While I played Fortnite’s new limited-time mode, Air Royale, my colleague Cecilia looked over my shoulder and said, “This isn’t the game I used to play.” Air Royale barely feels like Fortnite, but it’s a lot of fun.
The new LTM showed up in today’s 8.40 patch. In it, 12 duos are put in Stormwing planes and try to shoot each other down, with one player steering and the other perched on the plane with guns and ammo. You die if you touch the ground, and your plane will explode if it lands for more than a few seconds. Players have infinite respawns, but planes only respawn twice before you’re out of the match. Falling crates of different rarity levels can give you new weapons, and you can also find crates that repair your plane and give you health and shields.
When I read the patch notes this morning, Air Royale sounded straightforward. When I actually got into a match, it was chaos. Part of that is on me; I am wretched at both steering the plane and aiming its gun. The storm closes in both beside and above you, but I kept forgetting about its movement as I got shot at from all sides. Crates fall constantly, enticing you with their glow but then vanishing when another player snatches them. When I steered the plane while my teammate shot, more often than not they would blip from position to position on the plane, making it hard to tilt the plane to keep them out of harm’s way. They’d get killed, vanish, and reappear, or we’d both die and suddenly find ourselves in swapped roles and plummeting to the ground as we tried to regain our bearings. When I shot while another player steered, the plane’s body kept popping into my field of vision, making aiming and shooting difficult. During my first few matches, I had no idea what I was doing. When my team placed second in one match, I was shocked.
After three matches, I had figured things out, and from then on, Air Royale was fun as hell. I finally completed the “eliminate opponents in different named locations” challenge, which had always eluded me; in Air Royale, I managed to take down enemies in the air over Tilted Towers and Loot Lake. It was exciting to swoop in and grab a crate before another enemy did, or chase someone down while blasting rockets at their plane. According to the patch notes, you can get more respawns for your plane by hijacking enemy planes, but I haven’t yet seen anyone do this, nor have I worked out how to pull it off myself.
The mode barely feels like Fortnite, with its twist on crates, its complete disregard for the game’s iconic geography, and the return of the vaulted plane. But it’s raucous and enjoyable in the manner of many of the game’s LTMs. It’s a nice break, an easy way to complete challenges, and delightfully ridiculous.
Patch 8.40 also brings what Epic calls the ability to “pet” Fortnite’s dogs, chameleons, and other pets. Here’s a clip of said petting in action.
I tested this for myself, and this clip is accurate: pressing the “pet” key causes you to swipe vaguely at the creature in front of you. When I did this to another player’s gingerbread man pet, the pet dabbed back at me mockingly. That is not “petting,” Epic. I don’t know what it is.
Other changes include another LTM called Food Fight: Deep-Fried. It’s a twist on a previous mascot fight LTM that adds lava to the mix. The Infantry Rifle also now has Epic and Legendary rarities. There’s a UI element that now lets you do the same emote as another player if you own it, making those lobby dance parties a little easier to pull off. You can check out all the changes in the patch notes, and please petition Epic to let us actually pet the dog. We’re all better than this.