It’s been a long month for Apex Legends.
On June 13th, the two-year-old Battle Royale was on a PR hot streak and looked positioned to both strengthen its place in the market and explode as an esport. The first season of the Apex Legends Global Series had just drawn to a $2.5 million close, setting high marks for viewership despite being forced online and off-schedule by the Covid-19 pandemic. EA and Respawn Entertainment employees were hinting at big plans for a new ALGS season in September, a new ranked split was fast approaching and all seemed well.
The #ALGS will return bigger and better than ever in September 2021.
All competitors have been sent an email featuring a bunch of community tournaments taking place during the Summer off-season.
Thank you all for making this first year special – despite crazy circumstances. ♥
— Shahin Kanafchian (@shahin) June 17, 2021
Just over a month later, Apex has suffered through online spats between pros and developers over the prevalence of cheating in ranked play, a three-week stretch in which custom games were broken (making competitive play impossible) and a security breach that brought one of the largest games on the planet to its knees for more than 10 hours. Apex Legends fell from one of its highest highs to what many hope will be its lowest low.
Empty Promises and False Hope. #SaveApexRanked before it's too late.
— sweet (@sweetdreamsh1) June 28, 2021
That seemed like a tumultuous enough stretch to push pro players to the breaking point, but there may be a light at the end of the tunnel, now.
As the €40,000 BLAST Titans event draws closer, major competitive play is returning and pros will finally be back to the tense, tactical version of the game they love. After a difficult month, players shared a common sentiment. As Can “Taisheen” Ӧztürk of the EMEA ALGS champions Scarz EU so aptly put it:
“I just want to play the game.”
Like many esports, competitive Apex Legends is a completely different animal than the game that most mere mortals experience. Drops are typically uncontested, rotations are paramount and the late-game carries a level of suspense that cannot exist without the high-level strategy seen only in professional matches. For many pros like Taisheen and Fire Beavers shot-caller Kirill “9impulse” Kostiv, BLAST Titans represents an overdue return to that version of the game, with a few twists in store to freshen things up.
“It’s Battle Royale,” 9impulse said. “We are ready for everything.”
An Olympic sized challenge
BLAST Titans will be the first tournament of its size to feature Apex Legends’ newest map, Olympus, in its rotation, alongside the standard World’s Edge. Olympus is the largest of the game’s three maps and includes hover-cars and teleporters that help teams traverse its open areas. For the pros, however, Olympus heralds more than just novelty — it brings chaos.
In the relative stability of the World’s Edge-only era, there has been a long-standing gentlemen’s agreement among top teams that drop spots should be uncontested whenever possible. Teams stake their claim to a point of interest on the map and, in most cases, leave their opponents to loot in peace through the early minutes of the game. On Olympus, however, teams have no history. No one can claim Estates or Oasis as unquestionably theirs because they’ve never had to fight for it before.
The unavailability of custom games (and therefore professional scrims) has also complicated things further. Teams know where they want to drop but have not had the chance to work out their peace treaties in scrims. And while they can try to broker deals in the backrooms of Discord and Twitter, it likely won’t be enough.
“There has to be contests, probably,” said Taisheen. “We’re going to land Bonzai [Plaza] for sure, that’s our place… I remember last time, literally, we had the right building and [another team] had the left building and just 50-50’d the loot. Both of us got griefed pretty much… It’s going to be interesting. Hopefully, we don’t get contested.”
On the other hand, for Natus Vincere in-game leader Maksym “Max-Strafe” Stadniuk, the frontier of Olympus represents opportunity. On World’s Edge, the Na’Vi squad has never had a consistent home and would take whatever location was left open by the rest of the lobby. That’s why he said he is cheering for the inclusion of the new map.
“If someone will land on us at Olympus, we can land on them on World’s Edge, because we have no spot and we will force them to leave,” Max-Strafe said. “We will do everything, we will grief them hard as we even possibly can to just win a spot on a different map.”
9impulse and his team said they are ready to fight as well. They are currently looking at spots like Elysium or Hydroponics but said it all depends on what others decide. Either way, having teammates like Lev “taskmast33r” Grigoriev and Danila “Sunset” Soloviov gives 9impulse all the confidence he needs.
That confidence is warranted. The squad earned second place at the ALGS EMEA Finals, just barely dropping the final fight to Scarz EU. A unique team composition served them well, with taskmast33r as one of only two Loba players in the finals. In a tournament where nearly every team had Gibraltar, Wraith or Octane and one of Crypto, Valkyrie or Bloodhound, the success of their off-meta pick was a welcome surprise.
“[There were] a lot of Cryptos flying around,” said 9impulse. “When Crypto is using EMP, everyone is dropping their armors… to not charge enemy armor. We were thieves… yoinking armors off enemies… and I have two players who can’t sit straight. They’re always trying to find damage.”
Tridents present problems
As far as opponents go, though, teams are concerned about one particular composition: the dreaded RevTane and its ability to abuse the Trident hovercars unique to Olympus.
“It’s going to be really rough if [teams pick] Revenant and Octane,” Taisheen said. “They could just pull out the Trident and just int you, try their luck, and then you’re out.”
Max-Strafe has similar concerns with the vehicles and their interactions with Octane’s Jump Pad ultimate.
“You can throw a jump pad, drive on the jump pad… it floats you super far,” Max-Strafe explained. “[Players] think it’s a feature, but it’s just a bug. It shouldn’t be in the game.”
Even with all that uncertainty, the teams welcome a new map for competition. After half a year playing ALGS matches exclusively on World’s Edge, Olympus is a welcome change of pace for BLAST Titans.
“Having different maps just feels better instead of one map only,” Taisheen expressed. He said he is also hoping to see the return of King’s Canyon soon. “I think there’s nothing to change really… just put it in the pool, let’s play it.”
Amid all the talk of tactics, rotations and the unknowns of Olympus, that excitement to play shone through. After over a month without major tournaments, Europe’s best are yearning to compete. 9impulse even shared a Russian proverb he said perfectly captures his team’s confidence before the ALGS finals.
“When a bird is shitting on you, it’s about money.”
The translated idiom refers to a superstition that catching a stray from a bird is a sign of future luck. More broadly put, it means that sometimes good things really do follow bad. It has unquestionably been a bad few weeks for competitive Apex Legends, but the pros still believe good things are coming this weekend.
After all, all they really want is to play the game.