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Fortnite season 6 challenges, pets and map changes, explained

The new Fortnite season is upon us.

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Season 6 has arrived at last.

Epic Games/CNET

The launch of Fortnite season 6 brings changes to the map with haunted new locations, a new strange Shadow Rock consumable and pets you can wear on your back. You can check out our initial impressions here, or dive deep into season 6 below. Epic Games also made several tweaks to weapon balance and other fixes, and -- just before the update -- announced enhancements to audio for better directional detection of other players and projectiles. And in another announcement before the update, Sony allowed players from different platforms to play Fortnite together with a cross-platform beta, a feature fans have been requesting for months.

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Here is the new Fortnite map for season 6, complete with the floating island above Loot Lake, the new castle above Haunted Hills and the areas of corruption (greyish areas) spread across the island.

Fortnite Insider

Changes to the Fortnite map

There are a few new spots to land on the island with lots to explore. Loot Lake is no longer bouncy from the Fortnite Cube because, as we saw in the announcement trailer, the cube caused an island to rise up and become a floating island above the lake.

It's surrounded by a purple vortex that will draw you up to the island simply by walking into it, so you don't have to worry about building up to it. While we haven't exhaustively explored it yet, it's clear the floating island will make for some interesting endgame fun if the storm closes there during a match.

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The island is surrounded by a vortex that will send you floating up to the top.

Jason Parker/CNET

Another new place to drop in and gather loot has been added near Haunted Hills. Now, on the mountain behind the church is a giant spooky castle with plenty of rooms and towers to explore. Just beware that the castle (and other new areas) will definitely be crowded for a while as people drop in to get their first look. It's a great addition because it's been a neglected area of the map, and it will be fun to see how it changes over the course of the season.

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The spooky castle on the hill has tons of rooms and towers to loot.

Jason Parker/CNET

The third new location isn't as obvious. You've probably known for a long time about the mysterious bunker with no entrance in Wailing Woods. Well, you still can't enter the bunker itself, but if you go to the fort at the center of the hedge maze, there's now a shaft you can drop down to go to a vast underground complex.

The theme down there looks a lot like the interior of the mountain where the rocket took off during season 5, with research equipment, banks of computers and even a spot where it seems scientists may have been studying one of the games rifts. It will be interesting to see how it will affect the story in the coming weeks.

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The complex under the maze is quite large, with three levels and several rooms.

Jason Parker/CNET

Other changes around the map include corn fields that have grown tall in Fatal Fields (great for providing cover) and tons of other changes Epic says we'll have to see for ourselves.

Shadow Stones are new creepy consumables

You might remember how the Fortnite Cube would occasionally print runes on the ground as it traveled around the map, leaving low gravity areas in its wake. Sadly, the low-grav areas are gone, but in their place are corrupted areas with strange rune-covered cubes called Shadow Stones. If you consume one, it turns you into a shadowy wraith-like ghost.

The Shadow Form state only lasts for a short time, but enables you to run faster, jump higher and lets you jump through walls. If you remain still, it also makes you invisible to other players. The only problem is, while in motion, you're visible and vulnerable if people try to shoot you, and -- while in the form -- you can't use your guns. The Shadow Form is going to be a game-changer when storm circles close on these areas, and it'll be exciting to see how players use it to their advantage in a match.

Check out what consuming a Shadow Stone is like below:

Season 6's new Battle Pass

The Season 6 Battle Pass has now been unveiled and like always, there are a total of 100 tiers of loot to unlock if you fork over 950 VBucks (roughly $10). As we saw in season 5, weekly challenges include three free challenges and four for whose who have the Battle Pass, so even if you don't buy it, you'll still get some loot you can earn.

Flipping through the tiers, we didn't see as many dance moves as we have in the past, but it looks like back bling will get some upgrades with things like capes and wings. If you get all 100 tiers, you'll unlock an evolving skin that slowly turns you into a werewolf like the evolving costumes we saw in season 5.

If you want to earn those tiers, you're going to have to plow through challenges, so here are the week 1 challenges for season 6:

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It looks like the first week's challenges are pretty standard, though collecting legendary gear is a new addition.

Jason Parker/CNET

Of course, the more challenges you complete, the more experience you get toward your Battle Pass tiers and unlocking them is especially important because now you can earn...

Pets you can take with you

That's right, Pets have been added to the game in season 6 as a back bling (backpack) decoration. There are three different pets, including Bonesy the dog (unlocked at tier 12), Camo the chameleon (unlocked at tier 29) and Scales the dragon (unlocked at tier 43).

All three sit in your backpack and react to things you do in the game. For example, jumping from a tall height will show them hanging on for their lives as you drop. Shooting a gun makes them look angry because your pet has your back (literally). Obviously, more than any other item, they're a must-have.

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Epic Games

Check out Bonesy in action from a few highlights we spotted on Twitter:

Season 6 audio enhancements

The v6.0 patch notes released a week before the Season 6 update gave us some clues to changes in Fortnite's audio, including higher frequency footstep sounds that will make it easier to differentiate when other players are above or below you. Epic says it's much easier to pinpoint where they're coming from even when there's gunfire and other sounds nearby.

The company is also working on making it easier over the course of season 6 to figure out where people are flying with gliders, with sounds it describes as a Doppler (or "car passing by") effect. You'll also be able to hear when someone's glider opens or closes from farther away, giving you greater environmental awareness. Epic says Grenades and missile weapons will have unique and pronounced sounds so you can tell what's flying by in your vicinity.

True cross-platform play has arrived (in beta)

In a surprising announcement just before the launch of season 6, Sony launched a cross-platform beta that would allow PS4 players to connect with both Xbox, Switch and other available platforms, saying the company is dedicated to a more open platform in the future. The program covers PlayStation 4, Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Windows and Mac platforms.

For months, Sony didn't allow Fortnite cross-platform play with the other major consoles, angering players because not everyone ends up with the same consoles in households and friends weren't able to connect. Sony stuck to its guns for a long time, claiming players' experiences might be diminished and in a particularly frustrating move, wouldn't allow Nintendo Switch players to connect with old PS4 accounts, meaning any loot earned on the PS4 couldn't be brought over to the Switch.

With Fortnite players now able to play across all the major platforms, season 6 will likely have an intermixed Battle Royale playerbase like never before.

Check back here for more updates as we play our way through season 6.

First published Sept. 25, 9:48 a.m. PT.
Update, Sept. 27 at 5:30 p.m. PT: Adds Fortnite's latest map, new location descriptions, Shadow Stones, Battle Pass info and new pets.

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