Are you tired of battle royale fatigue? Apex Legends‘ upcoming Arenas mode is the perfect cure.
After over a year of development, Respawn is finally introducing a new three-vs-three mode that cuts out the frustrating RNG and ditches third-partying for good. And with a well-balanced economy system and carefully curated maps, Arenas offers a nice reprieve from the battle royale mode.
“In a heads-up fight, you don’t want to pray to the RNG gods,” Arenas designer Robert West said in a virtual press briefing. “You want a more consistent, even match to know that your skill and your strategy won today.”
The concept for Arenas is simple. You get a buy phase for picking up abilities, med supplies, and weapons, while also giving you some time to discuss strats with your teammates. With each round, you get more materials you can use to buy stronger weapons and more utility. And with a fair win-by-two rule, stomps can end as early as three rounds while close matches can go to a nine-round sudden death.
With an entirely new game mode, however, there’s bound to be new metas. Abilities that work well in the battle royale might not translate to Arenas and vice versa. And for West, “that’s just natural.”
“There’s the big BR experience, and Arena is the more intimate experience,” West told Dot Esports in an interview. “Naturally, there’s going to be abilities that are stronger or weaker in one or the other… While we’re, of course, trying to keep things balanced across the board, I think some passives aren’t going to come into play, some tacticals will be stronger or weaker.”
Game designer Eric Canavese added that the new mode will lead to different weapon metas as well.
“The economy system makes people choose different guns at various points of the game,” he said. “It’s actually quite a refreshing experience to see people playing with stuff that they maybe wouldn’t normally run in the BR.”
While the devs are fine with Arenas bringing about new metas, legend and weapon balance were still carefully considered. Creating two separate balancing systems was out of the question, a nightmare that would lead to levers constantly being tuned across both modes.
To get around that, Respawn limited how many times per round certain abilities can be used, while also giving them different costs in the store. This forces players to choose between going deep on an ability, upgrading weapons, or making other purchases (meds, grenades, etc.).
Even though players should get a refined and polished versus mode, it went through several iterations prior to its final version. West explained that Arenas originally took place on Kings Canyon’s Artillery, letting eight teams of three battle it out tournament-style until only one squad was left standing.
Though it featured separate instances for teams to go head-to-head with no fear of third-partying, players still had to loot for gear and would face a different squad every round. So the devs stuck to three guiding principles when continuing its design: “Make it different from battle royale, highlight the characters, and competitive depth,” according to West.
Respawn ditched looting for an economy system, aside from supply bins for meds and a care package with premier loot, and changed it so the same two teams faced each other for the entire match. This allows you to strategize against and counter the enemy team based on their gameplay.
And instead of players facing off only on Artillery every round, Arenas will offer a rotation that includes two custom maps created specifically for the three-vs-three battle.
“We wanted to define design features in our maps that both felt and played like Apex Legends, and for us that meant looking deeper at what makes our core combat fun,” lead level designer Dave Osei said in a press briefing. “Divided lanes or much smaller maps, these devolved into reactive combat where pacing was too quick and certain abilities became overwhelming. Think Bloodhound scan over the entire map at once.”
To avoid that, Respawn targeted the map’s pacing and landscape so you could see the opposing team from afar, gain info, and “make a [proactive] choice on closing the gap,” according to Osei.
Arenas will launch with Party Crasher—where the ever-so-lovable Mirage crashes his ship into a luxurious downtown plaza—and Phase Runner, a hidden zone at the peak of a snowy mountain with long sightlines and multiple flanking options. Artillery will also debut with the new mode for two weeks before being replaced with Thermal Station from Worlds Edge or Golden Gardens from Olympus.
Apex fans eager to climb the ranked ladder in Arenas will have to wait a bit, though. West said it’ll come in a “future update.”
Arenas kicks off with the battle royale’s ninth season, Apex: Legacy, on Tuesday, May 4.