As Fortnite approached its fourth season, players were intensely focused on the changes that were coming in the wake of a massive comet crash. But what no one was expecting was that, just a few days after the new season ushered in an altered map and more secrets to uncover, the game would also receive a brand new mode connected to the biggest movie on the planet. On May 8th an Avengers: Infinity War crossover event kicked off, which let players grab a hold of the Infinity Gauntlet and turn into Marvel supervillain Thanos, complete with his awesome, destructive powers.
It wasn’t just a brilliant marketing ploy for both game and film, it was also a lot of fun. For skilled players Thanos was a thrill to play as, while for everyone else he added an element of horror to the experience. Unfortunately, that experience didn’t last long. This week the limited-time event ended, and while it was short-lived, the Avengers crossover showcased one of Fortnite’s most important aspects: its ability to appeal to players across a huge range of skill levels.
How Thanos helped a Fortnite beginner gain confidence
I was late to the Fortnite craze. It was the comet that did it for me. I’ve never been especially interested in competitive multiplayer games, and the idea of a Hunger Games-style battle to the death didn’t hold much appeal. But watching the Fortnite community come together with curiosity and excitement over the season 4 reveal made me pay closer attention, and eventually I finally gave in and started to play. Luckily for me, the Thanos mode came out almost immediately after I got into the game.
First, a confession: in my short time as a Fortnite player, I’ve yet to win a match. I barely have any kills; I once came in third, but it’s only because I found a really good hiding place under a tree. In short, I’m bad at the game, but I still find the core loop of lasting as long as possible incredibly thrilling. So it should probably come as no surprise that, even though I played the mode quite a bit, I never actually managed to get my hands on the Infinity Gauntlet. What’s surprising is that it almost didn’t matter: I had fun playing the mode anyway. Not only that, it actually made me better at the game. Thanos helped me come out of my shell.
Like a lot of new players, my go-to Fortnite strategy has been, well, to hide. I’ve never been a very good shot, and I haven’t quite grasped the building mechanic, so the best survival strategy for me has been to find a really good spot away from everyone else, and wait for other players to die off. It’s gotten me pretty far in a few matches, but I’m never actually going to win that way. (It can also get pretty boring camping out in a bush for 15 minutes at a time.) But when Thanos is out there, this strategy feels even less viable.
One of the advantages that Thanos has — and part of the reason why he (appears) so fun to play — is that he can cover a lot of ground quickly. With one leap he can scale huge distances, which makes it all but impossible to outrun him. But even if you don’t encounter Thanos, this ability is always lurking in your mind: even when I was in a seemingly deserted place, I never truly felt alone because the big purple baddie could leap right in front of me at any moment. This changed my mindset; since I didn’t feel comfortable hiding so much anymore, I actually began to explore some of the more well-populated areas of Fortnite’s map, and even got a few kills in while doing so.
So while I’m sad that the Avengers crossover is finished, I’m glad it existed. I’ve found myself playing with much more confidence since I switched back to the standard battle royale mode. I’m still not what you would call good at Fortnite, but my play is more ambitious and I keep learning new things as I try out different tactics. One day I might even win. And it’s all thanks to a murderous madman. — by Andrew Webster
Fortnite’s Thanos mode made experienced players rethink their strategies
I’ve played a fair amount of Fortnite — although Epic has paused the counter telling players how many hours they’ve clocked for technical reasons I cannot explain, I’m pretty sure I’ve put in more than 200 at this point. I love the addictive loop of the game, its online culture and fanbase, and the breakneck developer update cycle that keeps the core experience fresh, fun, and varied on a near-weekly basis. Having played nearly every limited time game mode since launch, I can say that what surprised me most about the Infinity War Thanos crossover event was that it was the most polished yet.
What could have been a gimmicky marketing stunt was instead of one of the most exhilarating experiences Fortnite has ever offered. It achieved this by forcing even competent and skilled players to rethink pretty much every strategy they normally employ. You couldn’t necessarily play it safe because you needed adequate loot to fight Thanos, and leaving yourself too close to an enemy who successfully transformed into the Marvel villain meant you might be his very first victim when he came crashing back down to Earth. Building didn’t help too much against the supervillain either, and yet you still needed materials to fend off late-stage human opponents. The mode played totally differently than standard Fortnite, and it was a blast to learn the nuts and bolts of how to win.
After my first few games, I figured out that the standard cycle of looting, fighting, and moving didn’t quite hold up. The poisonous storm that ushers players into increasingly cramped spaces moved quick in this mode, forcing you ever closer to Thanos and other players vying for a chance to steal his gauntlet. Making matters more complicated, I learned pretty quickly that if you became Thanos early or even closer to the middle of a match, you had a pretty low chance of survival as there were just too many other players gunning for the glove. I toyed with trying to skydive immediately onto the Infinity Gauntlet, but that didn’t prove very successful and I ditched that plan quickly.
I settled on playing conservatively and looting as much as I could, but keeping away from Thanos himself until the final 30 or 40 people were left. I would then try to find a moment when his health got low and attempt a fatal blow. I was only able to play as the purple Titan himself a few times, and each was immensely satisfying. My first go round as Thanos, I clocked nine kills before I was taken down by a team of cooperating opponents, but regardless, it truly felt as if I was the most powerful person on the map while wearing the glove. Thanos’ combination of astronomical leaping ability, devastating punches, and formidable beam attack made for interesting combat scenarios. No one method felt adequate all the time, and it was quite impressive how balanced Thanos felt amid all the weapons and environmental factors in the Fortnite sandbox. (Supposedly, Epic made Thanos less powerful in a day-one patch to address concerns he was overpowered.)
Surprisingly, the two Thanos mode matches I did win happened when I wasn’t the titular character. One involved an unlucky and poorly positioned opponent dying as Thanos in the storm, much to my surprise. The other involved hiding in a bush and landing a few choice rockets at Thanos’ feet, securing a victory I was not anticipating when I first faced him as my final opponent. Both times felt hard-earned — rewarding patience, stealth, calculated and skillful fighting, and a dose of good luck in ways that felt much different from the standard game modes.
Though I wish I got more of an opportunity to play as the character, I think the game mode was a perfect example of how versatile Epic’s toolset with Fortnite really is. There’s numerous game modes that can draw from the learnings in Thanos mode, and I can see how future juggernaut-style playlists or even a capture the flag contest could make good use of the augmented abilities. I’m also secretly hoping Epic’s deal with Disney and Marvel means the mode might come back some day, however unlikely that might be. I’d still love to secure a win as Thanos himself. — by Nick Statt