Apex Legends Season 16 is called Reverly and it kicks off on February 14. In a surprising twist, Revelry is the first season of Respawn’s battle royale game to not add a new playable character to the roster. Instead, the new season makes huge changes to the ability kits of the entire existing crop of 23 legends, making each of their skill sets and specialties easier to digest for first-time players. In that same vein, Season 16 also introduces a new weapon (the Nemesis), a team deathmatch game mode, and a more extensive onboarding process for new players–all of which are also aimed at making the experience of playing Apex Legends more approachable and easier to grasp.
Following a preview of everything to come in the new season, I spoke with design director Evan Nikolich, lead weapon designer Eric Canavese, and lead legend designer Devan McGuire about this wonderfully fresh direction. We discussed why making a rival to the meta-dominating R-301 and Flatline isn’t as straightforward as buffing or changing one of the other existing assault rifles, how the team arrived at the five new character classes–Assault, Skirmisher, Support, Controller, and Recon–and why the team is sunsetting Apex Legends’ sweatiest game mode, Arenas, and adding a brand-new Mixtape playlist and TDM mode in its place.
It seems like Season 16 is introducing a lot of cool gameplay changes–both in how players utilize individual characters, the approachability of the game as a whole for new players, and what modes are available to play. How will the narrative and storytelling also evolve this season, if at all?
Evan Nikolich: So this season being our anniversary, the philosophy that we have is “celebration,” a celebratory vibe. And yeah, it was an opportunity for us to really focus and revitalize the gameplay. That being said, lore is super important and growing the world of Apex is also core to the experience, the DNA of Apex Legends. And while this season is going to be story-light in the front, we definitely are evolving the way we’re telling the story and you’ll start getting some teases to that towards the back end of the season and you’ll see our story reveal itself season over season for the rest of the year.
During the Season 16 preview, y’all spoke about how part of the reason for the Nemesis is to partially dethrone the dominance of the R-301 and Flatline in the meta–thank you for that, by the way. I am curious though–and if this is too complicated to explain, feel free to say so–what’s the reasoning behind adding a brand-new energy assault rifle as opposed to making drastic changes to the Havoc, the energy assault rifle already in the game?
Eric Canavese: Yeah, there are a couple of reasons. One of the biggest reasons is we’ve wanted to add a burst weapon for a long time. Burst weapons are traditionally a bigger hurdle for players to jump over. And so, one of our goals was could we make a burst weapon that could appeal to a wider audience than, say, the Hemlok or the Prowler. The people who love those weapons, love them, but it’s a pretty small portion of our players who will actually run them. So one of the goals was to answer, “What does an entry-level burst weapon look like?” And if we were to do something like that to the Havoc or whatever, it just would feel very disingenuous to what that weapon is.
And when it comes to the Havoc specifically, we really like how the Turbocharger [hop-up attachment] affects the Havoc and the Devotion, and we always want to have multiple weapons use our hop-ups so that there’s more validity for them on the ground. So we want [the Havoc] to continue to use that Turbocharger in the way that it does. The hop-up works really well for [the Havoc] because it makes the Havoc sort of this transitionary gun to getting to your full power. We call them Exodia weapons–weapons that really need all of their attachments to pop off. Otherwise, they don’t really do a whole lot on their own. And I know you can argue that the Havoc does, but it’s a much more cumbersome weapon to use without all of its attachments. And so we didn’t want to get rid of that concept. It was important to us to explore a new expression of burst and find a weapon that really could capture its own identity and stand next to [other assault rifles].
And in addition to all of that, we have been feeling a little bit of strain on the energy ammo economy. It’s one of our automatic weapon groups that has the least amount of ammo available for it, so you often find that you’re starved for energy ammo. Introducing another energy ammo weapon will improve your ability to run all the other energy ammo weapons. If you wanted to run a Volt, if you wanted to run Havoc or Devotion, now you’ll have the extra ammo on the ground [thanks to the Nemesis]. Just reworking something wouldn’t have achieved all of the goals that we have for a new energy weapon on whole. So that’s sort of a little bit of insight on the rationale on why we wanted to bring a brand-new weapon to the game. And anytime we bring a weapon to the game, it’s never just one small goal that we’re trying to hit. It’s easy to say, “Oh, just put an energy weapon in because we need more ammo.” But there are so many different, nuanced reasons why we would want a new weapon, and that’s the razor that we’re going to cut all new weapons against.
The Nemesis is an automatic burst-fire assault rifle, meaning it will keep firing bursts as you hold down the trigger.
With Arenas being sunsetted, will Mixtape gain a Ranked playlist or will Ranked play now be exclusively tied to the battle royale side of the game?
Nikolich: The BR is our competitive mode. It is the mode that we want to be the ranked, high-end, high-octane competitive experience [in Apex Legends], and then Mixtape is going to service our goal of the mode where you get more reps, find lower stakes, and where you can practice without the threat of feeling like, “I’m going to cost my team something.” And so we want to keep any ranked play out of that for now.
In the Season 16 preview, y’all talked about adjustments to Seer, Wraith, Lifeline, and four other characters. Are those seven the focus of S16’s update or can we expect some minor adjustments to be made to other legends too?
Devan McGuire: There are bug fixes that will improve some of the issues with a few of the characters–there’s some Crypto and Newcastle stuff in there that obviously you’ll see in the patch notes. But no, those seven are kind of the core focus. There aren’t any extra ones that were sitting on the sidelines with minor adjustments, those [seven] are the ones we dove into. And then everybody just gets a major adjustment by getting the class perks added to their kits. So there’ll be an entirely new layer of how you play each character across the table going into Season 16.
And speaking of those new character classes, how did they come about? How did the team determine to expand from four classes to five and what type of perks to give each legend? Was it just playtesting and going, “You know, four is too little but six is way too much,” or something like that?
McGuire: That would be funny if that was it. But no, we took a very deep analytical approach to what the legends all brought to the table and how they played, and we found common patterns between them, such as, “These are the characters who are going to use their abilities and try to poke you from a distance. They’re going to try to open you up, and then they’re going to want to push on that because they created an opening.” [The legends have] consistent playstyles that fit into natural buckets all by themselves. The exception is Mirage–he’s kind of like the jack of all trades that can move around in a few different ones, but we lodged him into the class that he’s in now out of what our analysis resulted in.
But yeah, just going through that process and going, “These characters play like this, while these characters play like this. These characters are all about movement and escape and getting in and out of fights, while these characters are very focused on the team.” There are characters who focus on team play and we had those characters just living in different spots [with the old classes]. So as we started to organize them into different categories, the five [new classes] naturally emerged. Those are the five playstyles that exist in the game. Those are the ways that you approach Apex with the different legends and what their abilities encourage you to do within the game.
Every playable legend is being adjusted in some way in Season 16.
That may grow and change as we add new legends. And we find that there are actually smaller niches that we can compartmentalize things in, but at the moment, those five are the ones that exist and those are the ones that we wanted to celebrate and inform new players of, rather than [having them log on for the first time,] look at a giant list of legends grouped in the order they appeared in the game in, and going, “I don’t know who is going to fit the way I like to play.” We wanted to really make sure that that was something you could easily identify and if you found a character that you liked, you might want to try another character in that spot because they play in a similar vein.
To that point–I don’t think we saw it in the presentation and you haven’t played the build yet, so you’ll see it when you get in there–but we’ve actually overhauled the entire front end of the legend selection screen as well as the character select going into the game. It’s a pretty big effort, which [Apex Legends experience design director] Aaron [Rutledge] can attest to. So the classes are well defined. You can clearly see every character laid out within their class. So it’s a big reshuffle and reorganization that makes it very, very easy to see and it looks much prettier.
This conversation has been edited for both brevity and readability. To keep on top of all the new changes that are coming in Revelry, check out our roundup of everything we know about Apex Legends Season 16.