While Battle Royale gameplay doesn’t typically leave a lot of room for lore and story building, Apex Legends successfully integrates the stories of it’s characters and the beautiful and terrifying universe that they live in. While Apex Legends does have a good base for lore simply in being a spin-off of the Titanfall franchise, Respawn has done a god-like amount of work to supplement the game with the backgrounds of the playable characters using in-game interactions, interactive maps, comics, and cinematic trailers.
The cinematics specifically are worth praising due to the volume of quality stories they’ve put out in the short span of two years that the game has been out, as well as experimentation they’ve done in the different animation styles they’ve used to depict the stories of the Outlands, the group of planets where Apex Legends takes place. With as popular as Apex Legends is becoming, and as charming as the lore is, it’s worth describing some of the best videos that Respawn has put out about the game.
10) Apex Legends Season 4 – Assimilation Launch Trailer
The Season 4 Assimilation launch trailer gave us an excellent look into the background and abilities of one of the game's most callous killers, Revenant. In the Titanfall universe there are beings called simulacrums, robots with infused human consciousness created by the megacorporation Hammond Robotics. Revenant specifically was a bounty hunter for a group called the Syndicate, with a painful twist; he operated not knowing that he was a simulacrum.
This trailer shows us not only the bloodbath in the moments before his programming fails and he becomes aware of what he’s become, but also the origin story for the character released directly after him, Loba.
9) Apex Legends Season 5 – Fortune's Favor Launch Trailer
Focus in this season trailer shifts to Loba, the lone survivor of the Andrade family. After having watched her parents get murdered by Revenant, Loba pursued a life of thievery and luxury with one ultimate goal in mind: to get revenge for her parent’s untimely deaths. In this trailer we see what happens when she finds the bunker where Revenant’s source code, or his literal biological head, is kept. Her intent was to destroy it and effectively kill him, but her plans are thwarted by a fleet of robot guards.
The intertwining of these characters' stories and releasing them consecutively was a good call on Respawn's part. Two individually badass, cool characters with motivations that go against one another depicted in each of their own focused cinematics. They’re both wonderfully done, but the music in this one, “I Know Your Secrets” by Tommee Profitt and featuring Liv Ash, helps relay Loba’s motivations and character exceptionally well.
8) Stories from the Outlands – “Promise”
“Promise” depicts the story of Horizon, or Dr. Mary Somers, a scientist tasked with trying to solve the energy crisis that paralyzed the Outlands. The solution is seen to be crystals that they’re able to harvest in space, but with a dangerous space mission and her young son back at home, she struggles with idea of leaving him, but takes solace in the notion that leaving him for this trip means ensuring his life is not plagued by energy shortages and the potential collapse of their society. Her partner in her work on the trip however, for reasons unknown, severs the tether keeping Horizon connected to their ship, leaving her stranded in the middle of space. Using her knowledge and the power the crystals provide, she managed to find a way home, but not after 87 years passed on her home planet, her son long gone.
There’s some undeniable Interstellar vibes in this one, and the mix of 2D and 3D visuals was a cool choice for this one, relaying a bit to the sort of fairy tale manner in which she narrates her story. It’d definitely a bit heart wrenching, and makes you sympathize for her character and her struggle.
7) Stories from the Outlands – “Metamorphosis”
This cinematic is very special, standing out from the rest in it’s unique art style. If you’re familiar with Robert Valley who directed shorts like Love, Death, and Robot’s “Zima Blue” and Tron: Uprising, he was the one brought in to do this project, telling the story of Apex Legend’s most recently added character, Seer. He’s an outcast, feared by others for his piercing blue eyes and the curse of the moth many believed him to have been born with. For as short as it is, it depicts his life prior to the games beautifully, showing how he used the pain of his childhood to transform himself into someone worthy of praise and respect.
6) Stories from the Outlands – “Fight Night”
Pathfinder is the star of this short, showing us where he came from before being brought to the games. It doesn't give us a full history, as he does actively search for his purpose throughout the series which was lost to him after having been rebuilt from whatever accident befell him prior. While this cinematic especially is a take on the more dramatic film noir genre, it still finds a way to relay Pathfinders lovable and naive character that fans have come to love. With some great fight scenes showing how incredibly adaptable Pathfinder is, and quite a bit of comic relief through his failures in the multitude of jobs that he's had in the past, it brings together a really nice cinematic with a spotlight on everyone's favorite MRVN.
5) Apex Legends Season 3 – Meltdown Launch Trailer
As far as season trailers go, this is one of the best ones. Not only do we get to see a lot of cut scenes of different fights that occurred on World’s Edge, we also get a pretty cool look into what some of the characters bunks look like on the drop ship, as well as how they hang out and socialize before inevitably being dropped into an arena to slaughter each other. Seeing the sort of camaraderie and friendship that they’ve forged behind the scenes as well as seeing a bunch of cool fight scenes on a planet with such varied environments was awesome, to say the least.
4) Stories from the Outlands – “Voidwalker”
In “Voidwalker” we learn about Wraiths background as an experiment for the
IMC, a megacorporation that attempted to exploit the Outlands, but was pushed back by the Frontier Army that had been formed by Outlanders to keep them from destroying their planets. Well, at least that’s the case in the universe where Apex Legends is set. Wraith is from an alternate dimension where the IMC is still settled in the Outlands. She was subjugated and tortured without any knowledge of who she had been before all of that. She only made her way into the dimension where Apex Legends is set because she was saved by a more established, stronger, alternate version of herself.
This cinematic addressing Wraith’s beginnings is really beautiful for its depiction of her literally helping herself out of an awful place. It also leans heavily into the science fiction side of things and gives us a cool look into the powers she has, being able to open portals, hearing voices of her alternates that let her know when there’s danger, and navigating the void.
3) Apex Legends Season 10 – Emergence Launch Trailer
This season trailer is by far the best, not just for their introduction of Seer and his alluring yet threatening abilities, but also by integrating the current conflicts for multiple different characters into his monologue. Mirage struggles with the knowledge that his mother is slowly losing herself to alzheimers, Bloodhound is faced with the reality that their home is being destroyed by Hammond and they've done little to protect it, and Loba grapples with the love she felt for Bangalore and hearing that she does not feel the same. Along with getting a deeper look into the struggles of some of the most beloved characters, we see what is expected of many season trailers with riveting fight scenes made suprisingly beautiful but Seer's artistic nature.
Overall, this trailer is one of the best, but that it’s simply gorgeous and does a lot to convey the ever developing plot for the game.
2) Stories from the Outlands – “Northstar”
Connections are drawn between the Titanfall plot and Apex Legends in this cinematic, as we get to see the backstory for a newer legend to the games, Valkyrie. Her father was Viper, an Apex Predator and antagonist in Titanfall 2 who ultimately perished. We get to see in this video the rebellious spirit and interest she had in her fathers work, shown through her taking his Titan for a joyride. This ultimately ends in disaster, with her father having to save her, but also makes way for a scene where we see him concede and teach her how to pilot the mech himself. While seeing the caring relationship he had with his daughter, we also see the grudge she holds against the man Kuben Blisk who she blames for her father’s death. It’s only when he convinces her that letting go of her baseless grudge will make her story a better one that she lets go and agrees to join the Apex games.
The cinematic itself is gorgeous, showing off the terrain of Valkyrie’s home planet Angelia, as well as the complex relationship she has with her feelings for her late father and her decision to move on and bring glory to her name.
1) Stories from the Outlands – “The Old Ways”
"The Old Ways" is certainly the best piece of the cinema and lore to come out of the Apex Legends franchise. We see the begginings of fan favorite Bloodhound, the young hunter of a tribe of people who live outside the realm of the modern technology and adhere to the ways of their forefathers. Influenced by Nordic religion, living off the land, and with an immense respect for nature, the tribe lives fearing the dangers that technology brings, as technology was the result of a tragedy that froze their home and killed many people in the tribe, including Bloodhound's parents. We see the struggles they go through having to complete the trials required to become a full member of the tribe, become outcast for their use of modern technology, deal with an almost insurmountable loss, and kill the beast that none else could.
It's one of the longer cinematics and relays a great deal of information in that amount of time. Bloodhound is a fairly mysterious character even in the main plot for Apex lore, and having received this detailed of a background on them is something that was well deserved.