(Pocket-lint) - Apex Legends might be in the shadow of giants when it comes to raw player numbers, dwarfed by Fortnite and outstripped by Call of Duty: Warzone, but it's got one of the more reliable calendars of content updates out there for a live service game.
Now its eleventh season is just around the corner, bringing not only a new legend to the table for players but also an all-new battle royale map, the game's biggest yet. Respawn let us play around with the new additions a little early, so read on to find out how they're shaping up.
A familiar face
Ash is joining the roster of legends available to play as in Apex and, like Valkyrie a couple of seasons ago, she offers up yet more connective tissue between the game and Titanfall 2. She was a character in that shooter's campaign, a fierce adversary in fact.
Now, with her brain sitting in a robotic host and her personality suppressed in favour of an altogether more murderous alternative, she's hitting up the Apex Games to show the existing legends how it's done.
In short, it's done aggressively - Ash specialises in tracking down and initiating fights. She sees death boxes on her map as they appear to help locate surviving team members, and has a tactical ability that can tether enemies in place if aimed well. Her ultimate, meanwhile, is like a one-off version of Wraith's teleport.
It lets you instantly warp (within a limited radius) to wherever you think you need to be in a fight, letting your teammates come with you if they're quick enough and making you an unpredictable element in any gunfight.
She feels great to play, too, and unlike Seer doesn't feel particularly overpowered in the state we tried out - of course, that'll be tested properly when she's actually out in the wild.
A drop in the ocean
What excites us more about the new season, Escape, is that it's bringing with it a huge new map called Storm Point, which Respawn has confirmed to be Apex's biggest yet, albeit not by an insanely huge margin.
It's a tropical setting that's a little more colourful than Kings Canyon or World's Edge and a lot less futuristic than Olympus. It's a big place to explore, full of scientific outputs and with real verticality that you can actually explore for the most part.
One of the big adjustments that it brings is the addition of gravity cannons, effectively replacing redeploy balloons as a way of shooting across the map. They shoot you from point A to point B without making you go into airdrop mode.
This means you can shoot your weapons and use gadgets while you fly, opening up loads of whacky variables during fights. That said, since they point in a given direction they won't always be useful for outrunning the shrinking circle, so you'll need to bear that in mind.
Also shaking things up are pockets of local wildlife, in the form of prowlers that'll attack if you get near their dens, and oversized spiders that will leave you be unless you burst their egg sacs. They've been loaded up with genuinely decent rewards (in particular gun attachments), and are a great way to loot up a bit more if you think no one's near you.
Keep your balance
A new map and a new legend would arguably be more than enough for many players checking back in for a new season, but Respawn is also pulling the trigger on releasing a weapon from Titanfall 2 that it's been gearing up on for a long while.
The CAR SMG joins a crowded field in Apex's short-range, but with a few unique points to help it stand out. The biggest is that it can take either light or heavy ammo, on a toggle, letting you be adaptable and potentially a helpful provider if someone else on your team needs a top-up.
A decent amount of recoil means it isn't that easy to use, at least without attachments, but that ammo perk does mean that it's a useful early-game pickup, in our experience.
Balance in Apex is a constantly shifting concept, but loads of players had been crying out for Wattson to get some adjustments based on how weak she could feel, and Respawn has also obliged on that front, making her a lot more viable with a slew of tweaks.
It all points to what could be a pretty invigorating launch for Season 11 when it drops on 2 November, so if you haven't competed for a while, or are champing at the bit for more content, Escape looks like a perfect time to dive into Apex Legends.