Epic Games has created an engaging twist on the battle royale genre that not only stands out from the competition, but is head and shoulders above.
- Fun by yourself or with a team
- Great gunplay
- Encourages cooperation
- Building adds a different way to play
- Bright and colourful
- Building can be annoying
- Losing can make you want to snap the controller in half
- Occasional balance issues
- Developer: Epic Games
- Release Date: Available now in Early Access
- Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mobile, Nintendo Switch
- Price: Free-to-play
Fortnite has a simple concept, when you think about it: 100 players enter, but only one is crowned the victor. Everyone goes in with the hopes of being Rambo; fending off 99 other players until all that’s left is the delectable taste of victory. That isn’t always the case, though. In reality, it’s more akin to being an expendable soldier in Predator. No matter how hard you try, there’s always that one guy hiding in a bush with a sniper ready to clock you when you run past.
It’s hard to pin down what makes Fortnite work as well as it does. Is it the happy-go-murder style? The feeling of overcoming something impossible each time a kill is collected? Or perhaps it’s the simplicity of it all? Fortnite is a juggernaut – millions of people play every day – but it’s also a shooter where you don’t need to be an elite pro-gamer to get stuff done.
Yes, there are skilled players out there, but for the rest of us, Fortnite isn’t so much a game of skill as it is a war of attrition. Hiding on a roof, then making a dash for the nearest building as the storm licks at your feet, all the while the sound of bullets rattle their way through the air, is a viable tactic. There’s as much beauty in camping as there is in landing at a hotspot and killing anyone foolish enough to challenge you.
I have the fondest of memories of a match during Fortnite’s Thanos event, which saw players vying for the power of the Infinity Gauntlet and transform into an effigy of The Mad Titan. 100 players, only one walks out, right? So by my quick maths, you only need one kill to win. Here’s where it gets incredibly scummy.
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I landed at a motel, with no players to be seen, and a Storm Circle down the other end of the map. Typical. If I didn’t move, I’d be consumed by the storm and my kids would probably laugh at me for being so rubbish. 90 players left. So, I ran as fast as my virtual legs could carry me. In the distance, I heard gunshots, followed by the roar of Thanos. 50 players left.
People were dropping like flies. I grabbed an assault rifle, a shotgun, and some mini-shields before I ventured up a hill for a better vantage point. 20 players left. Seeing several players going at it, only for Thanos to jump in from a great height and utterly obliterate them, is both exhilarating and terrifying.
Five players left, one of which is sat on the top of a hill with no idea about what to do, I saw three people stop trying to kill one another so they could finally bring down the massive purple guy with the highest kill-count in the game. And they did, but they were weak, and one of the three made easy work of their peers. Two people left.
I shoot, and missed. With my position blown, I moved back in a futile attempt to cover my tracks. “I’m sure the bullets the other guy saw coming from the only hill left in a tiny circle won’t have given my point away,” I thought to myself. Narrator: It did. And worse still, the other player had just picked up the Infinity Gauntlet. Still two people left.
With the golden glove on, the other player jumped up to my position in one fluid movement and unleashed an all-powerful laser barrage. I somehow dodged this, and with nothing left to lose, I charged at The Mad Titan with a shotgun. Bang, bang, bang, dead. Your winner, with just a single kill and no skill whatsoever: me. At least my kids were impressed.
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And that’s what Fortnite is all about. It isn’t even the winning. Sure, winning is the end goal, but it isn’t the be-all, end-all. It’s the journey, these little moments of joy that happen in-game that you can share with others.
Everyone who plays Fortnite has a story to tell. Some where they’re the courageous soldier who stood tall over the competition, others where you still die, but there’s satisfaction in diving off a hill, gliding down on an unsuspecting swine merchant and popping them in the head. It’s almost odd that in a shooting game the act of killing is secondary to the moments that got you there.
For any parents reading this, while Fortnite is fun, it’s also equal parts hellish. If you have kids who play, it’s important to monitor their behaviour and enforce screen time when needed. Losing can at times be stressful. Coming second, as opposed to last, is a new kind of infuriating due to how close you are to winning.
If you notice your child is becoming more aggressive, or withdrawn, or more argumentative, you don’t need to jump straight to taking it away (no-one wants to be the bad guy) – but limiting how often, and for how long they play is key to getting them back on track.
It’s clear, having become one of the biggest games out there right now, that Epic is in this for the long haul. Fortnite frequently gets new content in the form of new ways to play. The fundamentals remain the same – it will be about outlasting other players – but how you go about outlasting those players changes.
Disco Domination saw players competing for control of a disco floor; dance and the disco ball rises and your team scores points. What made this mode different was players didn’t lose when they died, and could instead respawn until the final Storm Circle.
The 50v50 mode pits two teams of – you’ve guessed it – 50 against each other, which turned out to be a great way for new players to learn the ropes thanks to the increase in teammates. Then there’s Playground Mode, where players can customise different settings to their liking, practice building, or just – generally – goof around the map without the ever-prevalent pressure of death.
Fortnite as just a Battle Royale shooter was great, but when you take that foundation and build upon it, you end up with something that constantly feels fresh. Never knowing quite what’s around the corner, both in-game and out, is what makes Fortnite so exciting.
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It’s worth taking a moment to discuss how free-to-play Fortnite really is. It doesn’t cost anything to download and play Fortnite (unless you’re on Xbox One, where an active Xbox Live subscription is required). However, players use the terms “no skin” and “default” as a slur to mock people who haven’t purchased a skin or Battle Pass. You can think of this as kids ripping on other kids for not wearing the right name-brand clothing. This isn’t Epic’s fault, of course, but it means there may be pressure on parents to spend.
Micro-transactions can be broken down into three main categories. The Battle Pass offers an inexpensive way to earn multiple skins, emotes, gliders, pickaxes, and so on. The only catch is you need to play the game regularly (or pay extra) to unlock all of the content contained within. The next is the in-game store, which sells individual skins, emotes, gliders, and trails for a set fee. Skins – arguably, the most popular items available – range from around £8 to £20-ish, give or take. There’s also the option of starter bundles, which generally cost £4 and come with a skin, glider, pickaxe, and 600 V-Bucks to spend in the store.
It’s hard to take umbrage with the micro-transactions in general as they are optional. The biggest problem is Epic is really good at what it does. The cartoonish aesthetic of Fortnite is delightful, but that means whenever a new skin comes out, there’s a chance you’ll want to add it to your collection.
Basically, Epic’s character design is so strong it’s hard not to want the latest trends. Madness, I know. Factor this in with kids watching streamers and wanting to mimic which skin they own, and Fortnite can become very costly. But to reiterate, every purchase is optional – or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.
Fortnite’s stylish looks and risk-taking ideas are what’s made it into the powerhouse you know today. Mention Fortnite to kids anywhere and they’ll probably know what you’re on about. In emulating pop culture with its meme-like dances and Pixar-good-looks, Fortnite has became pop culture itself.
Footballers celebrate goals by flossing; kids hype dance their way into classrooms. Fortnite is everywhere. So whether you’re fighting off 99 other players as Rambo, or teaming up to take down a Predator, this is one Battle Royale that’s set to be around for a good while yet.