Fortnite Chapter 2 feels like what Fortnite was always meant to be

Fortnite Chapter 2 feels like what Fortnite was always meant to be

I can’t imagine Epic planned for any of this. Fortnite Battle Royale’s initial release felt like Epic’s Hail Mary, a last chance at saving its base-building survival game by coasting on PUBG’s then insurmountable popularity. It was bone-thin, a BR lacking any distinct characteristics. Then people began building massive towers in seconds. Epic added the ability to turn into a bush. Players started riding rockets.

Embracing the playful sandbox ethos, Epic sped up the building system, introduced gripping in-game events, and over the course of two years, disassembled and reassembled the island, piece by piece, into something completely new. We watched a company make a new game from the pieces of another, live.

Fortnite’s been keeping the pace for over two years now. That’s 10 three-month-long seasons of big map changes, new weapons, traversal items, traps, vehicles, and bizarre cross-media collaborations with the likes of the NFL, Batman, Stranger Things, and a man that wears a large marshmallow on his head and plays electronic dance music for the children. Clearly, Epic has built something magnetic, but I’ve always wondered what Fortnite would look like if Epic already knew what it was and would become.

 

A warm welcome

When I woke up to take in all the Fortnite Chapter 2 news and check in with the UK folks in the PC Gamer Slack, I saw something inconceivable. Phil Savage, noted guy-that-doesn’t-play-Fortnite, had won a solo Fortnite match—and with six kills, too!

 

Phil’s spent years and years pointing and clicking on moving objects with some degree of accuracy, I’m sure, but I’ve been playing Fortnite since the start and only reel in a win every couple weeks. Not to discredit Phil, the cheating bastard, but I’m guessing this is the new matchmaking system in action. Players are sorted into matches with players of a similar skill level, including bots where necessary. Of course, Phil was probably up against Ninja and Tfue and such. Of course.

Technically, the system was introduced back in patch 10.40, but an influx of new players with Chapter 2’s launch has seemingly seeded the overall population with enough people to really fill out the lower tiers. Excusing the occasional smurf, it’ll likely take most new players a while to work their way up to the preteen Fortnite savant tier, too.

I’m still getting my ass kicked, but I’m also sitting on years of statistics, enough to punt me up to a challenging tier of competition for chokelords. And that’s fine. I’ll never outpace the average builder, but at least I can tread water among competitors and secret bots that make me feel like a little more than a sentient brick.

New boss, same as the old boss

As a returning player, I’ve enjoyed exploring all the new points of interest and grappling with the terrain with the storm on my ass. Without the usual traversal items—they’ve all been vaulted—Chapter 2 feels like a return to the early days of battle royale, where poor positioning and movement almost guarantee death by circle. I’m thinking about movement far more strategically than I was at the tail-end of Season X, where launch pads and driftboards and mechs made an approaching storm as threatening as a soft fart.

Besides a slight increase in size, the new map is defined by the addition of rivers running from the ocean and into its center. Players can swim or pilot boats through the water, but these zones are currently the lone means of speedy traversal. It’s an interesting calculated risk, choosing whether to take a chance on making a detour towards water, hoping to find a boat or at catch a ride with the current, or stick with the ol’ legs and ground combo. Water traversal is faster, but you’re bound to run into others with the same idea in mind.

(Image credit: Epic Games)

Rivers also break up the points of interest like a sloppy pizza, so no lucrative loot zone feels more isolated than another. It brings an inherent symmetry to the map that didn’t ever quite take hold on the old one, where players flocked to a few popular POIs like Tilted Towers and Pleasant Park for the guarantee of immediate action and plentiful loot.

Those big, juicy POIs are relegated to the outer edges of the new map rather clustered together or centrally located. Encounters, so far, are staggered nicely and far less predictable than before. Maybe players have simply yet to work out where Tilted 2.0 is. I’m inclined to think the map design is just doing it’s job.

But I can’t say the map itself has fundamentally changed how I play. It’s still early days, but most areas feel like reinterpretations of old locations. There are deep canyons and thick forests and small towns and massive factories connected by roads and hills and meadows and bridges—everything’s so familiar I’ve yet to see a match affected in a way that couldn’t be done on the old island. It’s not a major problem, and I still have some exploring to do, but I was hoping to see some truly surprising changes beyond a sensible rearrangement.

(Image credit: Epic Games)

Building hasn’t changed either—the competitive players cheer as casual players cry, locked in an eternal battle over a problem with no solution. Surprise! Fortnite’s most unique quality remains its most alienating. I still run into genius architects who’ve been practicing the opaque art of box and ramp construction, made magnitudes more complex via the editing system. Besides good aim, there’s still an invisible language to Fortnite’s building system that will still confound and dismay every newcomer.

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