I ride the Battle Bus to the end of the line, ejecting with a second to go and skydiving to the viking ship anachronistically perched atop a waterfall on the west side of the island. The hulking wooden vessel arrived on the Fortnite Battle Royale scene at the beginning of July’s Season 5, and brought a period-appropriate village along with it. I rotate the camera to check the area for opponents and as I do, note a pulsing blue wormhole buzzing along the cliffs that border the ship.
Those portals, like Fortnite’s loot, are randomized, but seem to show up most often near the strange new objects ostensibly warped in from disparate locations and time periods to serve as landmarks (ex. a similarly out of place Easter Island Head overlooking Dusty Divot) on this season’s map. The wormholes match the blue fissure that now cracks the skybox above the island, suggesting that these anomalies are somehow tied to the sky-ramming rocket launch that thousands of players gathered to watch near the end of Season 4.
The coast is clear, so I do what you do in Fortnite, begin stripping the viking ship for wood and metal and keeping an eye out for the brightly colored glow of a shotgun or assault rifle. But, before I can find anything: footsteps. Then, worse: gunshots and close. With little in the way of building supplies, and less in the way of ammunition, I do what had until now been impossible: I escape.
I sprint to the cliff’s edge, and as the bullets whiz past my unarmed avatar, I leap feet first into the portal without a glance at what lays behind me. Reality appears to collapse in on itself; the game world compresses down to the size of the wormhole, and then as if fired from a cannon, I’m back in the sky. I paraglide to safety and, hopefully, more loot.
In a recent piece over at Waypoint, Cameron Kunzelman argued that if Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds delivers the power fantasy of roleplaying a supersoldier- a tactical prodigy who could shoot a fly out from between its wings- Fortnite allows the player to become a super engineer; an architectural wunderkind.
I agree with Kunzelman’s thesis. I think it cuts right to the heart of the difference between the two most popular battle royales, and speaks to the reason Fortnite conquered the Minecraft generation so quickly and so thoroughly. My problem is that neither of those power fantasies are for me. I’m not a good enough PUBG player to stay on top in firefights and I’m too casual a Fortnite player to be competitive in a match’s climactic moments.
Which is why Fortnite Season 5, with its tsunami of additions, has revitalized my enjoyment of the game. Instead of focusing on shooting or building, Season 5 allows me to roleplay a different kind of badass. As evidenced by my last second wormhole escape, the current season’s additions have made me the cool guy who doesn’t look at explosions, the fearless action hero who refuses to dignify a near-death experience with so much as a glance or break in composure.
It’s not just the wormholes. Prior to this season, 90 percent of the time I dropped at Tilted Towers, the spot on the map which most frequently fills up early on with frantic fire fights. For the player that wants to improve, Tilted is the necessary baptism by fire. Now, contrary to reason or good strategy, I find myself angling toward Lazy Links, the golf course in the north that all but guarantees access to one of this season’s biggest additions: the ATV.
The ATV functions, effectively, as the portal’s vehicular counterpart. Last month, on the day the update went live, I was mining a house in the northeast corner of the map. A heavily armed player rolled up to my location on one of the newly introduced carts. They entered the house just as I exited. I made a beeline for their vehicle and silently rode off without drawing attention.
This new addition allows me to stealthily evade human enemies, sure, but maybe more importantly, it helps me speedily escape the game’s most powerful, destructive force: the storm. My biggest complaint with Fortnite early on (when I was playing it mainly because my laptop couldn’t run PUBG and Fortnite was on consoles) was that the lack of vehicles meant that dropping far from the circle meant you would spend the majority of the match running to avoid the encroaching storm. Now, if I drop near one of the ATVs scattered around the map, I can loot until the last possible second, confident that if necessary, I can outrun the storm.
In Season 5, I have become the Escape Artist, taunting danger and laughing at man and nature’s feeble attempts to best me. And I’m not even good at this game.