The eras of Apex Legends can be mapped out by a handful of milestone patches: the arrival of Evo Shields, the introduction of the map rotation, the first objective mode that’d eventually become Mixtape, and more recently the new iteration of Ranked. Experimentation is baked into Apex’s identity. Respawn has never shied away from making foundational changes if it believes it makes the game better.
Season 20 is likely to mark another era with the arrival of legend upgrades—a new mid-match progression system that adds four unique abilities to all 30 legends. Upgrades are by leveling up your legend, which goes hand-in-hand with an overhaul to Evo Shields arriving at the same time. Here’s how it works:
- Level 1 (gray shield): No upgrade
- Level 2 (blue shield): Choose upgrade 1
- Level 3 (purple shield): Choose upgrade 2
- Level 4 (red shield): No upgrade
What upgrades do can vary wildly from legend to legend. Some are hugely impactful—one of Lifeline’s upgrades gives her the ability to self-revive—but others are more straightforward buffs to their ultimates or tactical abilities. I played a few hours of Season 20 at an Apex media summit in Los Angeles last month and saw some similar upgrades: the choice between an enhanced version of your tactical ability or another “charge” for your tactical ability seemed common at level 2. In a presentation from legend designer John Larson, we saw a Wattson upgrade that grants her a second Interception Pylon and a Gibralltor upgrade that augments his bubble shield to be smaller with a shorter cooldown.
In a group interview, Larson said the goal of legend upgrades is to add variety to how every legend can be played and enable playstyles that weren’t previously possible.
“From the get go, we wanted to make sure that each legend and their suite of upgrades stays true to the theming and playstyle of the legend,” he said, “so that experts who like to main characters as well as people with curiosities about different characters feel empowered to dive in and experiment.”
In a separate group interview, lead game designer Devan McGuire shared his excitement for players to get their hands on legend upgrades.
“I’m really keen to see people fall in love with their legends and explore new depth with them by choosing upgrade paths.”
McGuire reckons the new upgrade paths will inspire some players to try out legends they don’t like and discover ways to make them viable, or return to old mains with a new light. Upgrades will surely have an impact on Apex’s competitive scene. At four total upgrades per legend, that’s 120 new variables for players to account for. In several cases where an upgrade modifies the expected behavior of an ability, Respawn says it has added a distinct visual or sound to indicate it.
Apex Legends Season 20 begins this month with legend upgrades, Evo Shield changes, ranked updates, and a new limited-time mode called Straight Shot.