Fortnite has had a sordid history with vehicles over the last couple of seasons. During season 7 the problem was the X-4 Stormwing, a flying battering ram that wreaked havoc in every game. Now, in season 8, the Baller has taken its place as the vehicular source of frustration in Fortnite.
The Baller was added to Fortnite in patch 8.10, the first update after season 8 began. The vehicle is a glass sphere with a chair inside and a suction cup gun mounted to the front. Players can’t fire from inside the Baller but can shoot the suction cup gun to grapple their way to anything they hit. The Baller also has boosters which, combined with the suction cup grapple, can be used to propel it across the map at high speeds. When inside the Baller, players are completely protected from damage until it’s destroyed.
To help relieve players’ frustrations, Epic released a hotfix on Thursday morning that takes the Baller’s health from 300 down to 200. It’s a substantial change that should help ease Baller-related complaints, but it isn’t enough to stop it from being overpowered.
The Baller is the most useful vehicle Epic has ever added to Fortnite, and that’s exactly the problem. The Baller may only be a glass ball with a suction cup attached to the front, but it has the ability to put players in a lot of places they couldn’t normally reach, and it keeps them safe while doing it.
With the Baller, a player can suction cup their way up a mountain or to the top of another player’s tower, making mobility a non issue. On top of that, the Baller’s health acts as an extra shield for players. Whether it’s 300 or 200, that’s still health a player without a Baller wouldn’t have.
All of this is useful in normal game modes, but the Baller’s biggest strengths come out in Fortnite’s more competitive matches. In the top ranked matches of Arena mode, or the finals of any Pop-Up Cup over the last few weeks, the endgame is a frenzy of Ballers grappling for position. Meanwhile a few unlucky players remain on-foot trying to stay out of the way of the bombastic vehicles. Because the main goal of these competitive matches is to stay alive as long as possible, any extra health the Ballers give to players is a huge boost to their survival.
It isn’t hard to destroy Ballers in these late game situations. But to focus fire one down, you’d also have to expose yourself to enemy fire. It’s a risky proposition that few players ever deem worthwhile. So, most of the Ballers go unchallenged, leaving as many as 10 rolling around in the last few circles.
Epic’s original idea, detailed in the notes for patch 8.20, was to add the ability to shoot through the glass of the Baller. This would let opposing players damage the driver directly, rather than making the Baller an all encompassing shield. However, according to Epic’s notes in the hotfix announcement, “we’ve played with shooting through glass and it didn’t feel like the right solution.” Instead, the developer landed on decreasing the health of the vehicle instead.
With Fortnite World Cup qualifiers starting this weekend, players are likely to play safer than ever. That means the Baller is going to be around in every match. With the reduced health, the vehicle’s late game strength should be diminished, but the mobility benefits will still remain. Does this mean it’s destined to be vaulted? We’ll have to see what Epic has in store.