It has been just over a month since Team SoloMid persevered through 12 matches of Apex Legends to come out on top in the EXP Apex Legends Invitational at X Games Minneapolis. Now, dozens of teams are converging on Alvernia Studios in Kraków, Poland, for a second pro invitational.
There were only 20 teams in Minneapolis, with 15 coming via invitation and five others making it through regional qualifiers. There will be 80 teams competing throughout the weekend in Poland, meaning there will be plenty of teams we haven't seen until now.
Storylines were sparse going to the X Games, and NRG, who were seen as favorites going in due to their talented core of players, received an unbalanced amount of attention on and off broadcast. They were expected to dominate due to their core of talented, young players, many of whom are considered the best in the world. But when it came down to it, players like Coby "Dizzy" Meadows and Marshall "Mohr" Mohr had little LAN experience (and competitive experience in general). They ended up placing 13th, far below their expectations.
The truth is that the Apex Legends scene doesn't have much of a history yet, so it was hard to know who would have been the dominant team. There was little to draw from besides online play, which is hardly indicative of how teams will compete at a major LAN.
Team SoloMid, who held off Reciprocity to come out on top at the X Games figured their game plan out early during the tournament. They made the decision to go for high placements rather than get caught up in constant fights, which helped them build enough of a lead to eclipse any of the other squads that had to make up ground later in the competition. They're a skilled squad, but they won due to their nonaggressive strategy, not necessarily because they have the best players in the tournament.
The biggest difference between the X Games and the Poland invitational is the amount of teams in attendance. Sixty more squads will jump from the airship and onto Kings Canyon in Krakow than there were in Minneapolis. All eyes will be on TSM to come out strong, but the top 10 could be completely unrecognizable due to how many new faces we'll see at the event.
A few standouts from the long list of attending teams, including squads from all over the world, are several Brazilian organizations. Even with a poor server structure in the region, Brazil has become a source of Apex Legends talent. Cloud 9 recruited an entire Brazilian squad including Gabriel "isno" Ceregatto, Nino "NinexT" Pavolini, and Vinícius "noted" Mancinni. Three other teams with Brazilian players have qualified for the invitational, and I'm betting on one of them finishing within the top ten.
With little more than online play making up the experience for all Apex Legends competitors, it's hard to really predict how well teams will perform at LANs. While this invitational should be an improvement, not much has changed since the X Games. Teams that did well there, including Sentinels and Fnatic, are some of the only teams that'll actually have expectations.
All this is par for the course in battle royale esports -- the competitive scene takes a lot of time to develop. While PUBG Corporation and Epic Games are doing everything they can to make PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Fortnite competitive sensations, EA and Respawn are moving at a slower pace with Apex Legends. The battle royale game came out in February and this is only the game's second pro competitive LAN (local area network) tournament. There have been other Apex events, but they have been mostly pro-ams that have focused on streamer and celebrity competitions.
Both Fortnite and PUBG stumbled in the beginning. They had a hard time finding rules that encouraged aggressively strategic play and struggled to showcase action that was spread across a huge map and dozens of players. Apex Legends had some similar problems in its first tournament at X Games Minneapolis. The point system for that tournament favored placement over kills, as going for a high placement by camping out somewhere on the map was easier than engaging in fights early on, and the spectating was tough, with many fights falling outside of the spectator camera.
There were also crashes, in-game bugs, technical difficulties and production gaffes. However, that's understandable since it was the game's first major pro tournament.
The quality of events and the experience of major and minor teams will improve with time. Since competitive play gained popularity in PUBG and Fortnite, both games have evolved into entertaining spectator esports with a healthy balance of action and tactics alongside informative broadcasts. Most expect the same from Apex Legends, but the game still has to go through the same growing pains as other games in the relatively young battle royale genre.