After a tumultuous summer and a divisive fifth season, Season 6 of Fortnite, dubbed “Darkness Rises,” is finally here. Despite a comparatively lesser amount of fanfare and marketing leading up to the launch of Season 6, the 6.0 patch itself is gathering a lot of attention after having changed the game in a number of surprising ways. While some of this season’s updates were confirmed ahead of time, such as the adjustments to the game’s spatial audio, players likely didn’t expect the wave of other additions and, in some cases, surprise removals. This update features new locations, mechanics, and cosmetics, while simultaneously reworking existing weapons and items. Of course, there’s also a new Battle Pass and the usual accompanying challenges and rewards.
Though we won’t cover every detail of patch 6.0, let’s discuss some of the major changes.
New locations, “corrupted zones,” and a floating Loot Lake
Upon starting the game for the first time this season, players are welcomed with a new intro cinematic. This short video clip features some of the skins from Season 5 placing “No Swimming” signs around Loot Lake. Thematically, this scene relates to the recent events including last season’s mysterious Cube and how it interacted with the lake. After the cube “corrupted” the lake, turning it purple and bouncy, players wondered what would happen next.
We now have our answer. As the video shows, the Cube did not actually disappear into the lake. Now, it has risen up out of the water, bringing a section of land with it and creating a floating island above Loot Lake. Furthermore, some sort of vortex has formed around this floating landmass. In terms of gameplay, this location presents a number of new opportunities and mechanics for players. The vortex causes players to be propelled into the air, allowing them to redeploy their gliders ad hoc during the match. Already, players are flocking to this unique new location, resulting in hectic firefights that rapidly traverse between land and air battles.
Meanwhile, the rest of the map faced some additional changes. Though the gravity domes that once surrounded them are gone, the runes are now known as “corrupted zones.” These areas of the map look bleak and scorched, as if the remnants of the Cube’s power are slowly decaying the game’s island. However, aside from this aesthetic change, not much is different or new about these zones. It’s likely that Epic will continue to develop these areas throughout the season.
Aside from the Cube’s influence on the map, a few new locations have spawned, such as a Haunted Castle in the northwest corner of the map.
Shadow Stones introduced and subsequently removed
Moving forward, an entirely new mechanic added this season involves the new Shadow Stones. These consumable items fit the darker, haunted tone of Season 6. By allowing players to transform into quick-moving shadow figures, the Shadow Stones quite literally embrace the theme of Darkness Rises. Per Epic’s patch notes, these stones act as follows:
- Consumable typically found around corrupted areas of the map.
- Using a Shadow Stone will apply ‘Shadow Form’ for a brief period.
- While in Shadow Form:
- Unable to use weapons.
- Become invisible to enemies when stationary.
- You become more visible and leave behind a Shadow Trail when moving.
- Gain increased movement speed, jump height and fall damage immunity.
- Gain a new ability, Phase, can be activated by pressing the Primary Fire button.
- Phase: Propels you in the direction you are facing, and allows you to pass through objects.
- The effect lasts 45 seconds but can be exited early by holding down Alt Fire button (aim down sights).
The majority of these changes are huge shifts in gameplay. Each season introduces some new movement mechanic, with Season 4 heralding Hop Rocks and Season 5 focusing on Rifts. Shadow Stones, however, represent the most drastic of these changes, as they introduce a mixture of aggressive and stealth-based gameplay previously unavailable to players.
Unfortunately, players eager to try the Shadow Stones may have difficulty doing so. Due to a glitch enabling players to remain invisible indefinitely, Epic has temporarily removed the stones from the game.
Freshly vaulted: Impulse Grenade, LMG, Bouncer, Remote Explosives
In a surprise change that immediately proved controversial within the game’s community, Epic has vaulted a number of popular weapons and items. Two in particular, the Impulse Grenade and Bouncer, were popular within the game’s competitive and creative communities. High-level players frequently relied on these two items to pull off inventive plays, ranging from fast-paced traversal of the map to trick shots during pub matches. As such, this announcement has drawn the ire of some members online. However, note that Bouncers are still included with the new Port-a-Fortress item that was recently added to the game.
Meanwhile, the removal of Remote Explosives (C4) is an understandable change. These troublesome explosives have long been maligned as being overpowered. Despite numerous nerfs during Season 5, their effectiveness still dominated in all levels of play. Light Machine Guns, or LMGs, are also in the vault now. Unlike C4, LMG weapons weren’t universally applicable or useful. In fact, they had a hard time fitting into any particular niche in-game, hence the reason for their current vault status.
Now, the vaulting of an item doesn’t mean that it’s gone forever. In fact, Epic notes that all of these items are still available to use in the game’s open-ended mode, Playground LTM. Pending further adjustments, these items could see a return to Battle Royale. The likely explanation for the removal of Impulse Grenades and Bouncers is due to their interactions with the new Shadow Stones. Often, when a new mechanic is added to the game, previous mechanics and items need reworking for balance purposes. As players adjust to the Shadow Stones, Epic may gradually reintroduce the previous popular movement gadgets.
Custom keybinds on controller and input-based matchmaking
Announced at the same time as the spatial audio changes, custom keybinds are finally available for controller players. Naturally, keyboard and mouse players hold a noticeable advantage over controller players. The increased number of inputs allows players to assign specific building pieces and shortcuts to individual keys, whereas controller players cycle through menus to perform the same functions. This results in a high skill gap between the two input methods. To combat this, many players resorted to using keyboard-and-mouse interfaces on console. Unfortunately, this didn’t entirely solve the problem, as these players now had a significant advantage over other players still using controller.
The new Season 6 update remedies the situation with two new initiatives. First, controller players can now assign custom controller bindings. Players can now assign specific actions to individual buttons rather than relying on the preset Combat or Builder Pro input settings. Of course, both these modes are still available and can be further customized.
Furthermore, the game’s matchmaking system now sorts based on player input. This means that players using a keyboard and mouse on console will now be placed into the PC matchmaking pool. This has been often requested by the community and is a welcome addition to help provide a fair competitive scene for each platform. Epic confirms that players who start matchmaking while using a keyboard and mouse will be placed into PC lobbies. They can then switch to a controller mid-match if desired. However, the inverse is not applicable. If a player starts a match with a controller, thus placing them in a console queue, they cannot switch to keyboard and mouse mid-match.
Most importantly: Pets!
As with last season, some of the Season 6 additions are lighthearted. Whereas Season 5 introduced ATV vehicles and toy minigames, Season 6 has the adorable inclusion of pets. These companions are cosmetic-only and are available as Back Bling items through this season’s Battle Pass. There may be more available for purchase at some point in the future, but the current selection includes a puppy, chameleon, dragon, and more. Furthermore, these cute critters interact with your gameplay in-match. One example involves the dog, named Bonesy, who barks in celebration when you eliminate another player. Fortunately, these sounds are only audible to you and your squad. Meanwhile, the chameleon has a few unlockable styles, and is animated to bounce around as your character moves.
Additions such as these show that despite a strong focus on the competitive side of the game, Fortnite still cares about casual fun. While the Darkness Rises theme is undoubtedly more sinister than Season 5’s airy Worlds Collide, heartwarming content such as pets helps players take the new season in stride.
These are only a few of the major changes included with Fortnite Season 6. Some of the other adjustments include a reworking of Storm time and damage, as well as a nerf to the Double Barrel Shotgun. We’ll see more changes throughout the season, as Epic has already detailed plans to continue revising in-game audio. Furthermore, I expect to see the corrupted zones develop as time passes, perhaps signaling the next season when the time comes.
What do you like about Season 6? Are you surprised by the Shadow Stones? Sound off in the comments below and let us know what has you excited or bummed about Darkness Rises.