Putting forts back into Fortnite

fortnite forts

Despite being someone who takes a whole day just to put up a shelf, I’m more of a builder than a fighter. That’s a problem in Fortnite Battle Royale, where forts don’t get much of a look in. The fleeting 50 vs. 50 mode scratched my itch for building citadels but has since left a conspicuous gap. It’s one I’ve spent the last few days attempting to fill.

In squads, duos and solo, building is reactive. If you’re out in the open and someone starts shooting, you can throw down some walls and a ramp so you can peek out. Maybe you want to scale a cliff, so you plonk down some platforms and stairs. The pace and shrinking play area suggests that there isn’t room for more, but I wanted to see for myself.

It’s been going poorly.

Fortnite Screenshot 2018.04.04 - 22.54.44.05

Having played Fortnite for more than five minutes, I was already pretty certain that spending the majority of a match faffing around with miniature fortresses was not going to be the easiest path to victory. I was more concerned with seeing if there were any benefits at all and, more importantly, if swapping manhunting for masonry would actually be fun.

Solo was out straight away. I’d have nobody to watch my back while I was building, and who builds fortresses on their own anyhow? It’s a bonding activity for pals. I jumped in with a partner and without a plan. At random we picked the hill west of Fatal Fields as our landing zone and, luckily, nobody else joined us. We had a large house, a couple of vehicles and plenty of junk, all waiting to be devoured by our pickaxes. The circle of doom appeared, with us safely inside it, giving us plenty of time to demolish absolutely everything in sight, from roof to floor.

Inventories overflowing with resources, we started building our fort. What we actually created was more of a random assortment of walls, floors and stairs that, when looked at from some angles, occasionally resembled something like an upside down house. We were lost in a discussion about rebuilding it when one of the walls shattered into splinters, quickly followed by our skulls.

fortnite1

The next few attempts were even worse, as we either died while hoofing it towards the circle or in fights over resources, but I was still feeling optimistic when we entered the party bus once again. We landed at Fatal Fields and moved west – after looting the place – to get inside the circle. We had a plan this time, or at least roles. One of us would build and one would be the lookout. We’d sacrifice building speed, but we’d have a more orderly fort and wouldn’t be surprised again.

To ensure that we could see potential threats in all directions, we started with a tower. Nobody showed up and the construction continued, right up until I ran out of materials. I had no time to find more before the circle shrank and we found ourselves outside it. We’d gotten no use out of the fort and already we had to move on. Swearing commenced, followed by frantic searching of the map for a new destination.

We were getting ready to roll out when all hell broke loose. The fort exploded, my buddy was taken out immediately and enemies dropped in from above, through the smoke. It was more Rainbow Six than Fortnite. In a blind panic I leaped out of the tower’s husk and fled down a hill, offering a half-hearted apology – between yelling – to the ally I was leaving behind. I was shot in the back seconds later. Dying afforded me a chance to see what had happened as the other duo explored the ruins. Our killers had built stairs all the way up to the top of the tower, which is how they got above us before completely demolishing our beloved home. We had no idea they were even out there, and no, I’m not feeling great about having to admit that.

fortnite7

Even without rockets, wooden walls are easy to destroy. For our fort to actually protect us, we needed stronger materials. And to save time and make the most out of our bricks and metal, we’d also need to make smaller forts with just enough space for us to cower inside. From the lobby, we planned.

I was on my own after an early shootout went awry and I lost my partner. All of our planning had been pointless and I was just focused on surviving. I wasn’t armed and had few resources, so building a tower on a cliff was probably not the greatest idea I’ve ever had. Some nearby trees and walls gave me enough to make a ramshackle little outpost where I could spot anyone trying to sneak up on me, and I settled in.

Through this, my dead partner was watching me, but another spectator joined us as well. I must have made for dull viewing; a poorly-armed dude running around chopping down trees and building an ugly tower in the middle of nowhere. There were definitely exciting things happening elsewhere, judging by all the names of the dead, but not on this nondescript plot of land where I’d decided to plant my flag. They stopped watching.

fortnite5

I heard the rockets long before I could see anyone. They weren’t aimed at me, but the noise was close enough that I knew I was going to be a target before long. A duo came around the corner, but I was ready for them and sent them packing. Unfortunately, neither of them had the rocket launcher. My tower exploded as it was attacked from the rear; my rocket-packing foe had got the drop on me. Yet again I found myself leaping out of a ruin, but I wasn’t able to outrun the rocket on my tail.

Despite the fact I didn’t manage to put up much of a fight, that proved to be my most successful fort-building match. I got into the last few duos, and a minute after my death the game was over. I didn’t actually do anything, of course. I just found somewhere out of the way, spent the game building a rubbish tower and then watched it get blown to smithereens in seconds.

The mood of our less-than-dynamic duo took a turn after that. Fortnite was constantly showing us why nobody builds forts. All the time we spent gathering and building was time we weren’t rummaging around for guns, leaving us massively underpowered. By building a fort we were also announcing our location to everyone in the area, and the forts themselves offered scant protection against rockets. And only on a couple of lucky occasions did we actually build a fort in a location that remained within the circle for long enough to make it worthwhile. There isn’t a single benefit to building a fort that you can’t get by simply dropping down a couple of walls when you start taking fire.

fortnite6

I wasn’t really expecting there to be, though I’d hoped that playing unconventionally and exchanging my gun for a pickaxe might be at least a fun diversion. It absolutely isn’t. Avoiding firefights and chopping down trees instead is dreary work, and there’s neither the time nor the tools to create anything particularly stalwart or elaborate. And with most fights only involving a handful of people, there aren’t any exciting sieges to look forward to at the end.

So nothing I’ve done has been able to even come close to filling the gap left by 50 vs. 50. It’s made me more convinced than ever that Fortnite needs a permanent siege mode, though. There’s this whole system that barely has any purpose, but it could be Fortnite’s biggest hook. Sure, the game’s more popular than breathing right now, but soon we’ll be drowning in battle royales and clamouring for something more.

10 Comments

  1. Imperialist says:

    The problem i have with building in Fortnite is that its just so…basic, and ultimately cheesy as a mechanic. Theres no purpose to building any real fortifications, unless you have top tier building materials, as it will get shot to pieces in the span of a half second. The real issue is the ability to walk on unbuilt planking, making any real fortressing even further useless when an enemy can scale your walls by making a plank bridge. The saddest fact is, any resources spent on tightening up the building mechanics will ultimately be wasted, as nobody really BUILDS to hold a location, they build to obfuscate their movements, not to mention there are people who dont even bother. Fortnite as a game and the crowd that enjoys it wouldnt care for any nuance to the system. Take away their ability to scale a mountain in seconds with unbuilt panking, and they will riot. Building is literally what Fortnite set out to do, and then they just kinda forgot about it in favor of copying certain other game’s systems (or adding skins).

    • AliciaAllan says:

      I resigned my office-job and now I am getting paid £64 hourly. How? I work over internet! My old work was making me miserable, so I was forced to try something different, two years after…I can say my life is changed-completely for the better!

      Check it out what i do… Click Here And Start Work

  2. 4Valhal says:

    Not to be rude but perhaps you, the author, are just not good at building in the right times? I play with a team of 4 and we often find ourselves building large bases, elaborately made, with traps and doors and various set pieces from spiral staircases to peaked roofs and everything inbetween.

    The other aspect you’re missing, and one that Imperialist there commented on as well, was that Fortnite itself set out to build. That is correct. >Battle Royale< is different from the original core game play though. If you want to build a major fortress it will allow you to do so in Save the World. Look at some of the YTube builds out there.

    The issue is no one gave this game much thought when it was a PvE game. And now that it is a PvP game as well people are holding it to different standards. You HAVE to look at Battle Royale and Save The World as two different games in themselves.

    You mentioned that in Fortnite no one builds forts. What you meant to say was in Battle Royale no one builds forts. Entirely different context.

    I would love to see a siege mode as well. However I won't complain about the core game because a special mode no longer exists. Perhaps Minecraft would be a better target for you?

    Stay in there and keep trying. Soon you'll find you're able to build elaborate forts and have the fun you are wanting. Hell, just yesterday our team came across a fort that had taken over the entire mountain by Tilted Towers. It was absolutely huge and we launched about twenty rockets just to take out a quarter of it.

    I think you need to spend more time playing before you judge this game. It is not easy to be good at. And I say that with much game time in and an awful Games vs Kills ratio :P

    • cuchlann says:

      So the essay says right at the beginning that it’s about Battle Royale. Soooo, saying “play another game mode” doesn’t really make sense, as the whole point was to explore this mechanic in this specific game mode.

      • 4Valhal says:

        No, what doesn’t make sense is complaining that a game mode that was never designed to be build-centric isn’t build-centric. Crazy how that works…..

        I was simply saying that if the author wants to build awesome things in Fortnite there is a game mode for that.

    • Holden McGroin says:

      i never build bases in fortnite and have many victories.
      edit, in the battle royale mode, yes. thats what the article is about.

      • 4Valhal says:

        Exactly. Building crazy things in Battle Royale doesn’t make much sense to me really as it just gets demolished in two seconds – which is kind of the point of it within Battle Royale. BR was never intended to allow you to build sweeping mansions with gardens and a petting zoo. I don’t understand how some people don’t get that lol.

  3. MrEvilGuy says:

    they really need 50v50 back

  4. Thirdrail says:

    You know, I didn’t understand why I find the building in Fortnite BR annoying until I read your article. It’s the combination of necessity and lameness. You pretty much have to build, but you’ll never build anything cool. Fortnite construction, I now realize, is just a super clunky way of giving players a shield to activate and a jet pack to raise their altitude.