Fortnite’s long-awaited “Playground” mode is finally live this morning. It’s a freeform, Minecraft-like practice mode that will feel crucial to players who want a less chaotic environment in which to git gud. As Kotaku posts this, Fortnite just announced the mode is down for repairs while they “investigate some issues with our matchmaking services.” [Update—9:00 am ET, 7/3/18]: Playground mode is back online after nearly a week.
In developer Epic Games’ words, one of Fortnite’s biggest strategies is “just build lol.” Players who have mastered the art of swiftly erecting tall, sturdy forts faster than their opponents have a big edge. It’s not an easy skill to pick up. Although matchmaking was spotty this morning, I played a few rounds of the mode, taking the opportunity to practice building my go-to fort over and over without anyone raining bullet hell down on me.
Playground mode gives players and their friends an hour to do whatever they want on the battle royale map. It’s exactly what Fortnite needs: a separate, controlled environment for players to mess around with the game’s tools and weapons. Players hop off the battle bus as usual, land wherever they want and then, it’s really just like a playground. Thankfully, players receive ten times the normal resources when they’re mining, so it isn’t a grind to gather together enough wood to rehearse building emergency forts. Also, chest and ammo boxes spawn 100% of the time. I found some rare, fun weapons pretty early on and enjoyed not having to battle opponents over gold chests.
Unlike a lot of other shooters’ practice modes, Playground mode has friendly fire automatically turned on, so a squad of players can practice aiming with each other. Respawns happen almost immediately—players dive off the Battle Bus again and can land wherever. That means you can coerce your buddies into target practice with rare weapons you might not have mastered yet. Or you can push each other off ramps with shopping carts. Really—you have to do that. It’s the law.
Frankly, Playground mode should not only stay in the game, but it should have been in the game in the first place. It’s well-executed, yes, but controlled practice spaces are just mega-useful in shooters generally, and especially megapopular games like Fortnite where the skill ceiling is getting high. Now that Fortnite’s endgame strategies are a little stale, a fact even Epic Games admits, hopefully Playground mode’s freeform ways will encourage a little creativity.
Unless you play with friends, however, Playground mode might not be totally chaos-free or productive; alone, it’s hard to really practice your marksmanship, but with randos, there might not be a lot of agreement on how to use the freeform mode. No matter what, it’s going to be great to see what players can do when they have all of Fortnite’s features at their disposal.
Fortnite’s latest patch also brought one of my favorite quality of life changes yet: map markers. Now, when your squadmates drop markers on the map hoping, maybe, one day, you’ll land somewhere nearby, those markers appear as colored pillars of light on the actual landscape. Fortnite also got dual pistols, which shoot simultaneously with one trigger-pull, and a bunch of balances to the submachine and shotguns. You can check out Fortnite’s patch notes here.