Find out why the Apex Legends developers are always nerfing the strong Legends instead of just buffing the weaker ones.

18:30, 30 Apr 2021

Legend balance is always a hot topic when it comes to Apex Legends. The back and forth between when to buff and when to nerf a Legend is a constant debate.

No one likes it when their favourite Legend gets nerfed. So the question arises - why not just make every Legend powerful and fun to play? Why do the developers have to keep nerfing the fun Legends into the ground?

While buffing has its place, the ability to nerf Legends is a crucial component to maintaining the core philosophy of Apex Legends. Specifically, nerfing avoids Power Creep, Ability Legends, and the homogenisation of Legend roles.
 

Apex Legends Lifeline Nerf

Power Creep

Power Creep is a phenomenon that occurs when updates to a game consistently introduce more powerful items, abilities, and the like. In Apex Legends’ case, Power Creep would occur in the form of buffs to Legend abilities. 

Continuously buffing Legends over time without keeping the strong ones in check with nerfs will lead to a situation where the older untouched Legends become underpowered. As the name suggests, the general power level of the Legend cast will slowly “creep” up. This eventually leads to undesirable gameplay, as we’ll get into next with the idea of Ability Legends.

Apex Legends Lifeline Nerf
Apex Legends Lead Game Designer, Daniel Klien, on Apex Legends' core philosophy

Ability Legends

The Apex Legends development team has made it clear time and time again that they want gunskill and movement to be at the forefront of Apex Legends — not abilities. Over-buffing Legends will lead to a world where abilities reign supreme over gunskill and movement. Because of this, it’s important to nerf overtuned Legends rather than buff the remaining cast to their power level.

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For example, think back to Season 0 Wraith and pre-Season 5 Pathfinder. These two Legends were unbelievably strong and stood out among the rest of the cast. Buffing every other Legend up to their level would have been a huge mistake. Nerfing these overpowered versions of Wraith and Pathfinder was a much better decision.

To further reiterate this point, let’s take a look at a more recent example: pre-Legacy Horizon and pre-Chaos Theory Caustic. Both Horizon and Caustic were undeniably overpowered at the time. These two Legends were made strong through their extremely potent abilities. Caustic’s gas traps did all of the work in a fight; the Caustic user’s gunskill was irrelevant. The goal is to balance Legends to the point that their abilities are an accessory, not the main component in their gameplay.

Nerfs prevent Apex Legends from turning into Ability Legends and resembling a game like Overwatch, where abilities are the main factor in success.

Homogenisation Of Legend Roles

Nerfing is crucial to avoiding the homogenisation of Legend roles. Apex Legends' diverse cast of characters are split up into four key roles. These roles are Offensive, Defensive, Support, and Recon. Each Legend and each role brings something different to a team.

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Over-buffing Legends can lead to these unique roles becoming homogenised. Not every Legend can be an offensive powerhouse like Wraith or Horizon. Buffing other Legends to make them as powerful as these two Legends would ruin what makes Apex Legends special.

Legends such as Lifeline and Wattson were never meant to compete with Wraith or Horizon in a straight 1v1 battle. What Lifeline and Wattson lack in offensive power, they make up for in their support/defensive capabilities. Wattson can hold down an entire location by herself with her fences and Interception Pylon. Likewise, Lifeline's ability to support her team as a medic is unrivalled.

Legends in different classes play entirely different roles in the Apex Games. And therefore, it’s challenging to balance them in a vacuum. As a result, the developers must nerf the standout Legends rather than buff everyone else up to their level. How can you buff Wattson without making her a complete pain to play against? She may not be a pure slayer, but she is already solid in her specific role.

If Support and Defensive Legends were buffed to a level where they could aggressively slay out just as well as the Offensive Legends, these roles would become meaningless. Nerfing Legends is a necessary evil. Without it, everyone would play the same, and the different Legends would lose what makes them unique.

Apex Legends Lifeline Nerf

Obviously, everyone would love for their favourite Legend to receive a buff, and vice versa, everyone hates when their main gets nerfed. However, a fine balance between buffing and nerfing is critical to the health of Apex Legends as a game. 

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Too many buffs and Apex Legends will suffer from Power Creep and the homogenisation of Legend roles, effectively turning the game into Ability Legends. At that point, Apex would have failed its initial mission of gunplay first, abilities second. Nerfs are necessary to keep the core philosophy of Apex Legends intact.

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Images via Respawn Entertainment

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