Fortnite Chapter 4, Season 3 WILDS rips the island apart. The ominous rumbling players had been feeling in the lead-up to the launch was a precursor to the mammoth jungle biome that would be exposed when the land finally cracked open last month. The centre of the island has been entirely transformed into what is arguably Fortnite’s densest map shift to date. The new jungle is a visual marvel, taking full advantage of the game’s jump to Unreal Engine 5. The sheer amount of foliage, muck, and content to be found in the biome is staggering. Alongside a new Battle Pass and a slew of mechanics, WILDS continues the game’s trend toward varied and adaptive play.
Fortnite has been dabbling with verticality for years now, each new update iterating on the concept that a map refresh needn’t just expand outward but upward too. Mega City has cut a stark profile into the south of the island for a while now; a mighty sprawl of futuristic architecture that uses grind rails to whip players to the peaks of its skyscrapers. The WILDS jungles, gnarled into the core of the island and headed north, are sister locations but with contrasting, and competing, priorities. The jungle trades cramped shopfronts and metropolitan alcoves for hilly jungle thickets and ancient tombs but the sense that Fortnite has permanently shifted to far denser and detailed play spaces is evident across both.
WILDS takes this philosophy and applies it to a lush, vaguely Amazonian forest. Towering trees shade deep trenches of mud and shallow bodies of water, while stone monuments to lost cultures (in this case, Transformers for some reason) are just as likely to be found tucked away in puzzle locked caves as they are open tombs in the process of being excavated. This aesthetic achievement has roots in new systems too, that same impressive and all-encompassing wet mud allowing for faster slides and protection from thermal scopes. Those overgrown fauna aren’t just pretty, pop a blue one and watch your shield fill up, bounce up to ledges with a mushroom or launch a stink bomb of bees at a foe with a swing of your *insert whatever pickaxe you use here*.
It’s a clever use of the context of the new biome and a far cry better than the aesthetically pleasing but otherwise mechanically inert autumnal, medieval portions from previous chapters. Brutal Bastion’s snowy hold on the top end of the island is at least thawing out, as is The Citadel’s lacklustre Ren fair domination of the western coast but given the massive jump in biome quality, it makes the island lopsided. Players are naturally gravitating toward the more interactive and visually appealing portions of the map, bottlenecking the pacing of a match in a way typically reserved for its first and last minutes. And man, those clashes are brutal.
Weapon balancing is never not going to be a contentious topic in a game like Fortnite but the frustrated sigh let out by players downed by the bloody Drum Shotgun is universal. I adore the thing, it’s a hugely overpowered and over cranked shotty that turns up close and personal encounters nasty and frantic with its wide spray. It rules…when you’re the one using it. Elsewhere the Kinetic Boomerang is a fantastically satisfying but tricky weapon that sees you launch an oversized golden return stick at foes, ripping through obstacles with purple energy blasts before it whips back into your hand. The Thermal DMR has a toggled scope that allows for easier enemy spotting at the cost of environmental details, and the new Flapjack Rifle takes a sec to spin up its barrel but will unleash a torrent of bullets once it does.
Fortnite WILDS makes for dense new playspaces
Elsewhere, Reality Augments continue to expand with mixed results. WILDS brings rideable raptors back into the jungle and these absolute units can be augmented to give you thermal vision while riding one. The traversal and speed-focused Augments remain a highlight, including the new ability to gain the Slap effect while grinding on a rail or regain health and shields while covered in mud or swimming through water. Soaring Springs makes a glorious return to, undeniably my favourite of the Augments as it allows me to propel Clair Redfield high into the air and land without damage. It’s just sick. There are a couple of dud Augments too, but such is life; I just never want a jar of wasps, Fortnite. I’m sorry.
Then there’s the Battle Pass content, a scattershot of neon-trimmed nature gear, bisexually charged party attire, and the big dog himself, Optimus Prime. It’s not exactly a unified aesthetic, with drips of the game’s love affair with slick sci-fi still present in the jumble, but each page is at least a mild surprise. There’s some uniquely early 2000s gear nestled in the middle there too, with faux-edgy wings to glide into battle with and the latest update to the hot cat Meowscles is to make him an outright fuckboy, replete with mullet and open shirt for the game’s summer vibes event. If you’re in it for the Transformers goodness though you’ll slam into a bit of a progress slump toward the middle of the base pass, but the rotation of quests is fairly robust and EXP drops remain generous.
It all ties together to form another aesthetically muddled but mechanically dense and interesting season, so far at least. The jungle biome is ridiculously lush, both a visual treat and causing genuine change in the moment-to-moment gameplay. Guns are fast and punchy, traversal continues to speed up and the Reality Augments seem like they’re here to stay, thankfully. As the season rolls on we’ll keep an eye on WILDS but for now, it has given Fortnite another solid growth spurt.
For more information on Fortnite WILDS, you can check out the official blog.