With Apex Legends Season 17, Arsenal, just around the corner, MKAU Gaming was invited to take part in a panel hosted by Sara Zaidi, the Global PR Lead for Apex Legends. The presentation opened up with a short animation, showing an older man, alone in his mansion and preparing himself a smoothie before sitting down and watching a news article on August “Ballistic” Brinkman, the first celebrity Champion of the Thunderdome Games, his rise to fame, and his fall from grace.
He was the most celebrated champion of his generation, but after his peacocking and selfish styles got his teammate and brother-in-law killed, he left the games. While many want to know how he’d fair against the current generation of champions, many more consider him a has been, and his exploits in the Thunderdome Arena have been long forgotten. Now, sitting alone in his mansion watching a news article on himself, he finds out his son, Nathaniel, has qualified for the APEX games.
Pulling himself out of his depressive state, August “Ballistics” Brinkman cleans himself up, once again adopting his gunslinger style and storming the game’s headquarters, offering to return to the games and reclaim his title, so long as Nate is prohibited from competing in the competition, hoping his son will become a better man than he could ever be.
Sara introduced Evan Nikolich, the Design Director, to discuss what they had learned from Season 16, Revelry, who goes on to explain how they learned how important reworking the meta can be. The fresh and exciting ways to play really resonated with players, both new and old, and the introduction of the Team Death Match and Mix Tape had been great. It provided players with new ways to interact with APEX Legends, allowing players to refine their moving and shooting skills in new ways. The seasons offered refreshments to the game for veterans and some more excitement for new players.
The aim is to use these lessons in Season 17 Arsenal by building on the strong foundations created by Revelry by continuing to revitalise existing parts in new and exciting ways and adding new and impactful content. They’ve also used this time to overhaul the existing Legend meta by introducing Ballistic, the has-been veteran champion of games past, making some exciting changes to the World’s Edge map, and adding a new progression system for players to master the variety of weapons available, earning some sweet rewards along the way.
John Ellenton, the Senior Legend Designer, and Sam Gill, the Narrative Lead, went on to describe Ballistic’s return. A refined gentleman and gunslinger, the 63-year-old Champion cuts a fine shape in his suit, and he’s more than ready to show the current generation a thing or two. He’ll provide a new offensive option for players, able to push single targets, bringing his reckless and aggressive tactics to the Apex games, but this time, he’s more prepared to support his team.
His tactical ability is to use his personal pistol, the Whistler, that fires a smart bullet capable of locking onto a target, and if it hits, will cause the targets weapons to overheat, temporarily disabling them and allowing for you to push the target without oncoming fire. Even if this shot misses, it’ll create a small area of effect where it lands, applying the debuff to any player unfortunate enough to walk through it.
His ultimate ability is the Tempest, an ability that provides a decent buff to Ballistic and his companions. When activated, his backpack will transform and send out a pulse of energy that speeds up reloads, provides faster movement speeds, and grants infinite ammunition for him and his teammates while the buff is active. Ballistic can also carry a third weapon, unlike other Legends, though this can’t have attachments applied to it, but it will be upgraded to a Gold version while the buff is active.
Jeff Shaw, the Lead Map Designer, was introduced to discuss the changes to the World’s Edge map, including the addition of a new point of interest, the Monument. It’s mixing up the layout of Fragment, the map’s long-standing central point of interest, adding the Apex Museum for players to fight over, some changes to Lava City with the inclusion of the new zone, Stacks, and even some snowfall in the north, dusting Sky Hook and opening some new paths that lead to a new vault, giving players access to even more amazing loot. To accommodate this, they’ve also made Vault keys more common, so players will have a greater chance of interacting with them.
The monument is a testament to the games, both past and present, and it contains a museum that celebrates the game and stands as a glowing reminder of how far Apex Legends has come since its release in 2019. From a gameplay standpoint, it’s a big bunker with quick-access sniper nests, including multiple ziplines to get up there, granting long-range positional control for spotting and gathering information, and the ability to quickly duck safely back into the bunker if the need arises. A glass ceiling creates interesting components to the fights, allowing players to gain insight into the bunker below.
Ashley Reed, the Narrative Lead, goes on to describe the museum, an element they’ve wanted to add for a long time. Apex has a long and storied history, both for the characters and the design team. It aims to celebrate the predecessor of the Apex Games, the Thunderdome Games, which were held in King’s Canyon when it was the hub for the IMC. The museum will display the game’s 5-year history, with sections detailing the original Legends with key visuals and iconic lines, and eagle-eyed fans will even find references to the earliest design ideas, offering deeper and bigger stories about the world and characters we all know and love.
Aaron Rutledge was introduced to discuss the new Weapons Mastery system, their first long-term progression system since the release of the increased level cap. They wanted to incentivise players, new and old, to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the weapons, with the goal being to deepen player engagement across the board, regardless of which character you main and what mode you prefer to play, diving deeper into how each weapon shines in APEX Legends.
Players will start off with a mastery of one and earn experience by using them in games, and for every 20 levels the player earns, they’ll unlock a trial for that weapon, and upon completion, you’ll unlock some cool rewards. If you make it all the way to level 100 with a weapon and complete all 5 challenges, you’ll unlock a Legendary Apex pack, with the central column being a guaranteed legendary skin for the weapon you’ve mastered, and in the event you have all of the skins unlocked, you’ll receive the equivalent crafting materials.
Josh Mohan, the Lead Games Designer, goes on to discuss the changes made to the ping system, allowing players to better communicate without the use of VoIP. The standard ping system has seen the addition of avoid, used to help players plan an ambush or avoid an area, Enemy Audio, which allows players to better differentiate between seeing or hearing an enemy contact, and regroup, which can be used to help coordinate a fallback or gather themselves if they’ve become too spread out.
The additions to the down ping wheel allows players to communicate if the coast is clear for revivals, as well as let teammates know if the enemy is reviving one of their friends, while the Skydive wheel has seen the addition of existing pings to better coordinate drops, letting their team know if they’ve seen enemies or a good spot to pick up some loot.
In terms of loot, a new evac tower has been added to the pool. Similar to Valkyrie’s rotational tool, it can be deployed on the battlefield and allows players to rapidly relocate should they need to, but unlike Valkyrie, it can be used by anyone. If you’re quick enough, you can follow an opponent after they’ve used one, or you can destroy it before they have a chance to escape, and unlike Valk’s ability, players will need to independently interact with it, so it will require some communication to properly utilise, and it will take a short amount of time to set up.
Finally, there are some additions to the firing range, and it’s been expanded to be more combat focused with additional options for the target dummies to fire back, with three levels of difficulty. Three new areas have also been included, such as a town to help simulate a more real-world situation, a duelling pit for players to fight against each other, and a movement arena so that players can practice their movement techniques, and it’s now easier to jump into the firing range with friends thanks to the addition of the Join in Progress option, meaning you won’t have to drop out of the lobby to pick up your teammates.
There is a lot coming with Season 17 of Apex Legends: Arsenal, with a new legend, changes to the map, including a museum to explore, weapons mastery to unlock some cool rewards, and all new modes in the firing range. It’ll feel refreshed and give players the chance to re-discover what Apex Legends has to offer, so look forward to the drop on May 9th.