Four gigantic skill trees and four massive research tiers covering dozens of branches? Don't worry, it's not as crazy as it sounds once you get the basics down.

Fortnite Guide: Navigating the Unwieldy Skill Trees

Four gigantic skill trees and four massive research tiers covering dozens of branches? Don't worry, it's not as crazy as it sounds once you get the basics down.

Two of the many complicated systems featured in the Early Access rendition of Fortnite are the skill and research trees, which aren’t clearly explained to new players.

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Simply jumping into the sea of unlockable nodes can be a daunting proposition, with four huge skill trees and four increasingly large research tiers available. Many of the game’s other elements — from the Collection book to Survivor Expeditions to Evolution — are dependent on knowing the ins and outs of these trees.

Once you get past the size and number of options though, there are some clear patterns between the trees that make it simple to decide where you want to go first and formulate a plan of attack for future skill choices.

Just getting started with the game? Be sure to check out our other Fortnite guides first:

Fortnite Skill Tree Basics

Let’s get some of the common Fortnite forum questions out of the way that aren’t properly covered in the tutorial.

There’s currently no level cap or end to the number of missions you can undertake, so yes, you can eventually unlock every single branch of all four Fortnite skill trees and research tiers.

To access the next tree in the list, you have to first unlock the final node in the middle branch of the previous tree, which usually involves earning most of the nodes along the entire tree, as well as completing specific quests.

Remember that in terms of character swapping, Fortnite is more along the lines of a MOBA than an MMORPG — you are intended to frequently switch between classes and characters for different quests, so there’s less of a reason to stick to one particular branch of the tree at a time.

Unless you want to evolve one class earlier than others or get a particular Gadget, there’s really no “wrong” branch to go down.

Keep in mind that to play the other two classes besides Constructor and Soldier, you first have to unlock the Fortnite Leadership skills for the Ninja and Outlander classes. Those who are Founders and are part of Early Access get these skills for free — they don’t need to be unlocked at all — while those who join the game later will have to unlock them by navigating the lower two branches of the first skill tree.

 Yeah, there’s a lot to unlock here

Navigating The Fortnite Skill Tree

Although they look crazy, there’s a method to each skill tree’s madness. After you get past the initial 10 skills on the first tree, there’s a clear pattern of where skills are positioned, with only a handful of exceptions.

  • The bottom branch of each tree is always focused on the Ninja class and the Ninja Leadership skill
  • The branch located second from bottom is for Outlander upgrades and the Outlander Leadership skill
  • The middle branch focuses on Defenders, Survivors, and the Pick Axe
  • The branch second from the top focuses on the Constructor class
  • The top branch covers the Soldier class

Where it gets confusing is on all the random skill and ability upgrades scattered throughout each branch. Here are the basics of what you need to know:

  • To unlock or upgrade the Collection, go down the middle branch of the first skill tree
  • To access the Transformation screen of the Armory, go to the bottom of the final blue segment in the middle branch of the first skill tree (see image below)
  • To unlock Evolution abilities, go to the very tail end of each class branch in any of the four skill trees
  • To unlock building upgrades, head down the Constructor class branches
  • To access Storm Shield upgrades, navigate through the Outlander class branches or the bottom side of any research tier
  • To unlock Gadgets, go along the class branch associated with that Gadget, such as the top Soldier branch for Air Strikes

 Survivor Transformation node of the first skill tree

Fortnite Research Tiers

Separate from the four skill trees are the four research tiers, which are closely interconnected to various skill nodes. Unlike with skills, you don’t unlock research points by completing quests in Fortnite. Instead, research points accrue automatically over time, but you have limited storage capacity for research points. 

If you aren’t logging in every few hours to collect your points, you are losing out on future research capability. To increase your maximum research point storage capacity, and increase the rate at which points are accrued, advance along the middle branch of each of the skill trees.

Many research nodes are similar to skill nodes in that they give bonuses to stats like Tech, Resistance, and so on. Others, however, have completely different effects. Most notably, the research tree is where you can unlock slots for Survivor Expeditions, letting you send additional Heroes out on the row boat, speed boat, dirt bike, truck, and helicopter.

Rather than having five branches, the research tiers simply go up and down. Which direction you head depends on which Survivor Expedition abilities you want to unlock, although eventually, you’ll end up filling all nodes.

 The labyrinth of research tier 4!

Have you found a particularly helpful skill or research tree unlocking strategy so far? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Ty Arthur
Ty splits his time between writing horror fiction and writing about video games. After 25 years of gaming, Ty can firmly say that gaming peaked with Planescape Torment, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a soft spot for games like Baldur's Gate, Fallout: New Vegas, Bioshock Infinite, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. He has previously written for GamerU and MetalUnderground. He also writes for PortalMonkey covering gaming laptops and peripherals.