Fortnite is better without the forts

In 2017, months before Ninja stream Fortnite with Drake and making national news, I was trying out their new battle royale mode. The game was extremely simple compared to everything you can do now, but the basics were solid: shooting felt pretty good, building was useful, and destruction was unlike anything else in its scale.

After a while, behavior began to emerge that would eventually define how Fortnite is played. Building became less about getting from one place to another, and more about quickly building elaborate brick and metal towers to confuse enemies and block incoming fire. The gunfights stopped looking like two people shooting guns and more like duels of carpentry wizards competing to make the tallest pile of rubbish.

Basically, I quit Fortnite when it started to get like this.

Source: galaxy clips on Youtube

this week, epic removed building from casual Fortnite mode so I took it back. Heck: I think Fortnite is finally really good?

Playing Fortnite without building immediately feels different in some key ways. The most obvious change is that when I shoot someone, their first reaction is not to cower in a tower of sticks and bricks. They really have to turn around and shoot back! Sometimes I hit more shots, sometimes they hit more shots – it’s great. I’ve only been playing for a few nights and I’ve had fun, drawn out fights with what I’m sure are real players (there were also a lot of bots).

No buildings also made the infighting a little more exciting, at least for a less experienced player like me. You can still destroy anything with your harvesting tool, but the damage is now permanent. I’ve made a habit of tearing down building walls trying to flush the enemies inside like I’m Sledge in Rainbow Six Siege. I also appreciate that without three different building materials to worry about, looting clutter on corpses is much more manageable.

And I didn’t even mention the best part. To complement this no-build test, Epic has also added new mobility features and a health boost. Players now run faster by default and can run in short bursts. I love Fortnite’s sprint, partly because the animation has a lot of personality and detail, but also because it greatly reduces the time I’m running across the grass fields. Ditto for the new slide and mantling abilities pulled straight from an FPS – navigating Fortnite’s colorful cities and hills is now easy and fun.

The new moveset, which I believe Epic plans to keep even after this temporary no-build event is over, raises interesting questions about the game going forward. Construction used to be necessary to get around the map, but Epic has basically designed its way around now. I don’t need stairs to get to the second floor roof when I can hold the spacebar to grab a ledge and pull myself up. As for more extreme maneuvers, tools like Spider-Man’s grappling hooks, zip lines, launch pads and bouncing webs offer more than enough opportunities to soar high.

Frankly, there’s already so much going on on the Fortnite map that I’m surprised anyone can focus long enough to build an intricate tower. Over the last few nights of matches, I fought AI soldiers in an airship, launched myself from a cannon, drove a car that I later upgraded with huge tires, blew up a tank, and did a dozen missions that had nothing to do with the real battle royale mode.

As far as the battle royale is concerned, I think the build can go safely, and Epic seems to agree. Fortnite data miners recently uncovered evidence suggesting that Epic is indeed planning keep non-build around as a permanent way.

At the same time, I’m really happy that Fortnite as a whole has build, because it’s responsible for all the amazing custom game modes that fall outside of the main playlist. Last night I took a break from BR and ended up in an open world snowboarding game. After that, I checked out the shockingly good Hidden Object version of Fortnite.

I’m also glad that those who still want to play Fortnite with all the chaos in their building will still be able to. It’s a mechanic so essential to the game that stripping it out completely would immediately alienate players who have now spent a significant part of their childhoods mastering the art of building eight walls, editing a window in the corner, and shooting someone through it. Respect. While you do it, I’ll be here playing my Fortnite version.

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