One of the best things about Apex Legends’ new season is the Ranked mode. Until now, most matches were reduced to a couple of squads comprised of CS:GO veterans, rampaging through the lobby and killing everyone else.
Now this is over. Players will finally be matched against opponents of similar skill, and Apex should be much more competitive and fun. But there is a risk to consider.
How it works
The Ranked system is very basic and easy to grasp. Players start in the Bronze league with a ranked score of 0. As they earn ranked points, they climb into higher leagues, up to Apex Predator with 1000 points.
Points are earned by playing matches. Winning a match or finishing among the final squads awards points, as do kills. Beyond the Bronze league, players can also be penalized a few points if they lose a game very badly. However, they can never be knocked into a lower league this way.
While most competitive games use MMR score or other skill-based systems to place players in their appropriate leagues, Apex Legends does it through grinding. That means that it takes a high number of games to climb to one’s appropriate league. That in itself is not a problem, but it is poised to make Ranked mode a Smurf heaven.
To those unfamiliar with the term, Smurfing is the act of using an alternate account to play against lower-ranked opponents. Most other games would allow this to happen for only a couple of matches, at which point the unusually high win rate sends the Smurf back to their appropriate league.
In Apex Legends, an Apex Predator-ranked player would be able to enjoy the lower leagues for about a hundred matches before they climb back to the top. At that point, they can just make another account and start over. It’s a free game, after all.
To be clear, this is not inherently a problem with the Apex Ranked mode. Smurfing will always happen. There is no shortage of players with fragile egos out there who are willing to waste any amount of time or effort to ruin other people’s fun. The problem with the current Apex Legends system is that it makes this rather easy.