Hot Drop: Apex Legends Battle Passes Have Fun Narrative Implications


Hot Drop is GameSpot’s weekly Apex Legends column, in which Jordan Ramée takes a closer look at Respawn’s battle royale to provide additional insight into the evolution of the game, as well as dig deeper into its episodic storytelling and characters.


Most aspects of Apex Legends contribute to the game’s story: character design, quest chapters, in-game conversations between legends, map changes, legendary and mythic cosmetics. Respawn has done a superb job of twisting the evolving nature of live games to serve its brand of episodic storytelling. And with that in mind, I think we can even consider Apex Legends’ battle passes when we’re talking about the game’s story. Granted, battle passes only contribute in a fairly simple way, but it’s still interesting how battle passes seem to reinforce how the Syndicate has had a growing corporate presence in Apex games over the past few seasons as the company strives to sell the bloodsport to the mainstream.

Now Playing: Apex Legends: Hunted Gameplay Trailer

Each battle pass in Apex Legends is themed, starting with wildlife in season 1 and expanding to safari in season 14, with Wraith and Caustic going so far as to dress up as *sigh* big game hunters. But when you look at all of the themes, they notably tighten up in Season 3, and from then on, they’re apparently used as a way to advertise new legends and maps. Battle passes are, of course, something sold to players, but themes also seem to have an in-universe function – in-game they act as corporate messages from the Syndicate, almost as if to unify its marketing for each. Apex Games season and make bloodsport more appealing to audiences.

Season 3 was the big shift in that narrative line of thinking. Seasons 1 and 2 have arguably the weakest battle pass themes of all seasons. There are some nice rewards in both passes (especially Season 2), but the unifying connective tissue between cosmetics isn’t really there. But then came Season 3, with a battle pass that focused on the clashing forces of ice and fire. This theme was best exemplified in the two legendary character skins – Pathfinder’s Iced Out decorated her outer shell to look like ice, while Lifeline used a heavy dose of makeup to transform to look like a hellish succubus with her From the Ashes skin.

The battle pass matched the design of World’s Edge, the new map for Season 3. Half of World’s Edge is frozen, while the other is consumed by pools of lava. Apex games had moved to the new map after Crypto’s attack on Kings Canyon in Season 2. I think this all sounds like a syndicate trying to sell World’s Edge to those who watch Apex games. They know people love Kings Canyon, but now look, World’s Edge is here! A place of fire and ice! Isn’t it cool, everyone? Even the legends dressed up for the occasion, and they also decorated their weapons with ice and fire themed skins! We will be selling toys and replicas!

Starting with Season 3, each battle pass has a clear theme that runs through each unlockable cosmetic. Season 4 had a simulacrum theme, Season 5 was a scavenger hunt, Season 6 was racing cars and vehicle customization, Season 7 was high society and Olympus class, Season 8 was anarchy and rebellion, season 9 was Japanese culture, season 10 had an insect theme, season 11 was life in the jungle of Storm Point, season 12 was (exquisite) biker fashion , season 13 transformed legends with fantastic medieval cosmetics and, again, season 14 is a safari.

Outfits worn by Legends do not evolve in cinematic trailers, implying that Battle Pass skins are unique costumes, not regular outfits.
Outfits worn by Legends do not evolve in cinematic trailers, implying that Battle Pass skins are unique costumes, not regular outfits.

Each Battle Pass also “sells” everything new for that season. For example, the Season 5 treasure hunt theme heralds the mysticism of Loba, a thief who joins the Apex games in search of secret treasure she plans to loot, and the Season 9 Japanese theme welcomes Valkyrie and her culture to the Apex games.

It also provides a narrative reason why legends like Wraith and Pathfinder get more battle pass skins than, say, Caustic or Loba. Since Wraith is trying to figure out who she is, she’d probably be more than willing to dress up in clothes from different cultures in an effort to find out what suits her, and Pathfinder is so carefree that, of course, he’d dress up every whenever the Union requests it. Meanwhile, Caustic isn’t someone who would like to dress up unless he has to, and Loba is so in tune with what looks good on her and what’s fashionable, that she would only participate in what would be considered cool. Most of the Legends who would like to dress up or feel the need to are, coincidentally, the Legends who also usually get new skins in the battle pass.

To welcome Vantage to the Apex Games, legends dress up in safari gear or dress up as big game hunters.
To welcome Vantage to the Apex Games, legends dress up in safari gear or dress up as big game hunters.

Am I overthinking this? Most likely. Is the emphasis on more consistent themes more of an effort on Respawn’s part to sell these cosmetics and new legends/maps to us, the players, and less of the Syndicate trying to sell Apex games to fans? Maybe. Do legends like Wraith and Pathfinder have more battle pass skins than people like Caustic and Loba because Wraith and Pathfinder are among the most played characters and therefore more likely to sell a battle pass? 100%. But also, like, who’s to say?

Either way, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s fun to imagine that the Apex Legends writing team had a hand in explaining why Apex Legends’ battle passes have undergone such an abrupt transformation. in Season 3 and evolved in a way that seemed like someone was trying. to sell the new legends and maps (and just Apex games in general) to a fan base that for a time was growing disillusioned with the bloody bloodiness of the sport. Now, the whole competition is so viewer-friendly, with contestants dressing up in ridiculous outfits and shooting each other with guns that often don’t even look like guns anymore. That wouldn’t be the weirdest thing Respawn has tried in its effort to transform the format of a live-service battle royale to support its character-driven story.

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