Fishing, Bots, and Fortnite Fatigue

By Daniel Lipscombe on at

Fishing?!? Who could have thought that the addition which would completely change how we play Fortnite would be fishing?

For the flossing kids it’s yet another opportunity for fun – using fishing rods and now harpoons to either catch a bite or two at the shores, or to simply ‘yoink’ others for amusing moments. For competitive-minded players, fishing is a race to stock up on juicy fish for the end game. The idea of taking a minute during a busy game to catch fish may have started in the meeting rooms of Epic as a moment of whimsy, but it has changed the mechanics of healing so much it's almost sidelined the dedicated healing items.

What use is a med-kit which takes ten seconds to consume, when a Flopper fish takes a second? Of course, the former is a full heal for 100 health points, but a Flopper restores 50 points: you do the math. No matter whether you’re a pro or playing for laughs Floppers make a significant difference, especially in a hectic firefight. One could argue that a modicum of luck is needed in the fishing, except it isn’t. Two minutes of moving along a river, fishing in hot-spots of rippling water will yield a bonanza. And even if you don’t stack Floppers, a Slurpfish will take its place.

Those missing the Chug Splash, which turned up towards the tail end of Chapter One, now have a replacement in the Slurpfish. Which delivers an ‘effective 50 points’ to either shield or health, depending on which you’re needing. A full health player can munch a Slurpfish and snag 50 points to the shield, four seconds faster than a Shield Potion. I'm not sure whether the issue is that the fish are so effective they feel unbalanced relative to other healing items, or whether it's that the game overall now has too many healing options: add the new Bandage Bazooka into the mix and there are more ways to heal than basic types of weapon.

That's more of an observation than a complaint. More healing items generally means more chance of reaching the final circles, and more human players fighting it out over the Victory Royale. However, it would be nice to see some variety elsewhere in the game. If we’re going to focus on fish for healing, then maybe remove the bandages and the Bazooka and give us something else to sink our teeth into. It seems that fishing is endemic of what’s currently tipping Fortnite in the wrong direction for some.

Viewing figures on Twitch and other streaming platforms are falling again and content creators are jumping over to Modern Warfare and Escape from Tarkov; fishing isn’t to blame, but it’s a signpost that says Epic put a major focus into changing up one side of the combat without really refreshing the other. It’s now much easier to heal, but the range of weapons is a bit stale and chapter two introduced little in the way of any game-changing offensive options. Upgrade stations are a neat idea, but the guns simply hit harder after upgrading rather than change. A cynical view would be that the boost in healing is akin to the introduction of the B.R.U.T.E., which some players considered a sop to allow less-skilled players to score a win or last a few minutes longer.

In the past 90 days, during which period chapter two launched, the number of people broadcasting Fortnite on Twitch has dropped by 32 per cent. Some of that can be attributed to huge names moving to Mixer and YouTube, but it seems more like Fortnite fatigue settling in (somewhat understandably) after the excitement of the black hole and chapter two's reveal.

Other new additions have also proven controversial. The introduction of bots (A.I. controlled players) is a particular thorn in many sides: they’re simply too easy to spot and eliminate. Fortnite, for all the ludicrous emotes and skins and razzmatazz, is a complex game which requires players to learn not only shooting but building. The latter is something the bots cannot deal with. The tell-tale sign that you’re on the trail of a bot is the scattering of walls standing singularly and randomly. Then, as soon as you open fire, they resort to the building mode and run in circles rather than building anything.

This of course allows for extra eliminations in the early game, which can be a lovely boost in confidence. I’m no pro player, but I’m also not a newbie: recently I played one game where I eliminated 14 people, few of whom posed a challenge. That’s only fun up to a point, and shows how many bots are sometimes being drafted in to try and balance a game. The easy XP aside, major players are noticing, from Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins ranting on stream about their appearance in pro games to Ali-A experimenting to find out how many are in his matches.

Chapter two was a reset for Fortnite, intended to be the foundation for the game's immediate future. Epic removed a lot of what looked like filler, but at the same time lost some of the opportunities the game had for players to stand out, to create moments, and find elements of of the bizarre.

Fortnite isn’t going anywhere, and there's still so much to come, but what's been lost brought an undeniable magic to periods of the game. Some of that madness – rifts, flying Quadcrashers, even the Grappler – shook things up, made the game stand out, and created an experience that could be much weirder than the game's status as a world-conquering phenomenon might suggest. After a month of chapter two, it's raising a question I didn't expect: is Fortnite now just another Battle Royale?