In just about seven months, "Fortnite Battle Royale" has become the hottest game in the world.
The game is not only free-to-play for anyone, it's also everywhere you could possibly play a video game: It's a free download for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, but also iOS. It's coming soon to Android. The gist of "Fortnite Battle Royale" is simple: 100 players are dropped onto an island with a constantly-shrinking "safe zone." There are weapons and special items scattered all over the island. The goal is to be the last person standing at the end.
"Fortnite Battle Royale" may seem straightforward, but it's actually a very nuanced game with plenty of depth. And knowledge, in addition to fast reflexes, is crucial to surviving and winning the 100-person battle royale.
Before every game, all of the players are loaded into a lobby of sorts, where you'll be able to pick up a few weapons and materials to practice shooting and building, respectively. If you're feeling unsure about controls, use this time to get familiar.
Every character in "Fortnite Battle Royale" carries an indestructible pickaxe, and almost every object in the game can be destroyed with your pickaxe. Just hit it repeatedly to gather its materials — wood, metal, or brick — which you'll use to build forts, ramps, walls, and defenses. Gathering materials early on is the key to a good defense in "Fortnite Battle Royale." The best players break everything apart from the very start of the game, from trees to boxes and even walls and floors.
This is crucial for newcomers. Practice making quick buildings and ramps around your character in just a few seconds, which can save your character if you're getting shot at. Practice building to climb mountains and buildings quickly. Keep practicing. Building is your best mode of transport in "Fortnite," but it's also your very best defense aside from the potions and Med Kits you'll find strewn around the island.
Several items can restore your health, or make you harder to kill. Shields, in particular, will give you a much better chance at surviving the battle royale:
- Bandages and Med Kits restore your health (the green bar at the bottom of the screen), but only Med Kits can fully restore your health.
- Shield Potions and Small Shield Potions (or "Minis") restore your shields (the blue bar on top of the green bar), but only two Shield Potions can fully restore your health.
- The Chug Jug takes 15 seconds to consume, but gives you full health and shields.
- Drinking Slurp Juice will give you one health point per second and one shield point per second, for 25 seconds.
- Snipers are perfect for taking out enemies from long distance, but terrible for close combat.
- Shotguns are perfect for when enemies are close, but you need to be aggressive when using it. (Try jumping while pushing forward on an enemy to be a moving target.)
- Assault rifles are great at long distances, but can be used up close as well when necessary. Some have scopes; others don't.
- Submachine guns fire really quickly, but are bad at long distance. - Pistols are good at medium range, but may fire too slowly for close-combat situations.
- Rocket launchers and grenade launchers are great for destroying enemy forts and buildings in a shot or two — and usually your opponents along with them.
- The Crossbow has unlimited shots. But it's a crossbow. So there's that.
Fortnite Battle Royale has several tools that can be used both offensively and defensively:
- The Grenade blows up a few seconds after you throw it at someone.
- Throwing a Boogie Bomb forces opponents caught in its wake to dance for a few seconds, making them vulnerable to your attack.
- Throwing the Port-A-Fort grenade will instantly create a fort for you. It can be used defensively, but also offensively, as demonstrated here by Twitch streamer Ninja.
- Anything caught in the wake of an Impulse Grenade will be blown away, or up into the air, depending on the angle of your throw. You can also use impulse grenades to launch yourself at enemy players to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.
Sometimes you need to think about what you need at that particular moment. If you're low on health for instance, and it's between getting a cool-looking rare weapon, or a Med Kit or Shield Potion, it would be wise to consume or keep the health items first before considering the weapon. Also, some less-rare items are actually preferable. The blue-tier pump shotgun, for instance, deals some of the highest damage in the game, and is usually worth holding onto.
There are 18 areas in "Fortnite Battle Royale."
Their names are Anarchy Acres, Dusty Depot, Fatal Fields, Flush Factory, Greasy Grove, Haunted Hills, Junk Junction, Lonely Lodge, Loot Lake, Moisty Mire, Pleasant Park, Retail Row, Salty Springs, Shifty Shafts, Snobby Shores, Tilted Towers, Tomato Town, Wailing Woods. (I am aware how adorable their names are.)
Since the safe zone of the map continually shrinks throughout the game, get familiar with the areas that are towards the center of the map: Those areas, like Tilted Towers, have the best chance of being in the safe zone through most of the match.
You see two players fighting each other up ahead. What do you do?
- If you have good weapons with enough ammo, and you have plenty of health and shields, you could take them both by surprise and win.
- If you don't have good weapons, or you're low on health and/or shields, consider gathering more materials first and healing up before getting into a fight.
Consider your own health and weapons before trying to start a fight. You might not be the one who ends it.
Early in one game, I had collected some nice weapons and headed up a flight of stairs, when suddenly, I died. My game ended.
Using the new Replay system in "Fortnite Battle Royale" — accessed by going to the Settings tab in the main menu — I was quickly able to learn from my mistake. Someone had laid a trap on the ceiling in the building I was in, and I neglected my surroundings.
The game will automatically save your games, so use that to your advantage. Study the tapes.
Go to Twitch or YouTube, and watch streamers like Ninja or DrLupo do their work. Watch what they do when the land — how they gather materials, and take out opponents early — and watch them in various scenarios, like how they react to being shot at, or how they push an opponent. You can learn a lot of techniques by watching the very best players.
"Fortnite Battle Royale" is an incredibly big game that can also be incredibly complex. But it's a game at the end of the day, and the best way to enjoy it — but also to get better — is to experience all it has to offer. So try dropping into a new location on the next game. Try a weapon you've avoided thus far. Try exploring. Try to win the game without a single kill. Do whatever feels fun to you, because you might also learn something unique about the game, and how you play.