I am rubbish at Fortnite. I cannot land a shot to save my life – literally – and it takes me about a minute to build a rudimentary structure with, I suspect, my tongue sticking out most of the time while I do so. But I can sneak and I can camp. In fact, for my money being a Fortnite Camper is the best way to play the game.
I suspect it was Zelda that changed things for me. I’ve never been particularly adept at fighting games, descending into a frenzy of button mashing whenever faced with a moving target, and with Fortnite on the Switch it was even worse. Faced with an enemy I’m as likely to drop my gun and pull up the build menu as anything. And no, that’s not a tactic to throw up a hasty wall. That’s a mistake which is followed by a short period of standing there going ‘Eh’ before some pre-pubescent armed to the teeth wipes me out with a snort of derision.
A true story from the weekend.
Boys walk past window.
Boy One: Look, he’s playing Fortnite!
Boy Two: How many kills has he got?
Boy One: Zero
Boy Two: He’s shit.
Harsh but fair.
And I’m vanishingly likely to get any either. But what Zelda: Breath of the Wild taught me was that you don’t have to rampage around killing things to enjoy a game. There can be as much fun to be had sneaking successfully round an enemy encampment as there can be in wiping it out with a full frontal assault. Sometimes you can even stitch the two together: sneak in and dispatch enemies quietly, before turning on the Warp Spasm, berserker mode only when you have to.
The real joy of Zelda for me was the landscape and a whole world to lose yourself in. Sure, you had to break out your fighting skills to progress in the main story arc, though once that got too hard — and once Gannon was defeated and the DLC kicked in, the difficulty of the boss battles seemed to ramp up — I left the arc behind and went freelance. Forget speed running to defeat the game, speed running to try and beat your time from Gerudo Town to the Akkala Ancient Tech Lab was what started to do it for me.
So, while the island in Fortnite is a much smaller and briefer world to lose yourself in, it’s also one that you can enjoy in the same way of reading the map and trying to plot routes — but with the added excitement of picking the empty locations wherever possible and trying to avoid other people while the storm barrels in from wherever deadly circular clouds of gas tend to barrel in from.
Camping, hiding, ambushing…call it what you will, it is simply a way of trying to get to the end game. I’ve not played Fortnite a lot, though that has ramped up a tad in the past week, but out of around 25 games I have managed to make it to the top three twice and can usually manage to make it to the top 10 unless I’m unlucky. And I’ve still not managed to find the bush disguise that’s in the picture.
It’s then that I usually die. Aggro players have been collecting legendary weapons or master builders can throw up entire edifices around themselves quicker than thought, and my lack of fast button skills sees me flushed out and wiped out in the same breath. One day I might get a lucky shot in, but I probably won’t. And that’s cool, I am really not in it to win it. The way Fortnite works for me is all about exploration and survival; it’s about staying on the bus till the last second and exploring the peripheries, before racing the storm to the next circle while trying to avoid the other players. It’s about seeing how far I can get while being fundamentally a bit shit at it all.
Oh, and it’s about finding and nicking golf carts. Now driving games I’m good at…