A week away from Fortnite feels like forever

For the past week or so, virtually all of my time has been dedicated to the sprawling Wild West epic Red Dead Redemption 2. Rockstar’s latest game is so huge, so all-encompassing, that I didn’t let myself play anything else while reviewing it. In 2018 that isn’t such an easy thing to do. So many of the games I play now are ones that have become fixtures in my daily routine. I feel like I’m missing out not checking in on my Animal Crossing campground, or getting in a few matches of Clash Royale. That sense of FOMO is particularly apparent in Fortnite.

It changes so much, and so fast, that a prolonged absence can make it feel like you’re returning to a completely different game.

When I last played Fortnite, the latest major addition was a vehicle that let you ram through walls and launch players in the air. That was 10 days ago — and so much has been added since. The major shift has been the Halloween “Fortnitemares” event, which has filled the island with shambling monsters. (They’re definitely not zombies.) As you play you’ll come across purple, rocky outgrowths that spawn these creatures, until you destroy them.

Fortnite has always been a game about killing other players, so this adds a completely new dynamic. It reminds me of Titanfall, where even terrible players — like me — could get in some kills by taking out computer-controlled enemies. It’s also really creepy, thanks in large part to the unsettling sound design, which reminds me a bit of the game’s limited-time Thanos event. Even before you can see the monsters, you definitely hear them. It fits perfectly with game’s sixth season, which has largely added a darker and more supernatural feel to Fortnite.

Fortnite

Even more useful to casual Fortnite fans is a fundamental change to how the game is played: now when you fall from a tall structure or jump off a cliff, you can deploy your parachute whenever you want, in all game modes. It’s great for preventing accidental deaths or for players who are typically hesitant to build up high during fights.

There are other changes, too, particularly with the game’s ever-evolving environmental storytelling. When I last left the game, the floating island — which is propped up by my beloved interdimensional cube — was slowly moving around the map, visiting particular spots that were home to cryptic runes burned into the ground. Now, though, the island has floated back to its starting point, and has shattered into multiple pieces, each of which still float in the air. There’s a big purple bolt of lightning that connects the island fragments to an unsettling whirlpool in the sky.

Honestly, I have no idea what’s happening.

When you play Fortnite regularly, you’re able to take these kinds of changes in small doses, which makes them much easier to follow. It’s one of the best things about the game. The way it’s constantly evolving is its own kind of storytelling, one that’s particularly compelling if you keep a close eye on the game. But, as I’ve learned, it doesn’t take long to feel like you’re out of the loop.

Now, to be fair, updates as big as “Fortnitemares” aren’t all that frequent. But that’s the thing about Fortnite: you never know what changes are coming, what they’ll be, and what kind of impact they’ll have on the overall game. (Just ask all of the competitive Fortnite players who are upset about these massive changes ahead of this weekend’s big TwitchCon tournament.) When a whole bunch of new things are added around the same time, it makes the game feel very different.

After a few matches I’m catching up with what’s happened, but it does feel like I’ve missed out on something. I didn’t see how other players dealt with the monsters early on, and I wasn’t able to witness the floating island’s destruction as it happened. There’s clearly something big about to happen with the cube, though, with that strange bolt of purple lightning. And with Red Dead now complete, there’s no way I’m going to miss it.