Fortnite, or more specifically its Battle Royale mode, is pretty great. It’s sort of like The Hunger Games, only with fewer mutant wolves.
Basically 100 of you get airdropped onto an island where you go running around looking for guns and loot and taking each other out until there’s only one person left standing.
Anyway, after many hours of playtime and a large number of embarrassing failures, I’ve now managed to win a whopping — wait for it — five games.
I’m no expert, in other words. But, if you’re new to the game (available on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC) and have yet to bag any wins, you may be able to learn from my many mistakes.
1. Don’t head straight for a big town.
It happens every game. One moment you’re having a lovely time on the Battle Bus, the next second the doors are open and roughly 50% of the players have immediately leapt out to what will probably be a fairly brutal, early death.
If you want to last until the end of the game, jumping early and/or flying straight for a busy city is not a good strategy. Though, if you’re super handy with a shotgun you may make it out with some kills and a large amount of loot in your backpack, but the odds are not ever in your favour.
A better plan? Head for someplace more innocuous and out of the way. Maybe jump out of the Battle Bus when it’s halfway across the map, for instance, and fly to a house that’s a good distance from the path it’s taking.
Remember: until you have at least a few weapons and some building materials, you’re better off avoiding people. If your aim is to win, there’s really no advantage to fighting in the first two minutes of the game.
2. Don’t forget to equip yourself properly.
If you enter the mid game phase (let alone the end game) without any decent weapons/ammo, you’re not going to last long.
When you land you need to stock up, and quickly. The good news is the more you play, the more you’ll remember locations where chests are likely to crop up so you can find a route that allows you to arm yourself quickly.
In the early stages you’ll want to get a close range and mid range weapon ASAP (ideally a shotgun and an assault rifle) — this will give you at least a half-decent chance against opponents both indoors and outdoors. Later on in the game, you’ll ideally want a decent assault rifle, shot gun, some explosives (a rocket launcher; a grenade launcher; grenades), a long range weapon (a nice bolt-action sniper, for instance), shield(s), and some bandages/a med kit to heal yourself if you take damage.
Oh, and a quick word on ammo. At the start of the game, ammo boxes are your friend. Don’t neglect them. You’ll find them stashed away in random places (beneath staircases; on shelves in barns) and they’re always worth opening. Later on in the game, you’ll need those bullets.
3. Don’t neglect those building materials, either.
Wood, bricks, and metal might not be as exciting as snipers and rocket launchers, but they’re arguably even more useful. You’ll need plenty of wood to scale mountains and buildings while you’re travelling around the map, and bricks and metal will come in super handy later on in the game when it comes to fighting and fort-building (more on that later, though).
So: once you’ve got yourself some sweet, sweet firepower, these materials should be the next thing on your shopping list. Obviously you’ll find piles of them scattered around the map and in chests, but you should also manually gather extra by swinging your pickaxe at any stray rocks or cars you happen to jog past on your travels.
As a general rule of thumb I tend to aim for around 200 of each material by the time the storm’s closed in for the first time. It isn’t always possible, of course, but if you’re not being hounded by enemies you can gather stuff up pretty quickly while you’re running to the first safe zone.
4. Don’t forget to use the landscape for your advantage.
In this game, you’ll be at the biggest advantage if you’re on the high ground with something to hide behind/shield yourself with — you’ll be able to see enemies creeping up on you and you’ll have some protection when they arrive.
Trees, rocks, buildings — all of these things are your friend. The edge of the island is also your friend, because if you’re sticking close to it you can only be approached on three sides.
Even the storm can be used to your advantage. Once it’s closed in, if you stick close to one of its crackly blue edges it’ll reduce the chances of an enemy sneaking up on you while your back is turned.
Oh, and obviously there are bushes. Nowadays you can get a bush potion that gives you a portable disguise, but if you don’t happen to have one of those handy then a normal, stationery bush will also do the job nicely. If you need to heal yourself, hide or sneak up on someone, sinking into a crouch and manoeuvring into the centre of a bush is almost like putting on an invisibility cloak. You won’t be able to see out too well when you aim, but if you stay still you’ll be incredibly hard to spot.
5. Don’t run from every battle.
It is possible to win a game of Fortnite without firing a single bullet, but it’s also extremely unlikely. And while running and hiding are all very well and good, every now and then it’ll be in your best interests to take an enemy out.
If someone goes jogging past you, completely oblivious, and you have a clear shot on them? Go for it. If you watch one person take out another player, then they stop to heal or pick up the dropped loot? Get them.
In the mid game, any enemy you can take out with minimal risk to yourself is worth going after for their loot. They may have a stronger gun than you, after all, and you don’t want to enter the end game with nothing but grey weapons.
It’s also one less person you’ll have to worry about later on.
6. But don’t get into unnecessary fights, either.
If you’re in it for the win rather than the number of kills, though, this might not be your best tactic. These YouTubers are all ridiculously good at fighting, for one thing (they play most days, so they’re well-practiced), and — more importantly — they play aggressively for a reason: they want their videos to be exciting, rather than 10 minutes of them sneaking around and hiding in bushes.
The point is, just because you see someone, doesn’t mean you need to attack them. If you’re in a bad position, or you’re low on ammo, or you’re worried enemies might be behind you and you don’t want to give your position away, then you might be better off just holding your fire.
7. Don’t use the wrong weapon.
The assault rifle may be one of the most versatile weapons in the game — if I could only have one type of gun, it’d definitely be that — but it’s not the only weapon. If you don’t want to get demolished by your foes, you need to get used to using different weapons depending on the situation.
In a building, or creeping around one? You should have your shotgun out. Running across an open area? Get that assault rifle ready. Fighting enemies who have barricaded themselves into a nice fort? Get ready to demolish that thing with some explosives.
You also need to get used to switching quickly between weapons during a fight. If someone’s charging towards you, for instance, you might start off firing with your assault rifle. But if they get 10 metres away and you haven’t downed them yet, you’ll be better off swapping to a shotgun to finish the job.
8. Don’t sprint straight in to grab supplies from a downed enemy.
This is a mistake I’ve made many, many times. I get so gleefully excited that I’ve actually managed to eliminate someone that I dash towards their shiny, colourful supplies before I’ve bothered checking the area for other enemies.
The thing is, it’s easy to get so sucked into a battle that you forget just how much noise your gunshots will have been making. Any nearby enemies will have heard you fighting, and they may be making their way over to you to see what’s going on.
Your best bet? After you’ve killed someone, wait 30 seconds or so before you go to grab their loot. Have a proper look around and make sure you’re alone. Or, if you really can’t wait, build some walls around yourself while you sort through their dropped supplies, so you can’t be easily picked off by a sniper while you’re distracted.
9. Don’t forget to build.
This is the real thing that separates beginners from intermediate/expert level players. Building. If you watch those YouTubers I mentioned above, it becomes clear: whenever someone shoots at them, or they’re in a combat situation, their first instinct is usually to build to get themselves some cover.
The building aspect of Fortnite is so nuanced it would require a whole article of its own to cover every detail, but there are a couple of simple things I’ve learned to do that immediately improved my game.
If an enemy starts shooting at you, for instance, quickly building a wall or a ramp provides you with some instant cover — and a ramp will give you a bit of height so you’re shooting down on them.
The other most important type of building to learn early is the 1×1 fort. It’s simple, but super useful in the end game phase. Basically, you surround yourself with four walls, build a staircase, then jump and build another four walls a level higher up. Repeat this a couple of times, and soon you’ll be at the top of a miniature tower — a nice little bit of protection that will also allow you to peek out and shoot down on enemies.
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