Those years and years of experience with boots-on-the-ground shooters are finally becoming useful in Epic's battle royale.
As a 23-year-old fan of shooters, I often hear people complaining about Fortnite. For one reason or another, Epic Games' battle royale's name is dragged through the mud by people who are sick of hearing about it - but I've never really understood why. Sure, it has a formidable younger audience, one that won't hesitate to make you feel washed up and ancient with their lightning fast building skills, and yes that can be off putting and a little demoralising honestly. But, that doesn't change the fact that Epic has been, and still is, doing unbelievable things with this free-to-play game.
Fortnite is still brilliantly designed. It has very refined gameplay mechanics, looks fantastic, uses the latest era of technology, and is optimised in such a way that the experience is generally pretty equal across all platforms (albeit with Switch and mobile lacking due to more limited hardware). And this isn't taking into account the many fundamental features that make this title accessible and fantastic to play with friends and family, for example the super simple crossplay and cross-save integration. But what makes Fortnite such a genuinely exceptional game isn't any of this. It's the way that Epic has continued to support it over the years. Not only has it become an industry-wide hub for crossovers and strange partnerships, but Epic has spent time and resources listening to the community, and has expanded and drastically improved all areas of the game, even ones that generally detract from the battle royale experience at the core, as is the case with the formidable Creative mode these days.
This mindset is what led me to redownload Fortnite, after years of simply admiring the game for what it is from afar. In particular, it was the permanent inclusion of the Zero Build modes that tipped the scales in my favour, because like the developing boomer that I am, the building mechanics in Fortnite have been far too complex for my simple mind to handle ever since the game launched years ago. As a bit of a shooter aficionado, I've always had the game sense and mechanical prowess to succeed (or at the least tread water) in every other aspect of Fortnite, it's simply when a spry young tween prodigy starts building a 12-story apartment complex around me, caging me in like a panicking chimpanzee that I start to really struggle, and reveal to the rest of the lobby that I am an imposter raised on boots-on-the-ground shooters like Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Halo.
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Alas, knowing that the playing field had been effectively equalled, and building relegated to its own playlist of modes, I figured it was time to see whether Fortnite had the potential to entice and engage players like myself, players who would rather spend hours in Destiny 2's The Crucible, Apex Legends, or in the more tactical shooters like Rainbow Six Siege or Valorant - and boy was I surprised by the result.
Because I think I'm starting to fall back in love with Fortnite. After years of fearing playing Epic's battle royale, the Zero Build modes make me eager to queue up and to leap out of the Battle Bus in the hopes of earning an elusive Victory Royale crown. The removal of building requires players to use the environment and strategize in a way that was never at the forefront beforehand. You can't rely on a metal structure to shield you from distant snipers, incoming rockets, or charging enemy squads, you simply have to nut up and face the threat head on, with the precision of your shots being your saving grace for the most part. And likewise, by removing the ability for players to scamper up brick and wooden towers to hide and evade incoming damage, the game plays at a much quicker speed, and feels more engaging, and less like you're wandering around a large open map scavenging for resources all in preparation for those hectic and wild final stages of a game.
There are a few ways that Epic has rebalanced Fortnite to suit the lack of building, such as a recharging shield that allows you to be a little more resilient, and often tankier than the previous 200 combined HP and shield life bars. Likewise, to allow you to reach higher locations and areas that would require a couple of ramps, the new parkour system lets players flip and clamber up ledges to loot hidden chests, and to pick up some extra ammunition. Effectively, what the Zero Build modes have done is trim the fat from the game, making it a far leaner and less cluttered gameplay experience, which for someone like myself, someone who appreciates shooters that are straightforward and allow pure mechanical precision to thrive, this is pretty much everything I've ever wanted from Fortnite, ever since it launched and surged to unimaginable heights.
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The inclusion of Zero Build shows the commitment Epic has for players that have always loathed Fortnite's challenging to master building system. It shows that this game, which has always prided itself on having content for people of all ages and demographics - be it by bringing Predator, Ariana Grande, or The Rock to the game, as a few examples - will continue to explore new and innovative ways to ensure you can enjoy Fortnite, ways that many of us would never have imagined would be introduced at all. Who knows what the future will hold, but could a first-person mode, or a proper virtual reality edition be on the cards? At this point, it really does feel like anything could be possible.