We’re out of the black hole and The Visitor, with his partners, stopped the calamity... for now I guess? Fortnite's Zero Point was set and has resulted in a whole new world: and what a difference it is!
Compared to the map from the game we can now call Fortnite Chapter One, this island is very different. Let’s be honest: it isn’t an island, it’s an archipelago. Look at all that water. If Epic had flooded the old map with all that blue, players would have been pretty upset. But luckily we don’t have to slowly trudge through the water any longer, because the Zero Point also gave us the ability to swim.
Already we’re seeing players take advantage of the movement options swimming offers – leaping out like a dolphin adds a lovely little boost of speed. In the first few days a lot of players were getting eliminated as they explored the water, but now it's a more familiar element people are adapting, and working out the best way to move around the map.
Of course, Epic added a vehicle as well. The speedboats are bags of fun, even if they don’t really add much to battles; though a well-aimed missile can halt a build battle with ease. Most interestingly the addition of so much water has resulted in a huge change of pace for Fortnite.
When we first got a look at the fishing element, it was seen as a bit of a joke, something perhaps aimed at the kids who play and, let’s be honest, keep the game floating. Watching how players are using the option tells a slightly different story however. Arena matches, which are the equivalent of ranked matches, feature a surprising amount of fishing. Why? Because of the fish themselves. Perhaps taking cue from that age-old Simpsons episode where Mr Burns floods the waters with chemicals, the fish of Fortnite are more than Cod and Salmon: they provide crucial healing and shield protection.
Sticking with the water, we’ve been given a lot of coastal points with Sweaty Sands, Dirty Docks and Craggy Cliffs – all brand-new locations. Each of these offers that wry look at how life could exist on the island were it not for all that fighting. Here is where you’ll find most of the character in Chapter Two; lots of small fishing shops, holiday-esque escapes and plenty of open areas for sniping and epic build battles. Some of the most exciting games I’ve had ended on the grouping of islands north of Sweaty Sands. Because of all that water separating the land masses, traditional tactics go out the window – you don’t want to set up a lovely little base on one island only for the storm circle to move to another. The resulting chaos is a delight.
Some of the new locations are twists on older settings. Frenzy Farm is very similar to Fatal Fields, though spreads a little further. Weeping Woods is basically a revamp of the old staple, Wailing Woods and Holly Hedges kind of apes any of the usual suburban districts we’ve seen before.
That’s not a bad thing, because they’re still fresh and exciting to explore, but one glaring change is the current lack of verticality. With no equivalent to Tilted Towers or the Hotel in Paradise Palms, high ground is something left to the player. Building has become more important than ever in Chapter Two. The topography is very different, and there are even less hilly areas compared to Season 10. Sure, if you head South from Misty Meadows or South-East of Retail Row you’ll find some mountainous areas, but there’s not much to drag players down there except the occasional storm circle.
In contrast, the south-west of this new map has perhaps one of the best starting areas to drop. Slurpy Swamp features a factory similar to Flush Factory before it was decimated by an influx of ice. Here however, are lots and lots of vats of Slurp, that oddly delicious-looking liquid which bestows shields. A few taps with your harvesting tool on the leftover tanks and you’ll soon find yourself at full shield; of course, should the storm zone you out, it might all be for naught.
Which brings us to the main impact of this new map. It’s incredibly retro – if such a word can be used on a two-year-old game. What I mean is that this map is designed to evoke memories of the first six months of Fortnite. There’s a simplicity to it, lots of open space interspersed with pockets of interesting built-up areas. There’s a high percentage of real estate for Epic to play with which, judging by the first chapter, the developer will take full advantage of.
If we compare the chapter one and two maps directly, thery're not all that different. It’s more sophisticated, inasmuch as it shows what Epic has learned from all those previous iterations in terms of creating a new baseline. The shapes, the flow of water, the placement of suburbia is rooted in tactics, to force players into thinking outside the 1x1. The water is the most crucial element, not just because it adds new mechanics and makes everything prettier, but because it slows the progress of players from point A to point B.
Previous maps featured great swathes of land, be they composed of grass, sand or snow. Players finding themselves in the storm could hotfoot it at a steady pace to safety. It didn’t always work, but the lay of the land allowed for it. Now players have to think about the water in their way, forcing you to stop running and start swimming – in Team Rumble where respawns are plenty this isn’t an issue, but look to other game modes and you’ll see it cause players pause. Do they find a boat? Do they swim, leaving themselves open? Before, if you were running you could build platforms above to stop bullets, but you can’t do that while swimming. The swimming is a radical change, and will impact the esports side of Fortnite.
Where will this map go next? Who knows?! A cold front could blow in from the South-East and lay down snow for Christmas, the waters could dry up after drought, the central island (so reminiscent of Loot Lake) might contain another vault bursting with all those weapons and items we already miss. Another shadowy building company might move in and start constructing high-rise apartments. Whatever's coming, chapter two has arrived with an amazing canvas to paint on.