Fortnite's building is back - But taking it away may have changed the game forever
Fortnite has been the biggest battle royale title for years now, but in that time, as much as players have loved playing it, the other side of the internet has relished in lambasting it.
The game has been shunned by the self-serious of the gaming community, sniffed at for its immaturity, and its reputation as a pop culture melting pot thanks to its landslide of cosmetics. It has been considered as the battle royale children, mostly thanks to how quickly and ravenously kids have latched onto the game, and in spaces of dedicated gamers it doesn't get the respect that it deserves - but they'll never outright say that it's a game for kids, because that'd be too easy.
No, instead, one feature in particular has been kept in the firing line for years - the building mechanic. The opportunity for players to gather materials from the environments of the game and transform them into ramps, walls, floors, and roofs for players to create their own vantage points and traverse the island on their own terms.
It has been heavily criticised for some time, as the meta of the game has devolved to make way for the sweatiest builders to clamber into the skies for the ultimate advantage, before obliterating foes who just can't see them coming.
But this season, Fortnite changed. And it may have completely shifted the way the game is played, perceived, and understood forever.
Fortnite ended building, and it was groundbreaking
For the first week of Chapter 3 Episode 2, the haters finally got what they wanted.
For the first time, Fortnite completely did away with its building mechanic, replacing it with a new agility system that allowed players to sprint and climb over the game's obstacles, and gave them a quickly-restoring bonus shield to provide some extra cover. It was a bold move for Fortnite to take, integrating the loss of building into its overarching story following in-game factions The IO and The Seven, and stripping itself of one of the most iconic parts of its gameplay. And it worked.
Pulling the plug on building made Fortnite feel completely fresh, and with a new host of weapons and points of interest, the game might as well have been brand new. The shift was massive, and a huge host of players and streamers were incredibly vocal about how the new way to experience Fortnite was far superior to the uber-sweaty finales that came from a game with the feature implemented.
So, building has returned. But not without a caveat, mind you - it's now the leading mode in Fortnite, but it keeps the parkour that came in to replace it, and you can still select an option that lets you play the game without building altogether, with its bonus shield. Every kind of Fortnite player now has what they want when it comes to the great building debate - and the game could be on the verge of a new golden age.
Fortnite could yet be even bigger
Now that the option is available to players to crank 90s or go clean, there's an opportunity for Fortnite to capitalise on the players who didn't play the game because of its building. For now, at least, the game is giving people the choice, and it could snap up some of the players that have always sniffed at the game without taking it for a spin. It's not like Fortnite particularly needs a buffed playerbase, but Epic Games seem to know that there are very few gamers left that haven't at least tried the game, so taking aim at players who may have once been apprehensive is a move that could pay off dividends.
There could yet be some trouble on the horizon if the novelty of no-build wears off and players make allegiances in such droves that one mode has a drastically higher player-count - but for now, the two modes seem stable, and Fortnite has been spared a fate similar to Overwatch's deeply and needlessly complex queue system.
The loss and segmented return of building in Fortnite was such a big PR push for the game that it could yet be on the way to losing its reputation as a bright and colourful distraction for antsy kids. Fortnite is bloody good, and taking its most irritating feature away for so many has put it in much better stead with the more self-serious players among the battle royale community.
The reputation of Fortnite could be changing
The new changes made to Fortnite may have contributed to a brand new cultural understanding of the game, and it may help it to shed the misconception that it's just a game to keep kids busy. It's a robust, intricately designed and impressively balanced battle royale title that has made its way to the top not just for the reasons that pop culture seems to think. Building has become an option rather than an obligation, and this new way to play has raised the curtain on a new Fortnite.
Streamers are turning their heads, players are perking up, and Fortnite is headed for an all-new cultural peak. It may seem maddening to assume that the game could ever be bigger than it is at this stage, but anything as possible. And as those who hate building are watching their foes ramp themselves into the sunset, a new era could be here entirely.