Fortnite has always been a game that demands a lot from its players. If you want to blend in with the upper-echelon of professional players you’re going to be spending money on the battle pass as well as the game’s countless cosmetics. This includes skins and unique items that sets your avatar apart from the others. If you want to become as skilled as these pros, you’re also going to be investing time learning to build, how to best use each weapon, and how the map is laid out.
As someone who didn’t ditch all their other games to take up Fortnite full time, I found (and still find) all of this to be a bit overwhelming. I played sparsely for a few months after the Battle Royale mode was added to the game in 2017, then fell away. Some time in the middle of 2018 I came back and balked at what loaded. Everything surrounding the core gameplay was unrecognizable, beyond getting clobbered thanks to the enormous skill gap.
A New Island
There were weird crystals near a crater that altered my movement speed and jump ability. A slew of weird, confusing items were in the mix of combat and otherwise. There were bizarre new cosmetics that never existed before, like dogs in backpacks and dragons as gliders. Planes and orbs that looked like they were ripped out of Jurassic World were casually flying through the air — what in the hell was I even playing? I was definitely playing Fortnite, but the game had become a new beast in the time I was away.
I quickly bounced off this second time. Part of this was because the skill curve had outrun me but mostly because I didn’t think all these new systems really added much to the core game that is Fortnite. The game still focuses on fighting other players until the last player or team is standing, but all the superfluous fluff adds bloat to the experience. It was worse than I remembered. I didn’t want to learn all these new vehicle options or weird weapon additions; I just wanted to play Fortnite.
Reel ‘Em In!
When I heard the rumors surrounding Fortnite Chapter 2, it sounded appealing, but I still wasn’t through the roof about it. In my mind there was simply no way they would walk back from the weirdness they had become so steeped in. I mean, it had served them so well. Each new season ushered in new concepts to bend the game further from where it started. This began with new weapons, but soon the map was changing, and eventually everything was sucked up in a black hole.
The flippant manner in which Epic is willing to adjust the game is certainly admirable, if not crazy. I am also aware that I’m in the minority here. Most people still playing Fortnite love to see what new twist will be launched into the game’s atmosphere. For a live game to survive, changes have to come and they have to come at a rapid pace. Epic has proved they are the live game kings. Imagine my surprise, then, when in the wake of a cryptic black hole marketing stunt, we get this: a more polished base Fortnite.
Eat Your Heart Out, Assassin’s Creed
Fortnite Chapter 2 immediately reminded me why it was so good in its infancy. All the fantastical elements are removed: no more crystals, grenades that make you dance, or immediatly-spawning forts. No more sci-fi orbs or plane traversal. The game is stripped back down to the basic concepts of building and shooting, but with the quality of life features that really signifies that this is “Chapter 2”.
This could only be achieved with the addition of a new map. Forcing players back to a more vanilla experience of the first map they may have spent 1,000 hours playing would feel stale, not novel. Vehicles are still in game, but they are limited to boats and trucks; simple and effective means of travel that allow for players to get around more quickly without the ridiculousness of allowing them to fly.
The addition of some new mechanics are especially welcome in the new chapter. You can pick up downed players (both from your squad and others), which may sound silly, but it feels natural. In a heated fight you might not have time to resurrect a fallen ally, but you can still get them out of harm’s way. Conversely, it’s the best method to troll others players the game has added yet. Adding hostage-taking isn’t exactly what I thought Fortnite was going to do, but I dig it. You can also hide in haystacks and dumpsters, Ezio-style, giving you stealth advantages.
I Can Finally Save My Boys!
They’ve also added fishing. Again this feels like a natural extension of the game and offers gameplay that is neither intrusive nor groundbreaking. If you want, there are fishing rods scattered around as loot that you can use to fish for rare items. It’s a fun way to add new methods to item seeking from what you’ve become so accustomed to. You can also FINALLY swim! Oh how far we’ve come.
Everything combined, I think this sort of soft reset is great for such a shapshifting game as Fortnite. Chapter 2 lets you jump back in and start fresh on a brand new sprawling island. The map even has a fog-of-war until you discover each location through gameplay. This incentivizes players to drop all over the map to learn what’s hot and what’s not. There is enough new content that even the most seasoned player will have new things to see and learn. It’s easy for players to feel alienated over time when playing Fortnite, with mechanics that change throughout every stage of the game and increasingly complicating the experience over time.
It’s Time to Jump Back In!
Fortnite Chapter 2 really is the best time to jump back into the absurdly popular and highly influential video game. It’s obvious that’s why they’re doing this — they want people to come back who, like myself, may have been turned off by the end of season 10 of the first chapter. They streamlined systems to make the game as accessible as it has ever been. At least for now. I suspect we will soon bear witness to more oddities and outlandish additions (Thanos returns, anyone?). The simplicity of Fortnite Chapter 2 is sure to be short-lived, so I plan to enjoy it while it lasts.