Apex Legends: The Year in Review (Part 1 of 7)

Respawn's Apex Legends arrived nearly a year ago, taking the gaming world by storm. How has it held up in 2019? Part 1 takes a look at recent Holiday Events.

It’s hard to believe that Respawn’s Apex Legends has been out for less than a year. It arrived to much fanfare, despite being relatively unknown prior to its release beyond a few leaks and rumors. It was, for a time, the most streamed game on Twitch. PUB:G and Fortnite players alike were talking about and playing it. Apex‘s launch was undoubtedly successful.

Of course, the game went through some serious growing pains, with server issues, weapon balance complaints, and a lack of big gimmicks at the outset. However, the core experience was solid, and once it was properly established, Respawn started rolling out themed seasons, daily & weekly challenges, special limited-time character-themed events, and new weapon & character skins galore.

As 2019 draws to a close, we’re also edging toward the end of season 3, titled “Meltdown”, and mid-way through the 2019 festive season event called “Holo-Day Bash”. In these final days of the year, it seems like a good time to assess whether the game has been able to maintain its momentum and remain interesting, engaging, and successful.

We’ll be running a week-long series of articles comparing Apex‘s current slate of offerings to previous seasons. Since it’s the holiday season, let’s start by taking a look at the two big holiday events that Apex Legends has hosted thus far.

Apex Legends Holiday Events

First off, let’s talk about the holiday events. So far, Respawn has only implemented two: “Fight or Fright” for Halloween 2019, and “Holo-Day Bash” for Christmas 2019.

Apex Legends Fight or Fright
Halloween 2019’s “Fight or Fright” event was edgy and spoop-tactular!


“Fight or Fright” offered a great game play mode called “Shadowfall” that kept players on their toes, forcing them to change tactics and play styles rapidly as the rules of the game shifted. Initially, all players drop solo, fighting everyone else to make it to the final 10 survivors. When you died, you became a Shadow – essentially, a zombie with increased movement speed, better jumping and climbing, a wicked melee attack, and unlimited respawns… but with limited health and no way to heal. If you survived long enough to be one of the final 10 heroes alive, suddenly you found yourself on a team with the other 9 survivors, trying to make it to the evac zone.

Apex Legends Shadowfall
Having a Shadow hurtling at you out of nowhere was legitimately frightening sometimes!

This game mode was extremely well designed, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had so many games where I would be mid-firefight with an enemy, one of us would get the upper hand, death was imminent… and then suddenly we were on the same team, covering each other while we healed and reloaded to fend off waves of Shadows trying to tear us apart. There were also the times I died early, and spent the rest of the match hounding my killer, trying to track them down as a Shadow and rend them limb from limb.

Apex Legends Holo-Day Bash
Christmas 2019’s “Holo-Day Bash” was… decidedly less edgy…

Winter Express

The current Christmas-themed holiday event, “Holo-Day Bash”, offers the “Winter Express” game play mode, wherein three teams of 3 fight for control of a train that follows an endless loop around a corner of the “World’s Edge” map. Teams can earn a point by killing everyone on the opposing two teams, or by being the only team on the train for 10 seconds, you automatically win the round.

The first team to earn 3 points wins the match (I’m sensing a theme with the number 3 in Apex Legends).

Apex Legends Winter Express
This train is an impostor – the real Winter Express is only three cars long!

One interesting thing about this mode is that it pre-assigns the gear list for each character, and this shifts fairly often. For example, if you decide to play Mirage, you might start with an R-301 assault rifle and a Wingman heavy pistol, but if you play Lifeline, you get an EVA-8 automatic shotgun and an Alternator submachine gun. Then a few days later, Respawn might swap those loadouts. This forces you to adjust your play style, as your favorite character might have a weapon combination that you don’t usually wield in a normal match.

Having said all that, “Winter Express” isn’t nearly as much fun as “Shadowfall”. The dramatic moments just aren’t there – it’s too frenetic, too chaotic, and too cramped. So far, I’ve only played it to grind through the challenge that requires capturing the train 75 times, and once I’m done, I won’t be going back to that mode. It feels too… rushed, or unpolished. Almost like Respawn knew they needed something for Christmas, so they put together something that wouldn’t require too much time or effort.

What do you think? Is “Winter Express” better than “Shadowfall”? Do you prefer fighting on a train to battling endless hordes of zombies? Let us know in comments, and come back tomorrow for a quick recap and comparison of the Apex Legends Themed Events from Seasons 1-3.


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Ben Ravensdale

Ben is the owner and lead game designer of Ravensdale Publishing, a board game design/publishing company. An avid geek, he possesses a wide range of interests and knowledge, including comics, video games, tabletop RPGs, Live Action Role-Play, and tv/film. He has a Master's degree in Organizational Psychology, spent 6 years as a US Navy Corpsman, and has extensive experience as a corporate trainer. He's married to three cats... wait, that's not right... he's married, with three cats!