Fortnite Chapter 2 brought new energy to the battle royale game, as well as new people. With so many changes made by developer Epic Games, now's a great time for new players to jump in and for return players to come see what all the fuss is about.
Where to download Fortnite
Fortnite is a free-to-play game, meaning all someone has to do is download it to play.
Epic has released the game on nearly every available platform. PC and Mac users can download the installer at the Fortnite website. Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox One owners can download the game via each console's respective game store. Android users will need to get the game from Epic's website, while iOS users can grab the game from the Apple App Store. On some platforms, players will need to have an Epic account to play, which can be acquired via the company's website.
Though the game is free, there's stuff in it that has a price. V-Bucks are the in-game currency used to buy outfits, also known as skins, along with dances, gliders and other cosmetics. Every 100 V-Bucks is approximately $1 in real money.
There's also a Battle Pass available each season. The pass costs 950 V-Bucks, or $9.50, and unlocks in-game content as you play and accomplish certain goals, known as challenges, over the course of the 10-week season.
Rules of the game
Before your first match, let's go over how the game works. Fortnite, as well as games like PUBG and Apex Legends, is known as a battle royale game because it shares the same basic idea as the Japanese manga and movie "Battle Royale": everyone fights until only one person is left standing.
Each Fortnite battle royale match has 100 competitors who are either playing solo, with a partner (known as duos) or as part of a four-person squad. Everyone has 100 health points that can be replenished with healing items found on the island. You can acquire 100 points in shields via potions and other consumables. Players who hit zero health points are eliminated, and the person or team that survives until the end of the match wins the Victory Royale.
Ready to drop
After selecting a character and mode -- singles, duos or teams -- players start each match at Spawn Island while Epic's system puts together 100 combatants. On this island, you can run around, do some dancing, harvest some items or just wait around, but whatever you do or gather here won't carry over into the match. When ready, all players are transported to the Battle Bus, a flying blue school bus that carries players to the island where actual gameplay happens.
The Battle Bus takes a different path across the island at the start of every match. You can decide when to jump off, or you'll be forced off once the bus has completed its trip across the map. After a short period of skydiving, everyone lands on the island. Once you're on the ground you'll need to acquire weapons, items and materials to outlast the other competitors.
But other players aren't the only thing to worry about. After five minutes, a storm begins to close in on the island. Those caught in the storm will be dealt damage each second. As the match goes on, the storm circle shrinks and deals more damage, making it important to avoid it as much as possible.
If you're eliminated, you can watch the rest of the match or head back to the lobby to start another game. If you outlast everyone else, you win the Victory Royale.
Learning how to pew pew
There are three control schemes available in Fortnite: video game controllers, touch controls on mobile devices, and mouse and keyboard. Of the three schemes, mouse and keyboard is generally considered the best option because a mouse offers better accuracy when shooting. There's also the option to use keybinds, which let you customize the function of a button on the keyboard or mouse. For example, the default key to shoot is the left mouse button, but some players change that button to build a wall instead. Spending time figuring out the ideal keybinds can save precious time during a match.
As a third-person perspective shooting game, which means you're viewing your avatar on screen rather than in first-person, the controls are on par with many other shooters. One hand is used to move the character, while the other aims. With a weapon equipped, it's best to aim down the sights (the button for this varies on each platform) before firing, to make the shot more accurate. Grenades and other throwable weapons will change the display on the screen from a firing reticle to a throwing arc, showing where your weapon will land.
If you've played any modern shooter, these controls will feel familiar. However, it's the next section that really makes Fortnite different from all other games.
Build, baby, build
In a match, players can build structures as a way to defend themselves, reach certain areas or get the upper hand on an opponent. It's as important, if not more important, than being able to shoot accurately.
Players are equipped with a pickax, or harvesting tool, by default at the start of every match. It does a minimal amount of damage to opponents, but it's important since it lets you acquire materials. Almost everything on the island can be destroyed with a harvesting tool, providing either wood, metal or stone, sometimes called brick. These three materials are used for building, and they range in sturdiness, with wood being the weakest and brick the strongest.
There are four basic structures available to build: walls, floors, stairs and roofs. Each requires 10 of any material to create and will take a few seconds to fully build. Once built, they can be removed entirely or partially via the edit button (more on that further down). Other players can destroy things you've built using various weapons, which is why it's important to decide what material to use. A stone wall will take more damage than a wood wall.
The most common approach to structures is to build a fort, as suggested by the name of the game. This offers some protection from bullets and can give you a better view of opponents. In most cases, you'll be building to defend yourself. Pro players, on the other hand, can build for both defense and offense. An example of offensive building is building a structure around other players in an attempt to trap them.
Building is vital to being a good Fortnite player. Practice regularly until you can do it seamlessly.
Other useful strategies
Now that you know how to play, here are some tips on how to get better.
- Learn where to drop -- The island is big and the named locations, also known as points of interest, tend to have more chests that contain weapons, healing items and other equipment. They can be left out in the open or hidden in certain spots. Get familiar with the map and know where you're headed after jumping out of the Battle Bus. You'll want to go to a place where you can find items as quickly as possible.
- Know which weapon works best -- There are five primary weapons in Fortnite: pistols, shotguns, SMGs, assault rifles and sniper rifles. Pistols are rarely the ideal weapon for a match, but they're better than nothing. Shotguns deal big damage and can drop opponents in one shot if you're close enough. SMGs fire quickly but lose accuracy the farther away you are. Assault rifles can deal significant damage from a distance and up close. Sniper rifles deal huge damage from a far distance, if you can get a head shot.
- Keep on practicing -- Fortnite offers a Playground mode that gives players free rein of the island outside of a traditional match. This is a great way to explore the island and learn how to build without the pressure of being eliminated.
- Learn to edit -- Editing is an advanced part of building. You can edit a wall to create an opening for a clear shot of another player, or you can replace a structure quickly before it's destroyed. These are the skills you'll see pro players use.
- Make the controls yours -- Every platform has a default control scheme, but Epic has several other options for players who want to switch up what buttons to hit. Try them all to see what feels the most comfortable.
- Watch the pros -- If you haven't already, go watch some Fortnite pros. Top players from around the globe stream themselves playing the game throughout the day. See where they land, what they do when they land, what weapons they prefer, what they build and how they handle the last pressure-filled minutes of a match.
- Listen closely -- Playing with headphones is always a good idea in competitive games, especially with Forntite. Epic made changes to the sound in the game by adding 3D Audio. This means that in a building, you'll be able to hear other players running around and can gauge how far away they are based on the sound of their footsteps. The sound effect of chests with loot is also more prominent, making them easier to find.
Originally published on Oct. 22 and updated regularly.