If you have tried to play some Apex Legends ranked mode recently, you know the wait times are prohibitively long. There’s nothing quite like the pain of watching the player queue shuffle between single-digit counts forever. Worse yet, when you finally hop in a ranked match, you might not necessarily have a fair and fun experience. Ranked mode was supposed to be one of the game’s biggest improvements in Season 2. However, it seems that most players currently avoid it. How did we get here?
The first problem is arguably the common perception of ranked mode as the hard mode. If you are in Diamond League and higher, playing ranked can be kind of a tense experience. Some high league players prefer to play casual mode for the relatively softer opposition. Worse yet, they might opt to smurf instead, completely ruining ranked for others. Some of the highest Apex Legends kill records are set by Predator players who used smurf accounts to abuse Bronze League.
Low league players have their own set of problems in ranked. Even when they are not getting chased by smurfs, they sometimes get matched with higher ranks by accident. And getting matched against what the game considers players of similar skill is also a bit unreliable. The disparity in actual skill level among Gold and Platinum level players is huge. This is because of how the Apex Legends ranked system works.
Ranking up to Gold is essentially just a grind, and all players eventually wind up there. If you ran around mindlessly in every match and never picked up a gun, you will still eventually score enough top finishes to make it to Gold. Then you could force your way into Platinum by playing obnoxiously passively. Players who simply want to climb the ladder do just that. They camp and hide until the end of each match to score some extra points. It doesn’t help that Respawn is treating the Ranked system like another form of progression by emphasizing cosmetic rewards over quality of experience.
There are a couple of things Respawn could do to make Apex Legends ranked play healthier in Season 3. Unfortunately, neither of them involves adding weapon charms. First and foremost, they could look into restructuring the league system to actually reflect skill. There are a ton of other player metrics they could be using to match players appropriately. At the very base level, damage is a much better indicator of skill than kills.
There are a slew of other statistics that Apex Legends could incorporate into tracking player performance. Response time, time between kills, and survival rate after taking heavy damage come to mind. And since these numbers would be consistent, determining player rank can happen with a handful of placement matches. This would eliminate the grind and make smurfing slightly less easy.
Reducing wait times should also be a priority in Season 3. To be blunt, Apex doesn’t currently have the population to support multiple game modes across multiple platforms. When a limited-time event adds a game mode, the regular queues grind to a halt. Even where there are no events, Ranked matches are much slower to get into than casual. Other games address this type of problem with crossplay, fewer queue choices, and bots. Apex Legends Ranked has none of those things. It arguably needs to find its own solution if skill-based matchmaking is to be a viable option.
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Games player and write-abouter from Ottawa. Doom basically raised me.