On October 1, Apex Legends Season 3 gets a new Legend, map, battle pass, hop-up attachments, and weapon. During a press preview event, we got hands-on time with all the new content, and also spoke to Respawn CEO Vince Zampella and Apex Legends design director Chad Grenier about what can be expected to be added to the battle royale game in the future.
Crypto, a hacker, is one of the more notable additions in Season 3, introducing a brand-new playable character that most likely won’t affect the competitive meta too much, but will create new counters for certain Legends. However, the new map, as well as certain buffs and debuffs, will affect how people play.
Breaking Down Crypto, A Supportive Recon Specialist
Crypto’s abilities are tied to his drone, which he can summon with his tactical ability. While out, the drone can mark enemies, open doors and loot crates, and pick up teammate’s respawn beacons. Once summoned, his passive kicks in–allowing both Crypto and his teammates to see targets pinged through the drone. While the drone is out, Crypto is immobile, so his teammates will have to defend him. Though the drone can be summoned and recalled at will, it’s subject to a 40-second cooldown timer when destroyed.
As a result, Crypto is not ideal for aggressive strategies. Instead, he’s best when he’s hiding in the corner, using his drone to give his team an eye in the sky that can also aid fallen friends. Without his drone, Crypto has no abilities–even his ultimate requires his drone be out. His ultimate releases an EMP blast that does 50 shield damage to all nearby enemies (and himself if he’s caught in the blast) and stuns all characters (including Crypto and his teammates). The EMP also disables traps.
Crypto also, finally, presents a second option for playing as a recon character–meaning Bloodhound will no longer continue to be the only Legend occupying the role. “I don’t want to promise more recon Legends. Like, I’m a little hesitant to throw it out there because I don’t even know how many characters in the potential pipeline will even make it,” Zampella said. “But yes, eventually.”
Crypto’s Influence On Apex Legend’s Current Meta
Though Season 1’s Octane didn’t have too much of an impact on the ideal squad composition in Apex Legends, Season 2’s Wattson did. As the first truly defense-focused character, she is able to lock down zones better than any other Legend, making her an ideal member of virtually any squad. As seen in the first Apex Legends Invitational, putting her with the offensive Wraith and supportive Pathfinder creates a powerful combination. Though Crypto doesn’t directly address this squad makeup, his abilities will help disrupt the effectiveness of that trio.
“We’re always looking at data from our live game, which is much broader than just pro gamers,” Grenier said. “So it’s always a delicate balance of balancing characters and what we’re adding for the masses versus a few pro players. The competitive scene is also important to us. So I think it’s just a balance that we have to have there.”
Though we’ll need more time testing Crypto’s abilities, he seems to provide an excellent counter to the aforementioned trio. His drone can track Wraith and Pathfinder as they try to portal or grapple away, respectively, and his ultimate ability disables both Wattson’s tactical and ultimate. Crypto’s inability to do much without his drone, however, makes him seem like a poor pick for the fast-paced nature of competitive play. He does, though, pose somewhat of a threat in casual and lower-tiered ranked play, providing an excellent supportive option for someone who isn’t good at first-person shooters.
Creating New Content And Designing For Next-Gen
Crypto isn’t the only new addition to Apex Legends coming in Season 3. At the start of Season 3, the current map Kings Canyon will be removed and replaced with World’s Edge–a brand-new map that was teased with Crypto’s first in-game appearance. The new map, which is on a different planet, presents different opportunities for how you want to play. A lava-filled area creates an environmental hazard, while an active train creates a way to both bunker down and move around the map. There are also multi-story buildings and towers where a Pathfinder zipline or Octane jump pad is likely to come in handy. Disruptor ammo and the skullpiercer have been replaced with two new hop-ups, the effects of the gold legendary backpacks and armor have changed, and new emote unlocks allow you to playfully insult your opponents anytime, not just when you kill them. Season 3 sees the most changes Apex Legends has ever had.
“Every time we launch a new season, we’re getting better and better,” Zampella said. “We’re doing more content but also better quality content. We’re starting to get it with the new modes and skins and the Legends are all getting better… It feels really good right now. I think we really feel like we hit our stride and we really know where we’re going with Apex. So there’s so much in the works right now that is just going to be amazing over the years coming up.”
Despite the excitement surrounding all the new content, Zampella wants to ensure that the Apex Legends team at Respawn doesn’t devolve into crunch. Respawn is testing what players like about the new content for every season, cutting stuff out of the content roadmap if an early iteration of it didn’t land with players. “It’s a constant evolution process,” Zampella said. “We’re getting better at making content, so we can make better quality content faster. And we’re hiring up, we’re expanding, but we don’t want to add a hundred people onto the team right away. We want to do it in a way that keeps the culture at Respawn safe. We want to always work and push as hard as we can, but at the same time, we do want a good life-work balance where this team is happy. And the happier they are, the better content they’re going to make. So we’re constantly trying to walk that line and balance it and I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job.”
Respawn isn’t content with solely succeeding for the remaining lifespan of the current hardware, acknowledging the approach of next-generation consoles. When asked about creating next-gen ports for Microsoft and Sony’s next consoles, Zampella said, “I feel like we’d be foolish not to be everywhere.” However, he added that he was not allowed to confirm whether the team has already started on the process of a next-generation Apex Legends.
For now, Zampella assures that cross-play is on the current roadmap for Apex Legends. “There’s a lot of work to it, though, and cross-play means different things to different people,” he added. “Just letting someone on an Xbox One play against someone on a PlayStation 4–that’s fairly easy. It’s the cross-progression stuff that starts to get messy because then it runs into certain business terms with Sony and Microsoft that you have to weed through. So we would love to see it. I think there’s just a lot involved with it before we can get it out there.”
Looking Beyond To Season 4 And Year 2
You can still expect to see plenty of new content come to Apex Legends in the coming months, and Respawn is already hard at work on dozens of new Legends. “Some of the stuff takes a long time,” Zampella admitted. “There’s a long lead on [character creation]. We’re adding people to the character team but you won’t see the results of that work for a while.”
“We have dozens of characters that are in the works at any given time,” Grenier added. “But we create and kill characters on a weekly basis. So the characters that sort of have legs–not literally, but you know–they rise to the top and go to the next phase of development. And at some point, we have to make a decision on what the next character is going to be and we usually pull from the characters that are sort of at that next phase of development.” Zampella was adamant about not revealing exact release date windows, but Grenier did say there are already certain Legends tentatively planned for the next few seasons, with some characters scheduled for release over a year from now.
Granted, these characters could behave very differently once they release. Zampella explained how Respawn always begins with establishing who a character is as a person first–creating their race, gender, culture, personality, and appearance–before making multiple iterations to their gameplay. Almost every Legend in Apex has seen a change in their passive, tactical, and ultimate abilities, but their characters have been long established–typically months before their gameplay is. “There are tweaks maybe along the way, but for the most part that’s imagined fairly early on,” Zampella said. Grenier added, “Yeah, and sometimes we combine multiple abilities from different characters into one, or maybe there’s a tactical that works really well for one character and an ultimate on another. Early in the process we’ll maybe mix and match or combine character abilities.”
The Apex Games: Real Bloodsport Or Convincing Simulation?
Before my time with Zampella and Grenier came to an end, I had to ask them about how real the Apex Games are in the Titanfall mythos. Though most of the cinematic trailers for Apex Legends advertise the Games as a very real event where people die and the Legends we play as are simply the recurrent winners of the competitions, the existence of the respawn beacon mechanic suggests it’s all a simulation. “We’re not even sure yet,” Zampella said, laughing. “We have a lot of data and we’re still trying to decipher it. I think we’re close to figuring it out.”