Though Apex Legends has a lot in common with other battle royale games, it has a variety of elements that make it unique. Think of it like Fortnite/PUBG/Blackout mixed with Titanfall and a little Overwatch thrown in for good measure.
One of the larger differences that Apex Legends brings to the genre is character-specific powers, hence the Overwatch comparison. Players choose from a cast of characters who each have a tactical ability, a passive ability and an ultimate ability. For example, Pathfinder, the robot character, has a grappling hook as a tactical ability, it can find where the ring will shrink next as a passive ability, and it can create a zip line for its teammates as an ultimate ability. Wraith, an “interdimensional skirmisher,” has teleportation as a tactical ability, she can get a warning when danger is near as a passive ability, and she can create portals connecting two points for her team as her ultimate ability. Additionally, there appears to be loot that alters stats, like increasing the health regeneration rate.
At launch, Apex Legends offers only a competitive squad mode, where teams of three face off against each other. According to Giant Bomb, representatives at Respawn did not say they were exclusively committed to this as the only offered mode and that other options may follow.
The game has lots of super-interesting quality-of-life things that evolve the genre in compelling ways. Instead of a squad counting on each other to land in the same place at the beginning of a match, one jump leader takes charge and makes the decision. If a member or two of your squad has been killed, there are points where you can respawn them. If you are knocked down, there is a shield you can deploy to try to protect yourself while waiting for help. Another difference, for all those frustrated by Fortnite, is that Apex Legends has no building in it.
Maybe the most important difference of all: It is a game by Respawn. The developer, which rose like a coding phoenix out of the ashes of a Call of Duty/Activision scuffle, has released two games: 2014’s Titanfall and 2016’s Titanfall 2. Both games introduced gameplay with an emphasis on mobility and traversal that has been copied (but never really duplicated) by many releases in the ensuing years.
Titanfall 2, especially, just felt amazing to play. And when EA acquired Respawn at the end of 2017, there were some concerns that the developer would be bent to the publisher’s will and we might not ever get a game like that again. Apex Legends just might be the Titanfall sequel many people, myself included, have wanted.