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Fortnite’s latest Playground Mode feels like a path leading away from battle royale

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The addition of teams is a big step forward

Fortnite - shark fires a minigun Epic Games via Polygon

The latest iteration of Fortnite’s dangerously popular Playground Mode is now live, and while there are still some bugs that need to be worked out, this version of the mode is a big step up from the rough draft.

The biggest change is the addition of teams, which also functions like a friendly fire toggle. Stay on the same team if you want to keep everyone safe from your bullets, or have everyone switch teams if you’d like to be able to destroy each other.

There is still a limit of four players in each instance of Playground Mode — larger skirmishes will have to wait for possible future updates. But the ability to either work together to see what interesting things you can build or set up your own little ad hoc game of deathmatch gives the mode a lot more utility.

Need help with your sniper rifle skills? Grab some friends, pick up a few sniper rifles, and head off into the hills to practice your sniper duels. Want to practice late-stage building against a single other player? Load up on materials, begin at a designated place, and run drills to practice building vertically while also trying to contain someone who is trying to kill you. Even rare gear is easy to track down in the Playground Mode. Epic Games also wisely decreased the respawn time, so that you’re never stuck waiting to jump back into the game.

There are still issues, however, even if they seem pretty minor from the outside. Players are reporting that random folks are joining their game even if they set squads to “no fill” for privacy. It seems like some players can see the names of the other players over their characters despite being on different teams, which makes stealth impossible.

A path toward Fortnite’s future

What’s striking about Playground Mode this time is how much stuff is in Fortnite that doesn’t have anything to do with the game’s battle royale core. The ATK racing, golf games and vehicle stunt courses are things that were enjoyable before, but there was always a risk of other players coming along and killing you before you could have your fun.

The constantly evolving map is one of Fortnite’s biggest assets, and it’s becoming clear that it can handle a battle royale game — but it isn’t limited to it. The map can play host to many more game types or just free-form entertainment. Fortnite has always leaned into this more versatile direction, but Season Five has begun to more seriously flesh it out. Heck, the battle royale mode itself came from Epic Games chasing a trend with the strong fundamentals that existed in the otherwise-bland Save the World mode.

Epic Games continues to build a platform, not a single game, and the number of ways to amuse yourself without firing guns speaks well of how much room the game has to expand in the future. Here’s another vote for Playground Mode to become a permanent feature, and for the issues to be quickly ironed out. Battle royale will likely always be a part of Fortnite, but it will never be all of Fortnite. Playground mode feels like a way forward.