It has been three long years since the surprise launch of Titanfall-successor Apex Legends. In those years, Respawn Entertainment has carved out a sizable niche in the ever-growing battle royale genre, as they continue to prove to the gaming world that their game is here to stay. When it comes to movement and satisfying gunplay, Apex Legends is unmatched in the battle royale space, and each new season of the game represents another opportunity for Respawn to make the game just that much better. So, is the latest season of Apex Legends a step toward perfection, or is it begging to be saved by a later patch?
Apex Legends: Saviors is the thirteenth season of the game, which almost defies belief due to how quickly the past few years have flown by. Since the launch of the game, we have seen 13 new Legends added to the game. The latest addition to the roster, Newcastle, is an especially unique character for a few reasons. First, Newcastle is Bangalore’s brother (gasp), and second, Newcastle has the potential to shift the meta in a few interesting ways.
To talk about Newcastle, though, we really have to talk about two other Legends first: Lifeline and Rampart. In many ways, Newcastle feels like an amalgamation of these two Legends, and he seems to excel past their capabilities. Lifeline has always been the healer legend. If you wanted to play a pure support role (when it comes to your abilities) she was your girl. This was mainly due to her revive shield passive ability, which then became an auto-revive passive, as well as her healing drone tactical ability (we don’t talk about her ultimate).
Newcastle’s passive allows him to drag downed allies in whatever direction he wishes while reviving them and also protecting them with his own knockdown shield. While that may sound like a lot (Yeah no, that is definitely a lot), it is a really useful passive, but it in no way is overpowered. His knockdown shield can be cracked, so he can still be punished for trying to secure a revive out in the open.Just from a few hours of playing around with him you can tell that a lot of the power of his passive will come from baiting enemies, dragging allies quicker than they can move to keep them alive longer without necessarily reviving them, and even using allies as makeshift shields to press an attack. The passive allows for so much outplay potential, but all of these scenarios also make it clear that it is only going to be truly strong in skilled hands. They also make it very clear that Lifeline’s current passive is woefully insubstantial compared to Newcastle’s.
This is part of a wider problem present in Apex, as many older Legends’ passives seem barebones compared to the multitude of passives new characters have. So, that’s one of Lifeline’s defining characteristics getting usurped. Now, I’ll tell you about Rampart.
Rampart has never been a Legend with a high pick rate, but she was one of the most unique legends until now. Her identity was based around two things, shields and light machine guns. Newcastle gets shields now, and arguably he gets even better ones. His tactical is a moving shield that can be redirected at will. It can be damaged, and the top half can be destroyed, but it maintains its waist-high cover for the duration of the ability. I absolutely love this tactical and how it ties into the character’s name and the rook chess piece, as it essentially allows him to pushforward acrossa battlefield.
His ultimate ability allows him to either lock onto a teammate or pick a spot on the battlefield within a certain radius and rocket himself to it, placing down a huge shield placement as he lands and knocking enemies in the vicinity backwards. This shield is insanely powerful. It is big enough for the entire team and then some to fit behind, and it takes around 1,000 damage just to break one section of it. Essentially, it allows Newcastle to fortify otherwise indefensible positions and turn the tide of the battle. Interestingly, the ultimate has about a 40m range when not locked onto a teammate, but when locking onto teammates, I was able to launch myself about 70m out, pretty much instantly making my way back to them. This means that Newcastle is not only a great Legend for creating defensive positions, but also for traveling sizable distances when necessary and closing the gap between straggling teammates. Like his passive, I feel that his ultimate will really shine in the hands of highly skilled players, while still being extremely fun for casual players to engage with.
Newcastle feels like he has the DNA of Rampart and Lifeline, but nevertheless he feels extremely fresh and polished. This is one of the best Legends added to the game up there with Ash and Horizon. Partly because of how fun he feels to play, but mostly because his kit feels completely unified. Last season’s Legend, Mad Maggie, seemed haphazardly put together; throw a shotgun passive on her here, and a breaching tactical on her there, and then give her a wrecking ball ultimate (something I really have yet to see do anything meaningful for the attacking team). Seer was a flop in my opinion, dropping with one of the most egregious passives in the game that allowed him to essentially pinpoint enemies’ exact locations through walls in a 70m radius. Newcastle, on the other hand, feels well-balanced from the get-go, and the fun factor is certainly there. I am eager to get back into the game and lab out even more techniques, because I just know the depth is there for him. Overall, Newcastle is a great addition to the game, and I would not be surprised to see him more in Ranked even after the novelty wears off. Whether we see anyone play him at the Apex Legends Global Series is a different story, but I do think there is potential there.
Now, with a new season comes map changes, and this season is no different. Storm Point has a new POI focused on a giant dead crab, and of course it is awesome, and of course you can go inside and use the dead crab’s guts as your battlegrounds. In all seriousness, this new point of interest is really great. It utilizes similar architecture to the Spotted Lake and Crash Site POIs from King’s Canyon, and it is placed in a great spot that used to feel barren. The deep purples of the crab’s insides make you feel like you are in some otherworldly beast’s maw, like a cosmic retelling of Pinnochio, and I really dig the vibes in there.
Additionally, this update also brings a scattering of IMC armories throughout the map. These armories are home to Spectres, robots with guns, that want nothing more than to kill you. Armories have to be activated by a team, and upon activation, they seal themselves off, protecting you from any actual players that might take the opportunity to third party you for easy kills. You then have to survive for 60 seconds, killing as many waves of Spectres as you can to improve the loot you receive once the minute is over. Once you are ready to leave, you go back to the switch you used to start the encounter and flip it. This opens the entrance you came in from, but it also allows you to redeploy from a mini gravity cannon if you choose to. These armories are a really great addition to the map, and it is already apparent that teams are going to fight to land there and seal themselves in first. The redeploy mechanic is also really interesting and while it does not allow you to get too much distance it gives you enough of a chance to widen the gap between you and any enemies who might have been closing in on you. I’m happy with these map changes overall, and I feel they serve to improve an already great map for ranked. Something I would like to see in the future, however, is more of an attempt to provide geometry for cover in certain end zones. Sometimes the final few rings on Storm Point can be brutal, and that’s in large part due to a lack of cover on the map compared to World’s Edge and King’s Canyon.
Last but certainly not least, this season brings with it something the Apex Legends community has been clamoring for since the inception of ranked leagues. Respawn has finally reworked Apex Legends’ ranked experience, and it is glorious. The system of old encouraged reckless abandonment of all good sense. Players played to get their kill points and get out of there, and the system rewarded them for it! Now, however, the system says no. Your kill points and the ranked points they grant you are now weighed against your actual placement in the match. So essentially, the closer you get to first place, the more your kills actually matter. If you place less than 10th place, with a ton of kill points, you will still probably end up losing ranked points and ranking. This encourages players to play the game like, you know, a battle royale, rather than a glorified kill race.
The other massive change this season is the addition of rank demotion. If you lose three games in a row while at the bottom of a rank threshold (i.e. bottom of Diamond IV, Platinum IV, etc.), then you will fall to the middle of the next lowest tier. These two changes together mean that players are going to learn very quickly that the game cannot be played like a team deathmatch. Players are going to have to be much more strategic about their rotations, about when to take fights, and about when to retreat from them. All of this obviously puts a lot more focus on teamplay, and while that is certainly a good thing, it will be interesting to see how this affects solo queue players. Finding randoms who communicate in Apex Legends is a rare occurrence, and many solo queuers were able to succeed in the past because of the old kill points system. I think Respawn will find some way to address this going forward, but until then it will probably be difficult for all but the best of solo queuers to make progress. As someone who solo queues often, I will be looking for a team to grind with, but that was always my goal anyways. Oftentimes, the only way to find that team is to hop into ranked alone and find the people you work well with.
The weapon meta has not changed too drastically this season. All light machine guns have received handling nerfs, and none of them are all that noticeable, although this also functions as a kind of buff to Rampart, whose passive is tied to LMG handling. The R301 and Rampage have gone into the Replicator, so they are no longer available as floor loot, and the Mastiff has traded places with the Spitfire in the Care Package rotation. Expect to see a lot of Spitfires being used now, but aside from that don’t expect the meta to shift too drastically. R301s will probably be less prevalent, but they will not be completely inaccessible to those that want them.
The Legend meta has not shifted that much either, but do expect to see new compositions tested out as Newcastle’s strengths and weaknesses get discovered. For instance, I quickly realized just how useful a Newcastle ultimate paired with a Wattson ultimate could be. The shield provides cover to the Wattson ultimate which can shoot down offensive ultimates and heals shields passively, and it all works together nicely. I cannot wait to see more strategies evolve as the community plays around more with Newcastle. Rampart did receive buffs to her spin-up time of Sheila and her wall placements, but I don’t think these will be enough to make her relevant. Really, these changes feel more like an attempt to make her feel more relevant now that Newcastle is in the game.
I’m super excited about Apex Legends this season, and I encourage everyone to try it out if Apex Legends has failed to grip you for the past few releases. The new ranked system is a breath of fresh air, and it makes me so excited to go out and grind for Masters rank.
Three years in, and Apex Legends is arguably in its best state yet. I cannot wait to see what’s next for the game in the months to come. Hopefully I’ll see you in the Outlands.