Apex Legends is already one of the most popular battle royale games, but its new mode proves it can be a whole lot more than that. On Monday, developer Respawn Entertainment revealed Arenas, the first permanent Apex Legends mode to move outside the battle royale format.
Arenas takes all of the characters, weapons, and fantastic shooting mechanics from Apex Legends fans are used to and fits them into a package that feels a little bit like a tactical shooter. The mode pits two teams of three against each other in a round-based competition. The only way to win a round is to kill every member of the opposing team. Arenas matches take place on specifically designed maps, including a few that repurpose some of Apex Legends’ most popular locations.
At the beginning of each match, every player selects a Legend to play as, just like you normally do before a battle royale match. Each round begins with a buy phase — similar to what you might find in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or Valorant — during which you can use credits to purchase weapons, upgrades, healing items, and your Legend’s abilities.
Unlike other tactical shooters, your inventory gets wiped after each round, so teams don’t get massive advantages from round to round. Each of the individual rounds also has a slowly encroaching circle, just like Apex Legends’ battle royale mode, which acts as a time limit for the round.
During a preview event, Polygon had the chance to test out Arenas, and the mode feels fantastic and like a perfect fit for Apex Legends. There are few multiplayer game experiences as tense as being the final two squads alive in a battle royale match, but Arenas manages to capture that feeling over and over again every round. Each match is filled with the careful tactics of trying to survive, interspersed with frantic and fun firefights.
Even the round-based format lets you adapt your strategy to the enemies you’re playing. In some matches you may decide to send one squadmate to provide cover with a sniper rifle or the game’s new Bocek bow, while the other two charge in. Other times, you might decide that sticking together is the best play to catch your enemy off-guard. And that’s without even getting into the strategies around using Legends’ abilities and Ultimate and how best to combine them.
Arenas will definitely provide a fun change of pace for players who want to stick with Apex’s traditional battle royale. But the mode is also different enough that it’s easy to see how a dedicated community could spring up around it as well.
Respawn is committed to supporting Arenas as its own separate mode. The developer says it plans to add a ranked queue for Arenas sometime after launch, and it will continue to keep an eye on balance for Legends and weapons in the mode as well.
Apex Legends’ Arenas mode will be released as part of the game’s new Apex Legends Legacy update, which is set to go live on May 4.