Are the changes to Rampart’s ultimate enough?

Despite a recent buff to her ultimate that’s a great change for the legend, Rampart’s abilities don’t make much sense in high-level play.

Screengrab via Respawn Entertainment

It’s been a bit over a week since Rampart’s most recent buff went live. The Evolution collection event patch released on Sept. 14 and gave Rampart the ability to pick up and move with her ultimate, the minigun Sheila. It was a big improvement for a character that was weak on release and has continued to struggle in terms of performance and pick rate compared to her fellow legends. 

This buff to her ultimate may be set to expand her limited role in the meta.

Respawn developers provided insight to their rationale for Rampart’s latest changes in the patch notes for the Evolution collection event: “A legend based solely on a defensive position is hard to get right in Apex Legends. We think Rampart has a place as the ultimate defensive Legend, but we wanted to give her a little more ability to be reactive and push with her team.”

Though the spin-up for the minigun is longer than in its stationary mode, and Rampart only gets one magazine of ammo for it before she must place Sheila in a set position or give it up entirely, the simple ability to use her ultimate while moving gives her offensive capabilities a much-needed boost. Even once Sheila has run out of that initial ammo, players can now place the minigun and use it with infinite reloads in its stationary position. 

It’s an excellent change to a character that’s been in a difficult place since her release in season six. Essentially, the buff turns Rampart from a legend whose abilities are only effective from an entrenched defensive position to one who can be effective while pushing another team or retreating, a fundamental requirement of most fights in Apex, which often involve strategic repositioning and can take place over several discrete engagements. 

The last time Rampart got a buff was with the debut of season eight. At the time, the season eight patch notes made it clear Rampart was in dire need of an improvement: “Rampart has remained at the bottom across our performance metrics since her release. Her kit is very much built around proactively setting up a powerful position, but in a game as fast-moving as Apex, we determined her walls should have some reactive power as well.”

Image via Respawn Entertainment

At that time, Respawn increased the health of her defensive walls in their construction phase, buffing them from a laughable one HP to 45 HP. Respawn also increased the swing radius of Rampart’s minigun from 120 degrees to 180 degrees, letting players mow down anything even vaguely in front of them. But the fundamental problem remained: in a battle royale, unless a team gets very lucky, no position is safe for long.

It’s an open question whether these latest buffs will be enough. The slightly longer spin-up time of her ultimate and Rampart’s slow movement speed while using it could continue to make her a niche pick, but the buff seems to have enticed at least one pro.

A discussion on the competitive Apex subreddit last week about the Rampart buffs and the potential of a Rampart, Gibraltar, and Valkyrie team composition garnered a response from the pro player TeQ. “I’ll be running this comp,” he wrote. “I’ve theorized with it since Valk was released, but couldn’t justify it due to her ult being shit. Now it’s good.”

His blunt observation about Rampart’s ultimate was certainly one of the big obstacles holding the character back. But the ultimate was just one of the issues keeping Rampart from any significant use in high-tier ranked play or competitive events.

Other fixtures in the pro Apex scene were less optimistic about Rampart’s potential. “The thing is, she’s not necessarily great at standing her ground, at least nowhere near as good as Caustic,” wrote Raven, a player and former coach, in a Twitter message to Dot Esports. “And Sheila doesn’t make up for this.”

Coach for Invictus Gaming Alistair “EMEF” Allum thought Rampart’s mix of offense and defense was “extremely interesting,” but that her strengths were overshadowed by being dependent on stronger defensive characters.

“Whether Rampart’s place in the meta was intended to fill a Caustic-like building defense role, replace Gibraltar with her mobile cover abilities, or serve as a character who splits the difference, Rampart will likely fundamentally fail due to her reliance on other characters,” EMEF said. “Does her reworked Shiela make her one of the best full-fight entry characters in the game? Maybe. But as long as she relies on the stall of other character’s mobile cover to set up her long wind-up time on both her [tactical] and her Ult, she will not truly have a place in a competitive composition with the way that the World’s Edge meta currently plays out.”

The buff failed to address a central part of her kit: her walls, which are still very weak. They’re deeply situational, fragile, and take too much time to build. 

Compare them to Gibraltar’s tactical ability, the bubble shield. It is near-instantaneous and has infinite HP—it can’t be broken for the duration of its 12 seconds. In that timeframe, a squad can shred through several Ramparts’ worth of walls.

Even conceding that Rampart can be effective at times, it’s not enough that her abilities work for certain situations. To become viable in high-level ranked play or in tournaments, she needs to deliver more utility than other legends who perform a similar role.

Screengrab via Respawn Entertainment

For example, it’s hard to fathom at the moment why a team looking for a defensive stalwart would choose Rampart over Caustic. The Toxic Trapper’s gas canister abilities are useful for both area denial and offensive pushes, and they can be highly effective in the small circles of the endgame. With only 45 HP during a build phase that lasts too long and no ability to do passive damage, Rampart’s walls can’t really compete. Similarly, Caustic’s ultimate, his gas grenade, does deadly passive damage over time and also works as a zoning tool. If it’s well-aimed, it’s the kind of ability that requires no further action on the part of the player. Caustic’s gas hurts the other team and forces them to move, leaving Caustic players free to shoot sitting ducks. 

Rampart’s minigun, on the other hand, requires the player to aim, forcing them to control the ultimate for the duration of the ability’s usefulness. And, needless to say, it doesn’t work if the Rampart player is focused and downed, as is likely in engagements involving high-skilled players. Her abilities are only effective if they’re actively managed by the player. In a gunfight with many variables to manage, the extra attention they require is simply too costly.

The buff will certainly help Rampart in low-level play. But in Diamond-ranked lobbies and beyond, I expect Rampart will continue to struggle—perhaps finding a small niche. While Caustic shines as a defensive legend because of his versatility, Rampart (much like Wattson these days) is a tough character to fit into the fast-paced style of Apex. The buff to her ultimate is absolutely a step in the right direction, making her an offensive threat to avoid at all costs. But her walls are a big neon sign telling other players where to throw their grenades for easy kills, and her defenses just aren’t up to snuff.