A couple weeks before Fortnite Chapter 4 Season 2 launched, the rumors began circulating about a "Neo Tokyo" kind of futuristic city location being added with the new season. And I thought: "Cool, they're bringing back Neo Tilted Towers." But I was wrong. Mega City is far beyond anything else we've ever seen in Fortnite--there are no good past comparisons for this place, either in terms of size or quality.
What makes it so great? Well, it's the first place that Epic has built on the Fortnite island that feels like Zero Build was considered when they conceived it. Mega City has a bunch of skyscrapers, but the bulk of the interiors are inaccessible--making the number of places you might get shot from significantly more manageable. Likewise, this place has serious infrastructure in the form of grind rails and three or four different vertical ziplines on each building, and a car or motorcycle on every corner.
And if you've got a Kinetic Blade, too? And the Aerialist augment? Mega City is your playground.
While it's been a whole year since Zero Build was added at the start of Chapter 3 Season 2, it's taken time for Epic to adjust its design philosophy to account for it--and now, Mega City is the culmination of every lesson the team has learned about how to design the game for Zero Build over the past year.
The problem with Fortnite's past "cities"
Chapter 3 had two urban environments for most of last year: Tilted Towers, at the center of the map, and The Daily Bugle, which featured three NYC high-rises inside the mouth of a volcano. These were both filled with traditional Fortnite buildings, meaning the interiors actually were full interiors, and the buildings were fully destructible.
The Bugle had bouncy spider webs to help you get up on the roofs of its buildings, at least, but Tilted Towers was just a completely flat square of land filled with tall, maze-like buildings, and usually the only safe way down from the roof was to take the stairs. It was the sort of place that only the sweatiest jerks in your lobby could love--all risk, and no reward to speak of because you probably got lasered by a guy in the fourth-floor bathroom two buildings over.
The problem was that Titled was a legacy town, designed in full with the idea that you can build your own staircase or wall if you need to. But without being able to do that, the place was psychological torture--no matter where you were in Tilted Towers, it felt like there were an infinite number of places to get shot from, and not enough ways for you to respond when ambushed from a weird angle.
And it wasn't that unusual to roll up on Tilted and find that somebody had bulldozed everything and turned the place into an empty parking lot. And while that was always hilarious, it wasn't really good for the game itself to have a gigantic flat square with no cover in it--it wasn't an issue at all in Build mode, but it needed addressing for Zero Build.
How Fortnite's design slowly evolved for Zero Build
After Epic added Zero Build in Chapter 3 Season 2--at the same time, amusingly, that it vaulted the Spider-Man Web-Shooter Mythic--Epic spent the following year slowly evolving Fortnite's design to more thoroughly accommodate it. That first season added mantling and sprinting (and sliding had been added the previous season), and we had Shockwave Grenades for sweaty movement, but otherwise it felt like the map was still made entirely for Build Mode for the next two seasons.
During Season 3, the Dragon Ball Z Cloud Mythic changed everything by showing us how crucial it was for Zero Build to have a useful fast-movement tool that anybody can use--unlike those Shockwave Grenades, which were high-skill tools that were tough for average players to figure out how to use well.
While Season 4's Chrome blob gimmick was just an OK method of getting around, Epic did add some really cool map-wide movement infrastructure over the course of the season, with those balloons that lifted a number of buildings off the ground. Those balloons would launch you high up in the air like a turbo jump pad and make it pretty easy to move from one end of the map to another in a hurry. And they were hella fun, too.
Chapter 4 Season 1 lacked much in the way of travel infrastructure other than the jump pads in every snow fortress up north, but it made up for that with the Shockwave Hammer--basically a recharging Shockwave Grenade that anybody could use both for traversal and to damage enemies. While certainly a boon for Zero Build, the Hammer might have been even better as an agent of chaos in Build Mode--nothing wrecks enemy structures more hilariously than somebody bouncing around with a big Hammer.
How Mega City is peak Fortnite
With Chapter 4 Season 2, Epic has brought all aspects of its new and improved philosophy on player movement together, finally, in Mega City. It starts with the Kinetic Blade, which is somehow (at least for now) even better than the Hammer just because of how far straight up in the air you can go with it. But even if you don't have one of those sick swords, Mega City is built to give you a fighting chance no matter what you're facing.
For quickly traversing the city horizontally we've got all those grind rails snaking around the city, and each skyscraper has at least three ziplines that can take you up to--or down from--their roofs. If you're on a grind rail and jump off, you won't suffer fall damage, so if you get up on one of those roofs and discover a full squad, you can always just jump on a rail and then jump off it and let yourself free fall safely. And once you're on the ground, you can lose your pursuers in the maze that Mega City is at ground level, ducking into a parking garage or dashing through a restaurant.
Having that inaccessible buffer between the base and top of each skyscraper essentially turns Mega City into two separate, but adjacent, locations--one with floating islands in the sky, and one beneath it on the ground. And that focuses the whole experience of fighting in the city immensely because you no longer have to be able to account for every possible angle like you did in Tilted Towers. When you're on the ground and look up, you have just a few key spots to scan for targets, rather than every single window in every large building. This season's new sniper scope glint is also helpful as a focusing tool in that regard--that addition was well overdue.
With that infrastructure in place and a more focused design philosophy, you have the tools to survive even the sweatiest landings, even when somebody else swoops in and nabs the gun you were trying to drop on. But when you get your Kinetic Blade and the Aerialist augment (the only must-have augment this season, which lets you trigger your glider any time you're more than a couple feet off the ground), Mega City turns into a true playground that you can dart around with the ease of a superhero. And it's so dense with stuff that you won't get bored hanging around in it the whole match.
There's always room for improvement, of course, and I'm already excited for what Epic's designers are cooking up for player movement in the future--that Attack on Titan rig is just around the corner! But Mega City is the first major Fortnite location that is good enough for me to make this plea to Epic: Please don't take this masterpiece from us any time soon.
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