Apex Legends isn’t your typical battle royale.
From its inception, Apex has carried a strong story element. The game inherited a rich universe from its sister franchise, Titanfall, and injected far more lore into its characters and narratives than other competitors in the genre. The battle royale’s fifth season introduced The Broken Ghost, its first PvE, season-long quest—and it’s a celebration of the legends that make Apex so unique.
The Broken Ghost kept some of its fans enthralled for over two months, mesmerizing them with its text-based narrative. It felt close to a ritual. Every Tuesday at 12pm CT, fans got a new hunt and another story chapter to pore over the tidbits of information hiding in the text until the following week. The quest gave rise to a myriad of theories, both spot-on and completely insane. And that was the fun of it.
The Broken Ghost turbocharged the overall plot of Apex. Its story carries as much significance as a launch trailer or an episode of Stories from the Outlands but spread out over two suspense-filled months, with each week bringing in another reason to check in. The result kept the most lore-hungry fans on the edge of their seats.
At the same time, the existence of two isolated (but permeable) spaces—the PvE quest and the usual PvP modes—designed an opt-out mechanism that potentially gave all players something to gain, even if they didn’t join in on the hunts.
Advancing the lore in the Apex universe
The Broken Ghost’s ending answered most questions and raised several more, a testament that it successfully set the stage for the game’s next season. But the story is more than a bridge between seasons five and six.
The quest isn’t just about advancing the lore, otherwise a launch trailer would do the trick. The Broken Ghost is also about how that story development happens: in the big moments, evidently, but also in light-hearted banter or behind the real action.
The narrative is captivating and the insights into the legends’ minds elicited a series of emotional responses. From anger at Caustic for splitting the budding Wattson and Crypto to plain laughter at Mirage’s jokes, Octane’s irrational (yet understandable) disdain of pants, and Lifeline’s guilt, the legends experienced a wide range of emotions—and so did we.
The legends have come a long way since their first meeting at the Paradise Lounge. Loba and Revenant may find themselves in an unlikely partnership. Wattson was tricked into believing that Crypto betrayed her and had her own crisis of faith. Bangalore admits that this time, she was the FNG. The story developed and so did the characters in it.
The common adage is that the devil is in the details, and The Broken Ghost is full of them as well. Wraith’s love for Appletinis, Mirage’s conversations with himself, and Octane’s nickname for Revenant (Señor Loincloth) imbue the narrative with a little more humanity and immersion.
The Broken Ghost successfully told a story and involved readers in the process, resorting almost exclusively to a text format to achieve its goal. But, of equal importance, the quest advanced Apex‘s general narrative and set the stage for season six, teasing that the legends may head to Olympus next.
For the casual and hardcore players alike
The Broken Ghost didn’t just reward the more lore-hungry fans. Casual and hardcore players both had something to gain from the quest. Treasure packs contained rewards for everyone who collected them, even if the players didn’t want to join in on the quest. The fan base was never forced to participate, nor was it deliberately penalized by not taking part. The process was completely voluntary and that’s part of why it worked.
Casual players had one more reason to stay in the battle royale. The promise of a laid-back, story-infused PvE campaign meant that they didn’t have to deal with toxic teammates, solo-droppers, or third parties and could just experience Apex without any stress—and with the promise of new lore every Tuesday.
Hardcore players also had an incentive to chase the tracks of The Broken Ghost. Each treasure pack either counted toward Battle Pass progression or gave free Apex Packs and Crafting Metals. There was nothing to lose by at least collecting them, even if you didn’t want to unlock the quest. But there was no penalty for foregoing it, either.
Sustaining that duality was easier than it seemed for Respawn. One of the key aspects of The Broken Ghost is that it takes place in a completely separate environment from regular Apex gameplay. With the exception of the search for treasure packs, everything else—the hunts, the story chapters, and the pieces of the artifact—has its own separate, insulated ecosystem.
The separation created an opt-out mechanism for those who didn’t want to participate but established a controlled environment for players or squads who wished to try out the quest. PvP and PvE overlapped, of course, primarily when it came to gathering treasure packs, but the integration was hardly intrusive.
The result is a feature that rewards players who want to take part in it but also awards crafting metals or battle pass progression across the board, even if players don’t do a single hunt. It’s easy to regulate the amount of exposure from the quest. The community is flexible to dictate their pace, from hunting down treasure packs every day to completely foregoing them.
Room for improvement
As a feature, Apex‘s first season quest masterfully delivers what it aimed to release in the first place. It propels the lore forward, sets the stage for the next season, creates a relaxed PvE environment, and appeals to both casual and hardcore players.
Despite its impactful execution, Respawn could learn a few lessons from The Broken Ghost for future quests. Some of its elements, like the hunt for treasure packs or the story format, would benefit from adjustments. Respawn hit the mark with the first quest’s expertly-written narrative, but the formula can still improve.
For a casual or returning player, diving into Apex five times a week can be more tiresome than the quest itself. Dealing with toxic teammates, solo-droppers, or third parties at such a regular interval can make the hunt for treasure packs feel more like a slog or an obligation than an actual bonus. Casual players may not want to join the Apex Games five times a week and such heavy exposure can remind players of why they quit in the first place.
The text-based format could also use some improvements. The Broken Ghost is proof that it’s possible to evolve Apex‘s narrative through text alone. But with the success of the first quest, future installments would benefit from more dynamic formats, for example, with the additions of cutscenes or voice-overs.
Of course, a strict deadline all but enforced the text-based format. The first draft of The Broken Ghost was completed in the first week of quarantine, writer Tom Casiello revealed. Working remotely and on such a short timeline precluded voice-overs and animations for the first installment. With the work that Respawn has put into The Broken Ghost, however, it’s likely that upcoming quests will be even more ambitious—and potentially with more involvement from Apex‘s talented voice actors and animators.
Overall, The Broken Ghost is an enthralling narrative that advanced the Apex lore at a constant pace, giving fans something to look forward to each week. Its story revealed more details about the universe and the legends, while the hunts provided a change of pace from the classic battle royale playstyle, creating a season-long array of limited-time modes.
The Broken Ghost’s success doesn’t mean that its execution has no room for improvement. Changes to the frequency of treasure packs could appeal to more casual players, while a more dynamic format that goes beyond text could captivate a bigger audience and make for an even more compelling final product.