Apex Legends has become pocket-sized with Apex Legends Mobile, a completely separate version of the battle royale game for Android and iOS devices. Apex Legends Mobile is completely different from its older brother, featuring a unique menu, maps, modes, and progression path – some of which unfortunately detract from the overall experience. However, Apex Legends Mobile simplifies the process of playing battle royale to create a somewhat rewarding experience that is fun to play.
Apex Legends Mobile is first and foremost a battle royale game. You and your teammates choose from a list of hero characters called “Legends”, before they fall off the map. To win, you need to loot supplies and weapons, escape the creepy wall of energy that is slowly cramming teams into an ever-shrinking space, and be the last team standing. When you fall into battle, your allies can snatch your banner from the death chest you leave behind and resuscitate you, keeping the entire team in the fight.
There is a satisfying heft to the shooting and fluidity of 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 that match momentum is constantly moving forward – at a glance, you know if a pile of loot contains anything you might want or need – so you don’t waste time navigating menus and you can get back to work.
All of this, of course, is taken straight from the already awesome Apex Legends. If it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it.
The game features two modes other than battle royale: Arenas and Team Deathmatch. Arenas is a 3v3 mode where teams compete in a range of rounds where items, legend abilities, and weapons need to be purchased with currency at the start of each match. Arenas offer a much higher skill threshold than the standard battle royale mode, as there are no respawns. Meanwhile, TDM is even more intuitive, putting players into 6v6 matches where you can change your weapon or legend at any time, with infinite replay periods.
The squares are wonderful. TDM is not. The arenas tend to be why combat is so important in a battle royale: teams have to work together, using their firearms, abilities, and knowledge of the map intelligently to plan the attack, execute and adapt if necessary. There’s none of that in TDM, the nonsensical casual shooter mode that appears in nearly every shooter game – it lacks the same exclusivity and brand of flavor that Respawn captured in Arenas and battle royale. Even if it’s a ramp for new players, the situation isn’t compelling, since the TDM has to be unlocked and you’ll likely have a few hours under your belt by the time you do. And with its unclassified shooting range and playlists, TDM isn’t an ideal warm-up mode either.
Apex Legends Mobile offers players rewards on a number of tracks. Daily and weekly challenges are available to boost your progress in both the free and premium levels of the battle pass, experience points gained by playing the game contribute to your player level, Apex packs unlock cosmetics for legends and weapons, there is also the feature system.
All of these different types of progression need to be tracked a lot, but they ensure that you often win something or unlock some kind of bonus with every match you play. Most are your typical live service game fare and provide enough compelling reason to play the game every day and play a quick match or two, although the customization system, in particular, offers an interesting twist.
In Apex Legends Mobile, you play as a specific Legend Network that unlocks unique perks for them, allowing you to customize a character to fit your ideal playstyle. You can make the speed demon Octane even more difficult to catch by equipping ¡Vámanos! A feature, for example, which gives him a speed boost if his shield breaks, or immerse himself in risky gameplay with Stunt Mode, which changes his Stim so he can be turned on and off – allowing you to maintain speed at the cost of constantly losing health.
Each character can only be equipped with three of these perks at a time, and they are divided into classes 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 change a legend’s place in the definition, but they add fun considerations in every match. Plus, the perks ensure that you still feel a sense of progression and diversity even if you’re only playing the same two or three characters.
In terms of characters, Apex Legends Mobile starts with a healthy group of 10 (although only a few are unlocked from the start). Fortunately, you unlock new characters much 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 called Fade. Fade is a fun character and a much-needed addition to mobile – with no cross-play progression or cross-play between this game and Apex Legends, a strong incentive like a new legend to play ensures Mobile remains a free option for long-time Apex Legends players.
Jumping into this game doesn’t feel like just starting over literally the same experience, much to how Fade affects in-game identification. The only real downside to its inclusion is that it contributes to the Apex Legends Mobile offensive legend stack. This is also a problem in Apex Legends, but it is especially scandalous in Mobile where Half From the start menu is geared towards attacking other teams (in Apex Legends, only three of the starting legends were attacking characters). The menu lacks options for players who want to focus on defence, recovery or support.
While the control scheme of Apex Legends is designed in a way that encourages players to use the ping system, Apex Legends Mobile, at least mechanically, places more emphasis on the fact that players can only play with their thumbs. As such, all inputs should be condensed so you can only play with two fingers.
Apex Legends Mobile implements some clever quality of life improvements to simplify its battle royale mechanics. The game is never played to YOU – Winning remains a rewarding outcome because it is still largely determined by individual skill and teamwork. Instead, Apex Legends Mobile automates the process of looting death chests, for example, quickly grabbing attachments and ammo that fit your equipped weapons. If you want to slowly swipe through the contents of the Death Chest in search of grenades, extra cure, or attachments that you can’t use now but might want to hold on to for later, you still can, but Apex Legends Mobile speeds up this process for anyone who might not be as good Enough to do so in the midst of a gun battle.
Features like these ensure that the small amount of smartphone screen real estate isn’t wasted on buttons that might not add as much to the experience as the actual shooting. Although most of them are meant to speed up the looting process, allowing you to get back into the fight as quickly as possible, a few are on the combat side as well. For example, it automatically points sights down when shooting, eliminating the hassle of having to press and hold an extra button while trying to hit a distant target.
Playing on the screen still isn’t an ideal setup – this is a fast-paced shooter after all, and the touchscreen isn’t quite as responsive as a good gamepad. Plus, even on the phone’s oversized screen (I’m playing on a Samsung Galaxy S10), I still accidentally fire my gun at times when I just mean to look around – everything is so close together that if my thumb drifts a bit, I I pulled the trigger by mistake. And if my teammates’ habit of shooting randomly in the air or at a wall where there’s no enemy is any indication, I’m not the only one who does so by mistake. In a game like Apex Legends Mobile, where preserving your ammo is critical and making sure the enemies you sneak up on can’t hear you, shooting when you don’t mean to is frustrating. Support is not available for every gamepad controller and portable attachment at launch, but Respawn says full support is finally coming.
Like the Switch version of Apex Legends, Apex Legends Mobile compromises graphical details, drawing distance, and speed at which assets are loaded in order to play on Android and iOS devices. This means that it is difficult to use long-range precision weapons (especially with touch screen controls), which unfortunately favors the meta towards the need for automatic and semi-automatic firearms in order to win. Regular frame rate issues also persist, often dropping when reposting, bouncing off a jumpboard or traveling on a zipline. Apex Legends Mobile can also stutter if there are multiple teams 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 a big deal. However, these issues are annoying whenever they arise (as short as they may be) and become frustrating when the result is a lost or poorly timed dodge.
In general, Apex Legends Mobile is exactly what is being advertised: this is Apex Legends, but on mobile devices. This means that Respawn has made some serious concessions to its battle royale in order to make everything work, especially when it comes to visuals and performance. And not all the new additions to the formula, such as Team Deathmatch, add anything compelling. But the franchise system and the first mobile-exclusive legend create a strong attraction for Apex Legends Mobile that exists alongside Apex Legends as a companion game. If you want to play Apex Legends on the go, this fulfills that need. Just don’t think that this is the best way to play a battle royale game at Respawn.