There aren’t many faults to pick with Chapter Two of Fortnite at the moment. Most of the initial hiccups seem to have been swallowed; PC framerate is less choppy than on release, the new levelling system has been tweaked to stop the grind we first saw, and the dispersion of bots vs players feel as if there’s a better balance. There is, however, still one glaring omission – a lack of traversal items or vehicles - which both casual and pro players are noticing. Everyday players will see this as a need to get from Point A to Point B with speed, especially in the situation of border circles, when the safe zone sticks to a coastline. Pro players see fewer rotation possibilities, which is an integral part of Arena matches.
'Rotation' is a community coined term for movement between positions, which usually occurs as the storm circle shrinks. In the latter stages of a match, players will tend to bunker in, preparing themselves for battles. ‘Rotating’ will see teams or solos moving on to safer spaces to flank opponents. Historically, teams moved to the edge of the safe zone, using the storm to give themselves cover on one side. In Chapter One, this was done in many ways which came and went over time. But there was nearly always an option – Rifts, Quadcrashers, Jetpacks, Shadow Bombs, Ballers, Driftboards.
Chapter Two has given players speedboats and ziplines, both of which are situational opportunities and limited in their use. Of course, players have found ways to use the speedboat on land via clever boosting and rocket use, but while this is fine for moving from say, Craggy Cliffs to Lazy Lake, the boat doesn’t have a gentle touch, nor the element of surprise – you can hear those things from a mile away!
Of course, players have to adapt, and many have. Chapter Two, for all its new additions, is a full reset on the game. This opening season has taken Fortnite back to its roots. Building is more important than ever. Creating your own high-ground is integral for the final stages of a match, especially in Arenas where teams of players are much more competitive. What we’re seeing is players using building in more intelligent ways and those who were playing from the very beginning have a slight upper hand, falling back on old muscle memory. Early collection of materials is needed so players can burn through them towards the end.
But that hasn’t stopped the disappointment of missing tools which not only create more winning opportunities for some players, but also more entertaining fights for viewers on Twitch, YouTube and Mixer. Those rotational items tipped the scales, they often swung results – final stages are now solely about holding that high-ground, moving above the lower players using flats and pyramids to protect from shots fired up. In Chapter One, the player below could have used a Baller to swing up and around or popped a Rift-to-go, essentially levelling the playing field.
It’s hard to say whether this is a firm negative or not as Chapter Two hasn’t given the eSports side of Fortnite a proper tournament yet, and by the time the next World Cup rolls around the map and inventories will look very different to how they do presently. The opening warm-up games aren’t seeing a huge deviation from tried and tested building use. At the moment, players are still getting used to this new Fortnite; still exploring new areas, getting used to using upgrade stations and fishing for equipment.
But what about casual players? Rotations mean little to the core audience of Fortnite. The demographic of the game could be split into two camps – kids who play because it’s colourful, fun and a bit silly and adults who can see tactics in building and hunt for the right weapons (honestly, that legendary pistol is like a damn cannon!). Epic needs to constantly address that balance in an attempt to not alienate either camp. Hopefully they learned from the controversial B.R.U.T.E of Season X, but kids can be a fickle audience, always on the lookout for the next big game. They need the odd win or top ten placement which will be a struggle if they’re constantly getting zoned out of their games.
As a parent of a twelve and ten-year-old, it’s clear to see frustrations when my children drop on the West coast only to have the safe zone settle in the East, forcing them to trudge slowly across a still new map. However, Epic is always full of surprises… for all we know, with Winter approaching, we may see the Driftboard make a comeback and kids can use them to escape storms and lengthen their match playtime. Maybe all those 4x4s which currently litter the landscape will suddenly become active? Perhaps the tiny island in the centre of the new map still holds a vault underneath the ground and we’ll see Rifts change the competitive scene again. For now, we’ll boost our boats and learn to ‘crank 90s’ faster than ever, but a new mode of transport would be nice for the next update.