and Mad Max developer Avalanche Studios for assistance in developing an open-world game. The result, if the trailers are any indication, is a breakneck, neon-fuelled experience that focuses on insanity and ramps up all the unique aspects of the earlier game.

One focal point of development has been ensuring the interconnectedness of the game’s structure, and the teams have promised a greater focus on narrative this time around. Perhaps in keeping with that, RAGE 2 is being distanced from its predecessor, taking place 30 years later with a new protagonist and a whole new story, though some callbacks will be present.

Although id’s legendary first-person gunplay is a driving force throughout the game, it will be supplemented by some light RPG elements, robust vehicular combat, and post launch challenges and support (though the developers deny that RAGE 2 is designed with a games-as-a-service model in mind).

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Release Date: May 14, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Out on the same day as RAGE 2 is the vastly different A Plague Tale: Innocence. A historical adventure, the game challenges players with overcoming obstacles with brains rather than brawn.

Players become Amicia, an orphan girl struggling to survive in a plague-infested medieval France while also keeping her younger brother safe. With the landscape rife with rats and members of The Inquisition, one of the core tenets of gameplay is reportedly the need to use these threats against each other. As such, though Amicia has a sling to use, the gameplay is designed more as survival puzzles than combat ones.

Developer Asobo Studio is not a household name, though it has a lengthy history of adaptations and support on major titles, including Quantum Break and The Crew 2. Furthermore, even though A Plague Tale is yet to release, publisher Focus Home Interactive has displayed remarkable confidence in the project by extending its partnership with Asobo.

Honourable Mentions

Although RAGE 2 is the incontestable action-blockbuster of the month, gamers in search of another kind of frenetic may want to wait until May 21, when Curve Digital drops American Fugitive, which has a more than passing resemblance to the earliest Grand Theft Auto games. Alternatively, PlayStation VR owners may want to look into Blood and Truth come May 28.

Sega also shines this month, dropping Team Sonic Racing on May 21 and Total War: Three Kingdoms two days later.

Anyone looking for an RPG has indie’s answer to The Outer Worlds, Within the Cosmos, to look out for on May 30, while those looking for slower stories get the latest episode of Life is Strange 2 on May 9, Observation on May 21, and the fjord-noir Draugen at a yet unspecified date.

Have we forgotten anything that you’re excited for? Let us know down below or on our Discord server.

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