What do you do with a problem like Gibraltar? No, I'm not interested in geopolitical feuds between Spain and the United Kingdom—I'm talking about Makoa Gibraltar, a shield-bearing hero who's defined the Apex Legends meta since day one.
That may be set to change next week, however. While I didn't get a hands on with the lad in last week's press preview, Apex Legends' dev team walked us through its plans to construct a fortress so impenetrable it may finally shake the foundations of Gibby's dominance.
Revealed last week (opens in new tab), Newcastle is Apex Legends' 21st character—a shield-bearing superhero who's hiding behind so many layers of false identities you'd think he stepped out of Cold War Berlin. Fortunately, Newcastle (AKA Lamont Craig, AKA Bangalore's brother Jackson Williams) is covered head-to-toe in enough shields to protect him and his team from all the bullets, grenades and artillery strikes in the Outlands, and then some.
For a quick line of defence, Newcastle's Q is a narrow energy shield he can toss out. This can be rotated to face incoming fire, though it can be broken with enough shots, with both the top and bottom halves having separate health pools. But if you want a more serious line of protection, Newcastle's ultimate has you covered.
Castle Wall sees Newcastle jump into the air and slam down a massive, unfolding fortress wall wherever he lands—though if he targets it on a teammate, he'll be able to leap higher and farther than normal in a heroic surge. Enemies near the ground slam are knocked back, and more than just offering a tough wall to crack, foes who come near the wall are slowed by an energised field.
The most contentious part of 'Castle's kit, however, is his passive. Retrieve the Wounded lets Newcastle drag downed allies as he revives them, using his own knockdown shield to protect them both. This immediately calls back to Lifeline's old Revive shield—and while Newcastle's shield isn't impenetrable, it'll scale based on what level Knockdown shield he's carrying, and the ability to move while reviving is huge.
Newcastle offers a more dynamic form of cover than Gibby's bubble, but also one with more obvious weaknesses. While much wider than a bubble, his ult only covers one side, meaning you'll need to keep an eye out for flanks, grenade spam and enemy Bangalore/Gibby airstrikes. Whether it'll be enough to dislodge Gibby from his defensive dominance remains to be seen—there's an absolute simplicity to his kit that may be hard to dislodge, but Newcastle sure seems to be giving it a fair crack, filling a role senior game designer Devan McGuire said "bridges the line between defensive and support."
Post-launch, defensive legends have had a tough time cracking the Apex roster. Characters like Wattson and Rampart aren't bad, by any means, but in offering more situational protection, they've simply been unable to lay a dent in the meta. That said, new Legends tend to land on the powerful side, so expect to spend the first few weeks of the new season waging wars of attrition against Newcastle's walls.
And no, Newcastle holds no secret connections to the northern English city, or football team. I asked.
"The name just happened to align more with the protector aspect," Tim Lewinson explained. "Nothing to do with Newcastle, unfortunately. Or fortunately, as the case may be."
Of course, Newcastle isn't news to anyone who was unable to resist peeking at March's massive Apex leak (opens in new tab), which purportedly revealed years worth of new Legends, weapons and mechanics. I asked game director Steve Ferreira about the internal response to these kinds of breaches—and while obviously not happy about it, it does feel like Respawn tries to take them in its stride.
"It's a reality of game development, and particularly with a game like ours, it's a live game and we're constantly putting stuff into the game, but we've also always approached it with a bit of levity, right? I can guarantee you a bunch of stuff that was in supposed leaks recently is real and is not real. Right? You saw Newcastle got launched and that was part of it. There's obviously no denying that that was a piece of content that was leaked.
"The team doesn't want to see these things happen. But we know that we've got to play the other side of it and make the best out of the environment that we find ourselves in and as a live game, and so we'll kind of mess with the community and any potential leakers as well."
Newcastle isn't the only new addition in Season 13, mind. Respawn is completely overhauling ranked play, and Storm Point is getting two tantalising new additions—a downed Kaiju with guts full of loot located between Mill and North Pad, and IMC Armories which will lock you in a cramped room for 60 seconds with murderous Spectres, offering increasingly lucrative rewards for each robot killed.
The last two seasons of Apex Legends were beefy ones. Escape brought us Ash and a massive new jungle map, while Defiance added Maggie, a brilliant 9v9 Control mode (opens in new tab), and significant changes to Olympus (opens in new tab). With only the one new Legend, no new weapon and map changes that, while significant, aren't quite as transformative as last season's.
It feels like we might be in for a slower season, and given the shambles of Apex's last slow season (remember Seer, anyone?), that might be cause for concern. But I'm hopeful Season 13 will be a smoother ride—or at least, one not absolutely crippled by server issues for half the season. Storm Point's changes are additive, not destructive, and I'm genuinely curious to see if Newcastle's more active style of protection can woo players who've found defensive characters a bit dull until now.
Besides, we'll always have Control's return in the second half of the season, should things turn grim. Season 13: Saviors kicks off on May 10th.