Fortnite, a multiplayer game available on PC, Xbox and PlayStation, has taken the internet by storm, even finding its way into mainstream media. With so much attention on the game, newcomers are eager leap into the brightly colored landscape and try their hands at combat. There’s just one problem—Fortnite, like other games in the battle royale genre, is notoriously difficult for inexperienced players.
So what can you do? Take a look at our informational breakdown of the mechanics of Fortnite, and check out curated advice from experienced players on the Fortnite scene.
MASTER THE FORTNITE BASICS
Fortnite, while featuring components similar to those in the Halo or Medal of Honor series, is part of an emerging genre called battle royale. Though Fortnite does have a 50 versus 50 mode that has players split into teams, the battle royale mode is the headliner, bringing in new mechanics that drastically change strategy and gameplay. First, let’s break down the differences between Fortnite and previous competitive shooter games.
MULTIPLAYER BATTLE ROYALE
Fortnite is actually not the first game to utilize the battle royale format. Many of these mechanics were introduced by Bluehole’s PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, better known by the acronym PUBG. Both games begin with a group of 100 players in an airborne vehicle. The game allows players to compete as individuals or in small teams, and an average game usually has a mix of both. The airborne vehicle passes over the game map and players must “jump” to their preferred area before they can begin combat.
So far, this is not drastically different from other shooters. The final mechanic, however, is what makes battle royale its own genre: the inclusion of a danger zone, called “the storm” in Fortnite. Players can see a circle on their mini-map: Areas inside the circle are normal, but anyone outside the circle will take constant damage. The circle shrinks at regular intervals, forcing players into close quarters and ensuring the game sessions don’t run too long.
UNDERSTAND THAT FAILURE IS PART OF THE LEARNING PROCESS
Now that we’ve covered the core mechanics, let’s address a highly underrated aspect of gaming: attitude. If you’re a new player, you have to go through the learning process. Even experienced gamers have trouble with this particular game (our love goes out to Markiplier, a popular Let’s Player on YouTube who has mentioned this himself), so expect to be pretty awful in the beginning. As counter-intuitive as it seems, that’s how you get good at something.
REALIZE YOU’RE IN SOMEONE ELSE’S PLAYGROUND
Once you touch down on the map, it’s every man for himself. When you’re still new to the game, you’ll probably have a tough time if you land in main regions, which are the areas with actual names like “Tomato Town.” Players tend to flock there due to the numerous stashes of loot. However, the more players you have contact with at once, the more likely you are to die. Start out landing in unnamed, in-between areas instead, and work your way toward the more popular places. This way, you are more likely to encounter individual players or smaller teams and have a higher chance of getting some actual gameplay in instead of dying immediately.
ENGAGE THE ENEMY
This may sound contradictory, given the previous advice about large player groups. However, the only way to get better is to fight other players. When you’re starting out, you’re not going to be the last man standing — that’s just a fact. Instead, think of your first sessions as practice, and don’t be afraid to engage other players one-on-one. The more you engage, the more muscle memory you’ll build for the controls, which will help your reaction time.
KNOW YOUR MECHANICS
A lot of learning game mechanics comes from actual experience as you discover what strategies work best for your play style. However, there are a few tips that can make the learning process easier and maybe stop you from rage-quitting.
Players who reach the ground quickly have two major advantages: first choice of loot and the ability to see where unarmed players land. Aim for rooftops when possible just to get your feet on the ground, and avoid jumping into mountainous areas that require more maneuvering and can take up valuable time.
As you gain experience, you’ll learn which weapons you prefer—and remember that updates or special events may lead you to change your initial favorites. However, multiple professional gamers agree that the No. 1 weapon is the shotgun. Most of your combat will be at close range, which is where the shotgun excels. It also requires less precision, which is a bonus when you and your target are constantly dodging.
More generally, develop consistency in your weapons’ slots. If you place one type of weapon in the same slot each time, selection becomes second nature, once again shaving seconds off your reaction time.
Loot and Power-ups
Loot is lying around everywhere. While your No.1 priority when you hit the ground is getting a weapon (any weapon, but preferably a shotgun), loot supplies you with health and shield potions, which are arguably the second-most important mechanics to utilize. Look for treasure chests especially — these are chock-full of great items.
Health vs. Shield
You have two bars to keep track of: your health and your shield. You have health from the moment the game starts, but you need to find potions to gain shields. Shields will absorb damage first, allowing you to take fire without losing health. However, shields don’t protect against storm damage — that directly chips away at your health.
The major feature that distinguishes Fortnite from its predecessor PBUG is the building mechanic. Players can gather materials with their pickaxe and then erect platforms and walls. This is important when engaged in firefights, as a quickly built wall can save you from major damage. Also note that the best source of materials are trees, which provide significantly more wood than fences or walls do. Just be careful to keep an eye out for other players while you’re pretending to be a lumberjack, and don’t cut down trees completely — a disappearing tree can reveal your presence to a sharp-eyed enemy.
Of course you know to stay in the safe zone, but it’s also important to understand how the storm moves players. If you’re looking to avoid a large congregation, move to the interior of the circle quickly. However, if you want a good fight, go around the edges, where players tend to cluster after being pushed there by waiting too long to reach the safe zone. Twitch streamer Ninja says he likes to stalk this area, where players are usually already fighting each other. He ambushes engaged players, taking out both parties with little effort.
Once you’ve got your mechanics down, you can start developing a strategy. Once again, strategy varies based on playing style, but here’s some advice streamers and other professionals have to offer.
Know When to Retreat
If you’re low on ammo, retreat. If you’re low on health and have no health items, retreat. If you want to win, sometimes that means turning tail. This is a game about survival, after all — don’t let your pride get in the way of what might be a big win.
Conversely, sometimes you need to stand your ground. If a player is being aggressive to the point where you can’t run, or if you’ve got some shield or health to spare, feel free to engage in that firefight. Just remember that whether you run or engage, the decision needs to be made quickly. Indecision wastes time, and in a game where encounters usually last seconds, that can be deadly.
Listen for What You Can't See
Get yourself some good headphones and get used to paranoid listening. The game has excellent audio, and oftentimes you can hear enemies long before you actually see them. If you play your cards right, you can ambush players trying to sneak up on you.
Use Your Resources
There are dozens of Fortnite fan communities and forums where players can swap tips and tricks. Gaming magazines such as Polygon and Fortnite Insider also offer walk-throughs for events and challenges. Not to mention, there’s an entire industry of streamers and Let’s Players who make a living off playing Fortnite competitively. Go watch a few videos, and learn from their mistakes while laughing at their shenanigans.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
It’s cliché, but it’s true: practice makes progress. You think Ninja woke up one day and had wizardly Fortnite powers? Nope. He had to develop them the old-fashioned way, just like everyone else: through a lot of practice and a lot of failure.
That said, don’t take these games too seriously: The primary purpose of video games is to have fun. Play with friends, or make friends through online chats and forums. Get involved in the gaming community while developing your skills. The beauty of multiplayer games is the chance to share great experiences with people you’d never be able to meet in real life. So take these tips, get some sessions under your belt and remember to enjoy yourself.