The Flow of Combat
~Buckle up gamers because I’m really about to go full nerd and let my RPG-lingo fly with this one.~
In this write up I'll attempt to explain one of the more complicated aspects of combat that exists in Apex Legends. You may have heard me refer to the “mind games” in previous write-ups of mine, without going into full detail about them. Well I won’t be going into full detail here, but we will be descending into the rabbit hole this time.
Hopefully, by the end of this guide, you’ll have a much easier time understanding the “flow of combat” and how to adjust, adapt and read enemy behaviour a little easier. I hope you’ve played an RPG or two, because we’ll be using much of the “Turn-Based Combat” elements to help explain so you can envision these concepts in-game.
Action & Restriction: Common States.
For the sake of explanations, we’ll keep our imaginative scenarios to one versus one interactions. First, let’s understand a concept we’ll call a “State”. A State will refer to the mentality or the in-game stance of a player in Apex Legends. Before a battle begins usually both players will reside in a “Ready State”.
Ready State: A State in which there are no restrictions, and all actions can be performed from this state. To put it simply they can move and attack at will.
If one player manages to attack another without the receiver noticing, we’ll call this a “Preemptive Attack”.
Preemptive Attack: When an attack is executed without interruption, probably using some element of surprise. If the shots land we’ll also call this a “Direct Hit”.
Direct Hit: When an attack successfully hits a target.
However one cannot simply attack endlessly. There are universal restrictions in place to prevent this from happening. For example, having a finite amount of bullets to shoot before you’re forced to reload. We’ll call these universal restrictions the “Waiting State”.
Waiting State: When an in-game mechanic prevents you from entering the “Ready State”. This could be reloading, the time between bursts of a weapon, healing… etc.
The most common form of a “Waiting State” you’ll experience is having to reload your weapon. You could also look at this as the player's weapon simply going on “Cooldown”. However, this type of “Wait” will only restrict one from attacking, but you’ll still be able to move even if you’re unable to attack. To be specific we’ll call this state “Inactive Movement”.
Inactive Movement: Being able to move while unable to attack.
To make this somewhat digestible, think of this as a turn-based game where once you spend your attack, you’ll have to wait a few seconds before you can attack again. Thus going from “Ready” to “Wait” and back to “Ready” again. This is a very simplified way to understand one’s restrictions and privileges when playing Apex Legends.
The Flow of Combat: Identifying Rhythm.
Now that we are aware of some basic states, actions, and restrictions. We must move on to understanding how to identify and respect our opponents' “Ready” states. For this scenario let’s imagine two players at a fairly decent distance from each other. Both are behind cover and they’re in combat. A simple 1v1 scenario.
The first person who shoots will be transitioning from “Ready” to “Active Action”.
Active Action: A player firing a weapon or attacking in a way that can do damage if met with a “direct hit”.
If the opposing player decides to attack at the same time, then we’ll have an “Exchange”. In this instance, the player who has more impactful “Direct Hits” will have a better chance of winning. An “Exchange” would mean they are simultaneously attempting to fight each other’s “Active Action” states.
Exchange: Two players targeting each other while they’re in “Active Action” States.
Since we now understand this concept, we should also understand that it is very dangerous to constantly fight in this manner. Our other option is to simply take cover while your opponent is Actively firing upon you. We can call this “Waiting Your Turn”.
Waiting Your Turn: Taking cover to avoid the enemy’s Active Action“.
Being able to identify when your opponent is returning or has returned to their “Waiting State” is an essential part of fighting safely. During your opponent's “Waiting State”, you’ll be given the right to a few options. Move, stay, or attack. In this case, if you wanted to close the distance between an opponent and yourself it would be important to identify when they enter their “Waiting State” before stepping out of your cover. We’ll call this “Active Movement”.
Active Movement: Moving during the “Ready” state.
Usually, you’ll be able to identify a player’s tendencies or rhythm after they have fired a few shots. Each opponent will be different, however the less experienced will constantly & blatantly show what state they’re in, by showing clear cues of wanting to fight, such as aiming down sight from their cover with no sign of backing off, versus taking cover and never showing themselves until every single bullet has been reloaded to their mag.
This is what makes reading players very easy and intuitive. It’s understandable and when you’re this player, the game will often feel very rough and uncomfortable. No one is letting you shoot for free and you’re unable to fight without taking a never-ending series of exchanges.
For more information please read the Avoiding Unnecessary Damage guide.
Universal Rhythm: Stance Dancing.
Being able to quickly enter an “Active State” at an off-beat rhythm will tend to throw your opponents off. When done successfully, it’s safe to say you won some form of a mind game, especially if you follow up with “direct hits”. Technically, it will be you staying in an “Active” state and avoiding anything that would forcefully put you in a state of “Waiting”. In other words, consistently conserving your ammo and avoiding reloading every time you fire and take cover.
Your opponent will often choose to move at a time when they assume you have entered your “Waiting State”, I.e., While you’re reloading or healing.
Common Universal Rhythm
There is a universal rule that is almost understood by each and every one of us. That is simply understanding when it’s our turn to attack. We believe we understand this rule so much that we tend to deplete our magazines regardless of damage taken in the process. This habit will often have both players forced into a “Waiting State” in which they’ll desperately re-peek the moment they are “Ready” and “spend” their turn, often repeating the same thing.
This will appear almost as if both players are taking turns, only to end up in exchanges.
Uncommon Universal Rhythm
Once we break this habit we’ll start to hold off on mindlessly shooting the cover of our opponent without purpose, however, due to the intensity of fights and other possible threats we tend to eventually hit our reload button subconsciously as we want to stay fully prepared for an inevitable engagement. However, during any reload we’re forced to enter our own “Waiting State”, sending a universal message that we are now “Inactive”. Which is a state that intermediate and higher-level players are desperately trying to read to find an opening for other options they plan to take. Reloading out of habit can be tough to drop as there is almost no reason not to hit reload in most instances.
Inactive: States where we’re unable to perform an attack action on command.
Self Control: Stance Dancing.
Once you have broken both habits above (Common & Uncommon Universal Rhythm) you’ll start to achieve your own unique flow, one that your opponents will have to pay attention to no matter how experienced they may be. For example, you’ll be able to shoot a small percentage of your magazine then enter cover and exit ready and prepared to shoot again. If all goes to plan you’ll often end up catching your opponent mistaking your “Ready State” for your “Waiting State”.
In emergencies, you’ll also be able to switch your weapon to negate your readable reload from your first gun used. You’ll have to use these methods to catch the boldest of players who have learned how to move around during a player’s or team’s Inactive periods.
Successfully masking your “Inactive & Active States” will generate a great deal of ambiguity for your opponents. We can call this behaviour “Stance Dancing”.
Stance Dancing: Appearing to enter in and out of Ready & Wait states at irregular intervals.
Whether we admit it or not, we all are constantly picking up on these subtleties of the game, however, noticing what they are and using them to our advantage is something to aim for.
The con of swapping to your secondary instead of fully reloading the first, is now you’re at a deficit in regards to your options. Unlike some old-school shooters, weapon swapping to cancel your reload doesn't really exist anymore. However, there are some new mechanics to explore and identify in Apex Legends around this topic. Pay close attention and I’m sure you’ll figure them all out… Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Movement in Battle: Mind Games.
Being able to change your position and effectively adjusting your team’s current formation is a huge part of winning fights or even rotations. It is not impossible to understand when and where it is safe to move using the information above. Using this information effectively is breaking the universally understood rhythm and catching people off guard. With that being said it is important to know...
Landing “Direct Hits” doesn’t force your opponent to “wait” though it drastically raises the chances. A simple 20 damage could be enough for your opponent to want to heal. Usually, they will take cover for a second and peek to see if you’re moving or not. This will usually be the time you should move, however, if they have a lot of self-control, they could hold off on healing such “Chip damage” and seek to punish your attempt to move.
Chip Damage: Insignificant almost negligible damage in comparison compared to the maximum
Health pool of the receiver.
The real fun comes when big damage is scored! Do they choose to heal or stay “ready”? A very bold player will often score big damage and then move boldly in their own “Inactive” state. “Inactive Movement” is something you’ll tend to see when a player is confident or desperate. It’s something that will always be the bane of every player, however, being able to identify this will help greatly when it comes to consistency.
Identifying these elements and respecting your opponents’ periods of “active” states will be one of the key components to playing a safe yet effective playstyle.
We all understand there are times we can and cannot act. We also have a usual pattern that works early on and then starts to fail the higher we climb. We sometimes fail to move or move at the wrong times, and this is due to being unable to identify the periods of inactivity correctly. Pay close attention to these elements in-game from now on.
Arena is an amazing place to train such a trait. There is a lot of movement and it’s very repetitive regarding options. However, the mind games will often vary and this element won’t be as repetitive. As long as you can understand what is going on, you’ll have a much easier time adapting in the future regardless of a win or a loss.
I hope using these terms makes it easier to understand, it’s your job to make sense of it all in your own way.