I never really got the hype surrounding the idea of Battle Royale. Neither in its infancy nor when PUBG had suddenly conquered the world. I couldn’t understand what enjoyment you could possibly get out of running around on auto-pilot for half an hour, picking up whatever goodies you come across, only to be shot and killed instantly in the middle of a barren wasteland with no cover from half a mile away at an angle you couldn’t possibly have predicted. Then news came out about Fortnite Battle Royale along with a trailer and news the beta would be going live for everyone in a couple of days. My friends and I weren’t sure if we’d enjoy it, but it’s the perfect game for skeptics of the Battle Royale genre considering it’s free-to-play.
No running allowed.
There are multiple factors that make Fortnite immediately more appealing to me. Let’s start with the map; it’s far smaller than its competition. This might be considered a negative by some, but it significantly cuts down on the amount of time you waste running around looking for loot to gear yourself up with. The storm shrinks faster too, closing off large portions of the map quickly. Both these factors deliver a much faster pace which encourages more movement and riskier plays. On average, a match will last around 20 minutes. So if you spend a couple of minutes grabbing stuff then get shot dead as you move inland, it doesn’t feel like you just sunk this massive time investment into something completely worthless as you can be back in another match in moments and quickly get back to the point in the match you were previously thanks to the faster rounds. It feels as though Fortnite respects your time. It encourages that “just one more” mentality.
On top of that, the locations are memorable and more importantly in a game of this sort, identifiable. Any named locale on the map has its own distinct look and theme which makes calls a hell of a lot easier to process and relay. Be that an enemy position, where you plan on heading or where you’ll be landing. Of course, between each major area there are grasslands, hills and valleys that act as a network between them all, but as can be expected the majority of combat hotspots will be around the named locations. Not that this helps in any technical manner, but I find it amusing that everyone I’ve asked “What’s your favourite location?” answers immediately and in vivid detail. Maybe it helps that the game has an immediately recognisable art style with bursting colour. Compare that to the rest of the practically greyscale for “realism” Battle Royale games and it’s not much of a wonder why copy-pasted dusty concrete texture tile #0451 is feeling a little unloved right now.
Pictured: Super serious tactical meta gameplay. Definitely not for the laugh.
Fortnite’s key feature is its terrain. Everything in the environment (except the earth itself) can be destroyed by being hacked with the pickaxe or blown to bits by gunfire or explosives, the same obviously applies to anything made by players. If you have the resources, you can spawn building blocks out of thin air. Spawnable and destructible terrain bring up so many variables during gameplay that can be molded into opportunities. Being shot at? Spawn a wall in front of you to shield yourself. They break that wall? Keep spam building them until their mag is empty. Now build another wall and a staircase, you now have cover from nowhere with a height advantage on your enemy. You can shoot over the top or leap over it if they rush you. Build the walls higher on each side and expand it with floors and it becomes a bunker. This flexibility to quickly adapt to whatever is thrown at you, WHEREVER you are is the core of Fortnite Battle Royale. It’s the edge it needs to be unique.
Use it to scale a hillside in the way, or to get on a roof and break in through the ceiling or blast the ever-loving crap out of someone’s last stand and finish them off. It just depends what happens moment to moment and that’s what makes it exciting each round. Speaking of building things well, how about the technical side of the game? As is to be expected from a developer with the pedigree of Epic Games, Fortnite is buttery smooth thanks to having competent developers who understand the importance of optimisation. Is it a fair comparison to the indie Battle Royale games? Probably not, but when the majority of its competition expects their user base to be happy running the game at a jittery sub-par 20-30fps, (including those with beefy PCs that aren’t having their power utilised properly) I find it a little easier to be harsh on them. Especially as the game runs beautifully on whatever your platform of choice is and has done so since even the beta. You could learn a thing or two, PUBG. Day 1 is not an excuse for a broken mess.
Edit: I recently downloaded the PC version, but I’d still need a proper gaming mouse with buttons for building binds before I play it proper… Building using Q then F1/F2/F3/F4 can go screw itself. Felt like an elderly person using a computer for the first time when I did a test run after installing it. Every time I wanted to build something complex I’d have to actually look at where the keys were.
Hitreg cocks-up to great effect occasionally. We lost this game because of it.
Okay! That’s enough nice talk, on to the gripes! First off, as seen above, we’ll talk about the hitreg and the curse of the phantom bullet. It’s something that’s hard to replicate in testing as it rarely happens, but I (and many others with recordings) have had my fair share of phantom bullets. Either the tracer trail shows it going straight through centre mass or you’ll actually see the impact effect and deal zero damage anyway. Secondly, let’s talk about how the game handles inaccuracy. It uses a bloom system where the more frequently you fire, the larger the crosshair will become. This sounds fine on paper, the person who’s staying cool and maintaining fire discipline even while being shot at should have a better chance at hitting the target. The problem comes from weapons having this by default even in the best conditions. Crouched, dead still, crosshair perfectly level with your target’s head.
You pull the trigger. Miss. And again. Miss. At this point your position is compromised so you start firing off rounds as fast as possible praying to RNGesus that one will find its target. Little if any do. Your target then fires back wildly, running and jumping as he does with no control whatsoever, yet still happens to land that perfect fluke headshot, downing you instantly. Watch how fast a sane individual transforms into a malice-filled demon when this happens, and by god, it WILL happen. Fortunately, the devs have noted themselves that this system is dumb and has to go and sometime in 2018 will be replaced with a recoil system that will truly benefit the better player 100% of the time. Until bloom is removed, I’ll still stick to my guns in saying that headshots (as they currently are) are stupid. They should be locked to the revolver and sniper rifle only. Weapons that require patience, timing and most importantly, aim. No-one likes being knocked down or killed by a stray bullet, so the sooner recoil is introduced the better.
I wish final battles were still this simple…
The storm. Beforehand, I mentioned liking how fast it moves and the pace it forces the game at… HOWEVER! It has a real nasty habit of centring on the highest player-built structure. I’m not sure if this is by design, but it’s SO frequent I’m fairly sure in saying it is. As the player pool dwindles away, the storm gets smaller and smaller, forcing the players who never found this miraculous free time straight towards the lucky sods who always seem to have all the time in the world. So, not only are you forced to run gung-ho on a suicide bid at a heavily armed, metal-laden, reinforced bunker, but that advantage is being given to the guy(s) who already has EVERYTHING. It only has the slight side effect of having your entire bloodstream spontaneously transmute into sodium chloride when even the gods seem to side with the opposition. Like the game itself is kicking you when you’re down.
Finally two console specific issues. Awkward sticky auto-aim you can’t turn off (despite it being a hindrance if you CAN aim) and sticky building that sometimes just completely ignores where you want to place objects. But to be fair to Epic, they’ve been doing a fantastic job of fixing mistakes, crushing bugs and even endorsing a few! (Began as a glitch with grenade riding but they kept it because it was cool.) They are constantly in communication with the community and frequently update the game with quality of life fixes and new items and weaponry. Fortnite’s flourishing growth is a nice thing to see. There’s an actual connection between dev and player which I feel is essential to the ongoing success of a game like this. Hell, there’s even a new silly game mode out each week now which can be a good laugh and stress reliever especially after playing the regular modes.
Sneaky git startled me so bad I instinctively twitch shot him dead.
The only mode I wouldn’t advise is solo as it’s simply the most boring mode. Even if you’re by yourself, play duos/squads/weekly. Solos are 15 minutes of letting the crazies kill themselves and then whoever wins is usually the one out of the 10 remaining who happened to be blessed with perfect items and storm placement… And no-one shooting at them even when they’re sat alone on a hill building a fortress. Seriously, how do these people manage to build Fort Knox on a hill without drawing attention from the other competitors? Naturally, it’s me and THAT guy that end up going 1v1… The one who VERY CONVENIENTLY never gets shot at. *cough* TEAMING! *cough* Seriously though, teaming is a problem in solo so if you do play, report suspected players and all that jazz. But even when the odds are fair, there are so many angles to keep track of, odds are you’re going to end up with a hole in your back with nothing to show for it. Fortnite Battle Royale is a game best played with a mate or two… or three.
I’d happily recommend it. I don’t play it religiously or anything, but it’s pretty sweet for what it is.