Fortnite Season Two

Fortnite Season Two

Nicholas Silva

Fortnite is the gaming phenomena which has captured pop culture and legions of gamers in a constant, tumultuous rollercoaster of progress over the past two years. It is, for those who haven’t watched or read the news in that timeframe, a one hundred player battle royale game set in a colorful cartoon universe full of wonky characters and alliterative locations. In a normal match, these 90-100 players drop onto the Fortnite Island, and battle it out until one person or one team -depending upon the mode- are left standing.

Fortnite has developed rapidly since it was first launched in 2017, and has seen many massive changes. The game’s weekly changes and themed battlepasses are anchored around ‘seasons’, ten to twelve week blocks of content that contribute to the narrative. At the end of Season X (for Epic Games, the developers, insisted on calling it that) in September, the game was almost unrecognizable from the vibrant landscape full of “noobs” that had marked its beginning. There was, at that point, a jungle in the top right corner of the map, a winter wonderland in the southwest, a desert in the southeast, and a giant frozen time orb in the middle. Because of this time orb, the Zero Point, as it was known in the in-game lore, and the efforts of the Seven to destroy it, various locations from the original map were returned to their original locations. While this was greatly appreciated by fans -even though it was used as a promotional goldmine twice- it was clear that this nostalgic pepper on the map was the sign of a victory lap -Epic celebrating its two years of amazing financial success- and that something very big was coming.

After a shocking live event -one of many that had come to define Fortnite’s seasons- the game was deleted. In its place, across all platforms and social media, was a black hole. Occasionally numbers would appear, and eventually people discovered a retro Space Invaders themed minigame that could be used to pass the time (originally hinted at in the beginning of Season 8, for those that noticed it). This black hole became the largest gaming event in history, with millions of people constantly tuned in on Youtube, Twitch, and more to watch it, much to the bewilderment of parents and news outlets. After two days of darkness -a bold move that seems to mark Epic’s confidence and policy moving forwards- something unprecedented happened, that people had been asking for for months: a new map appeared, heralded by the title of Fortnite: Chapter 2. 

Now, it should be mentioned that ahead of the Blackhole Event, public opinion was not entirely in Fortnite’s favor. Players were frustrated with many creative decisions that Epic had made which, in the popular -or at least vocal- opinion, harmed the game, especially in competitive matches, because Fortnite has developed a very prolific esports scene. However, as soon as players started jumping into their first matches of Chapter 2 -done so by a very innovative and seamless transition from the opening cinematic to the actual match- all of this animosity disappeared. Players that had boycotted the game for weeks returned, critics were brought back to the game’s side, and spread the good word of Epic’s good deeds, and a plethora of new players joined. For the first time in many seasons, lobbies were filled with “no skins” and actual “noobs” -the beginner level of Fortnite in the public’s eye- and this reinvigorated the casual player base that had been disillusioned by the “sweaty” lobbies of seasons 5-10, in which the tryhard players ruled the game. Now, anyone, regardless of experience, has a chance of winning, and many players -even those casual players that have been with the game perhaps since its start- are reporting their first wins, or at least their first wins in a long while. This goes a long way in making the game more enjoyable for everyone. However, this victory trend is not entirely due to the players themselves, but the presence of ‘bots’, or Artificial Intelligence driven ‘players’ that inhabit the lobby. They are designed to help ease the skill gap that had become prevalent, and as a player’s skills progress, they will begin to encounter less bots and more real players -which can be a very good feeling for those unlucky people that have been beaten to a pulp by John Wicks since the first match they can remember. 

The new season also has introduced many new and well received features. The island now features more rivers and waterways, and swimming has also been introduced to accompany this change. In addition, speed boats have been introduced, adding a new, fast way to navigate the map, and are a vital addition as most of the mobility items that have populated past seasons have gone the way of the dodo. In addition, the weapon pool has not only been reduced, but balanced, and weapon upgrade benches are scattered around the map allowing players to increase the ‘rarity’ or power of their finds. This goes a long way in making a more fun and engaging experience, as the match no longer relies so much on luck. It used to be that whoever got the legendary weapon first would probably make it to the final circles, if not win. Now, anyone can get that legendary, even if they only drop in to find a fishing pole. And yes, fishing now exists in the game as well, and can produce healing fish, weapons, and other important gear vital to success. Fishing poles are also very common, so as long as a player can grab one and find a calm pond or river, they have a good chance of accumulating a fair amount of good loot. Frankly, it is now a true question how the game has gone so long without many of these features that seem like necessities and common sense features. Certainly, few players have ever been happy with the ‘trot through the lake’ manner of water-travel that has been the exclusive means until now. 

In addition to the balanced lobbies and loot, a major attraction of Chapter 2 has been a sense of mystery and adventure. When players first dropped into the new map after the black hole collapsed, most players were met by a greyed out map, with all locations marked simply with question marks. The only way to reveal the map’s full detail was to explore not only all of the named locations -the large majority of which are new- but also many unmarked ‘landmarks’ such as bridges, a lighthouse, and the outposts of a new, mysterious organization named E.G.O. Also, diverging from the trend exhibited by every update in the game’s history, Epic is no longer providing patch notes or change logs for the game, at least as of the season’s latest update. This means that, in order for players to find out what has been added, they can no longer look at the news menu or Epic’s webpage, but they must discover the new secrets for themselves or wait for a content creator to explore for them. It creates a sense of the unknown, of discovery, and of intrigue that has been lacking in the game for a long while. In recent months, the update patch notes had gotten so detailed that little was left to the player to discover.

Overall, Fortnite: Chapter 2 is shaping up to be just the change that the game needed, and has not only reinvigorated the player base but reshaped the entire experience of playing a match of Fortnite. And this is just the beginning, as Epic clearly has more major plans going forward, including, possibly, cars. However, players can only hope that the many changes exhibited at present indicate that the company has learned what it’s players want, because it would only take one wrong step, one new addition, to bring all of this new progress crashing down.