Drop into Fortnite today, and you might find it unrecognizable. As the battle royale blockbuster barrels towards its fifth anniversary, developer Epic Games has introduced the biggest change yet, stripping away a core game mechanic as part of the Chapter 3 Season 2 storyline: no more building. This is almost certainly temporary, but it feels like a test — and a prelude to a future that looks drastically different than the game’s past.
Why Fornite removed building
Epic Games launched Chapter 3 Season 2 “Resistance” on Sunday, and the bombastic storyline involves all-out battle on the Island as several factions vie for control of the Zero Point (the nexus orb from which all of reality was created). But the Imagined Order’s evil Dr. Sloane has disabled everyone’s ability to build structures.
Normally, you can use your default pickaxe to destroy everything from buildings to trees and harvest the raw materials to build walls and other structures that function as a temporary shelter. That’s no longer the case.
“Building has been wiped out!” an official blog post reads. “To help maintain cover, you now have an Overshield on top of your Shield and Health. The Overshield is your first line of defense: before your Shield and Health take a hit, it’s your Overshield that’ll crack. Your Overshield will still recover if it goes all the way down to 0.”
The Overshield functionally replaces buildable cover, but this new season also introduces some robust movement mechanics, including faster default movement speed, faster sprint, shoulder-bashing doors, and “mantling,” which allows you to grasp and climb ledges. Essentially, parkour-like movement is now the standard within Fortnite, but building should return as part of this season’s storyline.
Fornite building: pros and cons
The building mechanic was perhaps the one thing that made Fortnite truly unique in the battle royale boom of 2017 and 2018. While Fortnite has obviously come to dominate the genre, its core gunplay mechanics are middling at best. High-level play has always focused more on the twitchy building instead.
Who can build sprawling towers of haphazard wood paneling fast enough to evade, trick, and trap their opponents? Who can rebuild their paneling when it’s destroyed to maintain the high ground?
Even gamers who were skilled at gunplay wouldn’t stand a chance of winning unless they had mastery of building. It made for a totally unique gameplay experience that’s immediately identifiable yet totally ridiculous. It also created a somewhat brutal learning curve for anyone hoping to get good at Fortnite.
A lot of people, this author included, might argue that the end result has always looked pretty dumb. Watching the pros mash buttons to build a zig-zagging spire of scrap metal can be downright nauseating, but there’s no denying that this kind of creative sandbox coexisting alongside competitive survival combat mechanics is a match made in heaven. Now, the thing that essentially made Fortnite is no more. So what’s next?
The future of Fortnite
Spam-building has been the meta for as long as Fortnite has been a thing, but the new emphasis on movement makes the pacing far more digestible. Furthermore, it makes Fortnite much more accessible for gamers of all skill levels. There’s no denying that the core experience has gotten easier over the years, aiming for a younger and more casual audience that’s into the endless barrage of Marvel crossovers (which continue into this season somehow) rather than inscrutable building mechanics.
Fortnite introduced hirable NPCs, dangerous animals, crafting, and a slew of other new mechanics over the last year that fundamentally change the experience. Seemingly random crossovers with characters from Marvel, Rick and Morty, Naruto, and more are a regular part of each season, regardless of the theme. Fortnite has become something far greater than the mediocre battle royale with an inscrutable building mechanic.
Building will no doubt come back as the season’s story has players disrupting Dr. Sloane’s anti-building machines, but it could very well change. It may have to if it exists alongside the new parkour-oriented movement options. We might even see different game modes in the future with and without building.
But beyond the next update, removing (or rethinking) building in Fortnite could be the key to Epic’s bigger plans.
The Fortnite Metaverse
Metaverse still feels like vaporware for the most part, but Epic already has a digital space that can host a vast array of experiences. Removing Fortnite’s most alienating mechanic gives us a snapshot of what a broader platform might look like. Epic filed a trademark for the “Epic Games Megaverse” in February 2022 and collected $1 billion in investment funding in 2021 to support those plans.
Meta (formerly Facebook) is Epic’s biggest competitor in the metaverse race, but by totally deconstructing Fortnite’s most foundational mechanic, it's proven that the company’s future looks very different from the game’s past.