Fortnite Battle Royale’s new mode needs to be a fixture

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There were 30 of us left, down from the 50 we had at the start of Fortnite Battle Royale’s 50 vs. 50 mode. Almost all of us had managed to home in on the new safe zone before the circle closed in. We got to work immediately, silently intuiting what was needed. Walls. Many, many walls. And some elevation — stairs, in a pinch — that would let us see over the trees, and see the other team charging towards us. They came from every direction, announcing themselves with furious gunfire and a barrage of rockets.

Our makeshift fort changed as we needed it to. A new wall here. Some shelter to heal a downed teammate. A bit of cover for people to reload behind. I ducked and narrowly avoided coming face to face with a rocket, but then the wall behind me came down and bullets started to fly towards me. Seconds later and I was brought back into the fight by one of the players who had become a dedicated medic. The siege continued.

Fortnite’s never been this good before.

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Since Epic kicked off the early access phase (you can read what Brendan thought of it in his Fortnite Premature Evaluation), Fortnite has lacked a clarity of purpose. It is Frankenstein’s monster of free-to-play games, awkwardly constructed from five years of disparate game design ideas. The Battle Royale mode is less confused, but it doesn’t do as much to differentiate itself from Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, despite the fort conceit. By splitting players into two teams of 50 players however, Epic’s finally made something that feels not just new, it’s also cohesive.

The thing that should set the Battle Royale mode apart from the likes of Plunkbat or H1Z1, building stuff, is normally barely present. When you’ve got countless teams and individuals all gunning for you, a constantly shrinking play area and only ever a handful of teammates, there’s simply not enough time to fortify. But when you’ve got 49 teammates helping you out, suddenly those obstacles just fall away.

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Game trailers, particularly those absent actual gameplay footage, don’t often accurately reflect the games they’re plugging, but as a friend noted when we played our first game, the 50 vs. 50 announcement trailer depicts almost exactly what I described above. It promises a lot and posits a mode where people actually work together even when they’re just flung together by fate and matchmaking. It’s the sort of best case scenario that I didn’t expect to see very much of, but I’ve yet to play a full game — one where I didn’t die in five minutes — that didn’t transform into a desperate, explosive siege.

Matches start off much like they do in a regular last man standing battle. Players drop into the warzone, duking it out over guns and ammo — and because this is Fortnite, building supplies — as they grow from weak and vulnerable to heavily-armed killing machines. When you see those green chevrons that represent players in your own group, some of the traditional battle royale tension is lost, but that also opens the door to so many other opportunities.

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The 50 vs. 50 mode seems to finally understand what Fortnite is. It’s too playful to try and match miserable and brutal Plunkbat. You can ride rockets and turn fast food restaurants into citadels. After the two teams land and get their bearings, it really leans into the whimsy. Even as the circle shrinks, players start frantically building. Everything from stairways to heaven to complicated fortresses spring out from the ground as the island’s towns and farms are consumed for materials. Sometimes they’re useful, but often they’re just expressions of player creativity or silliness.

I write this only a few hours after I witnessed, and participated in, the creation of the most pointlessly elaborate fort. Most players had been killed off, but we survivors had banded together as we charged towards the sanctuary of the circle. At its heart sat a mountain, and we were the first team to reach it. It would be there, we decided without words or deliberation, that we’d make our final stand.

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Getting up the mountain normally wasn’t possible, so we started creating a stairway up the cliff, rapidly reaching the summit. There, at the top, the real work began. Everyone chipped in, giving birth to a weird, aimless base. In moments, it had transformed into an amphitheatre, as if we were preparing for some high falutin’ Greek tragedy rather than a fight. Then we started building platforms that extended outwards, giving us a better view of our enemies, who had finally started climbing up to meet us.

As the battle raged on, massive chunks of our safe haven were blown off. I’d constructed a bridge to nowhere that I could run up and down while sniping, but the sections connecting the bridge to the mountain where shot to pieces, leaving my teammates standing on it suddenly falling to their deaths.

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The circle closed in again, forcing us to abandon our beloved, messy base. Conveniently, we’d already started work on fortifications below, meaning we could slide down the mountainside and right into a new base. There wasn’t much need for it, though. Their assault had cost the other team dearly, leaving only a couple left alive for us as we descended to meet them. A short silence was followed by the crackle of gunfire, then victory. I barely killed a soul, but I’ve not played a more entertaining game of Fortnite.

Epic says that the mode is not long for this world — it’s due to end after December 17 — but I’d be surprised if it didn’t return in a less fleeting capacity. Certainly, however, there’s an element of wishful thinking. I don’t think I can go back to free-for-alls. New modes are also on the way, though, and I am, for the first time, looking forward to what Fortnite does next.

12 Comments

  1. Tiax says:

    I was happily playing this mode, before the game asked me to wait for 30 minutes in a queue just so I could launch the game.

    By reading the official forums, I’ve learned that the same thing is happening to people who actually payed for the game.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    This sounds like a lot of fun. I’ve seen a few other titles (with voxel-destruction gameplay generally) try for the same kinda “build forts, fight eachother” deal.

    Man. really tempting to give it a go. But it’s only for a couple more days, and so I probably won’t have time. Still, sounds neat while it lasts.

  3. Ossian says:

    I just recently started playing Fortnite for the Battle Royale experience. I’ve only played the solo and 50 vs. 50 modes. I’ve had a blast with the solo mode, and I’m surprised how much I’ve enjoyed the building experience, as building, such as it is in the game, isn’t something I usually much like, and I thought it would be something that would actually turn me off of Fortnite. I’m not very good with the building myself, but I appreciate what others can do with it and personally think that it adds a lot of interesting options to the game play.

    The 50 vs. 50 mode is hit and miss with me. I have enjoyed it, but I also feel it lacks something. I think it mainly comes down to how lopsided the game ends up. If it’s fairly balanced towards the endgame, then it’s a blast. If it’s, say something like 20 vs. 5 then it’s not as interesting.

    But, I agree. 50 vs. 50 would be a nice permanent addition.

    • Blackrook says:

      I have this exact same thing. 7 out of 10 games will end up lopsided so end with a fizzle rather than a bang.
      But the 3 games where you get some decent BIG fights are the end are pretty EPIC :-)

      Overall I think they could improve it by forcing people to spawn one side of the map or the other depending on team and having a race to the middle. But maybe that would end as too predictable.

  4. b00p says:

    also agree the 50 v 50 was great fun this last weekend and i hope that put it in as a regular feature. everyone i met on there during the games too seemed to agree.

  5. Dewal says:

    There can be great moment of fun but it also mean that very often the victory or defeat won’t be due to anything you did.
    Sometime you win a game without killing anybody (or very few) and, the other way around, you can suddenly find yourself alone against a group of 20 guys.
    So in the end, even though it’s a fun gimmick, I’m not sure it’s really mature yet. Maybe it would be better if teams actually started together to ensure big battle encounters, or if you could at least see where your teamates drop. For now you only see the people really close to you and only once everybody touch the ground.

  6. MrEvilGuy says:

    Haven’t tried 50v50 yet (will tonight), but I have to say this game is really fun with friends (been playing sporadically for a few months now), but might not be so good solo (haven’t tried it). Also it’s f2p so much easier to get friends involved than something like pubg.

    If you’re with 3 friends in a 50v50 match, and it ends up just being you 4 left versus 20 enemies, that’d be pretty sweet in my books.

    I’m going to try 50v50 tonight.

  7. Viral Frog says:

    I’ve got no opinion on 50v50, I haven’t tried Fortnite BR yet. But I’m becoming curious. Despite the flaws outlined in the article with this mode, it still seems like it could be a good bit of fun.

    Only two things really discouraging me from trying. Building and the art style. I’ve never been fond of any games that involve building as a central mechanic other than Terraria. I hate the idea of spending my entire time trying not to get shot and also gathering resources. But I don’t exactly know how the resource gathering works. Is it similar to, say, Minecraft or Terraria?

    The art style is the biggest thing holding me back. It’s so bright. You don’t have any chance of camouflage from what I’ve seen in any screenshot or gameplay videos. Your character does not blend in at all, so you lose the entire aspect that makes PUBG one of my favorite games.

    I guess maybe I should just try it. It’s not like I have much to lose by doing so. Hmm…

    • MrEvilGuy says:

      Resource extraction doesn’t take long. Most of the time is spent searching buildings for weapons, like in PUBG.

      You get resources by hitting things with a hammer. You’ll need to do this to break down walls to get hidden items in buildings. You can also whack trees really quickly for wood, but if you want stronger materials like metal and stone, it does take longer.

  8. Ed Crane says:

    I had fun for a few games, but got it stale for me pretty quickly. It definitely needs to be refined.
    As a Kiwi gamer who plays on Australian servers, Id rather have Duos (which has only recently been made available). If they’re going to close off modes during off peak times, seems strange to be adding new modes.

  9. Premium User Badge

    dnelson says:

    Those screenshots of walls welded together to make platforms and ramps remind me a lot of the old “Sourceforts” HL2 mod game. Great fun, but it died because the developers couldn’t keep up with Valve’s changes to the Steam engine.

    • Asurmen says:

      God, I loved Sourceforts so hard. I wish this mode brought back the same feelings, but I’m struggling to like it as no one seems to be really building anything substantial or useful in my games.

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