Fortnite: Battle Royale – Review by Jason Peters
For those of you who haven’t heard, Fortnite: Battle Royale is a new play mode for Fortnite that follows the increasingly popular Battle Royale format recently made famous by PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds. The basic idea is that you are 1 of 100 people dropped on to an island, which in the game is one single and very large map, and quite simply, the last man standing wins.
So yeah, it’s basically The Hunger Games with 100 people in video game form. Minus Elizabeth Banks in ostentatious costumes.
It’s also got one other aspect going for it that makes it easy to pick up: It’s completely free.
If you’re at all like me, you’ve heard of PUBG and the 10 million copies sold (I think it’s still technically in Alpha too, though they might have sold so many copies already they just decided to say “screw it” and leave it be), but there was just something about it that prevented you from giving it a shot.
Maybe it was the $30 price tag. Maybe it was the fact that you’re old shitty computer sucks and can’t run anything beyond Rollercoaster Tycoon from 1999. Maybe you just watched some of those YouTube videos and figured, “eh, not for me.” Well, now you can get a similar experience for absolutely zero percent of the price tag.
So what’s the game like, you ask?
Well, you start off in an outdoor lobby for about a minute and change, running around meleeing junk like tires and buses with your oversized pickaxe, which is the “weapon” that you start the game with. I put weapon in quotes, as it does do some damage, but outside of the first minute or so after your initial drop, you’ll find yourself outmatched by various guns and traps very quickly.
Afterwards, you and the 99 other players all find yourself in the drop bus, which is when the game starts proper. The bus flies over the island with help from a hot air balloon, and you have 60 seconds to jump off. This allows the majority of players to be spread out across the island, and in fact, planning an effective location to drop to can be the difference between lasting into the final 1/4 of players left standing, or getting capped the moment you touch the ground.
After you free-fall to your desired location, automatically deploying your glider just before touchdown, it’s then a race to collect loot, as without some larger guns and traps, you’re pretty much SOL.
Of course, you only get one life per match and it’s last man left standing, so all the while you’re hunting for loot and weapons, you need to pay special attention to your surroundings, as someone could be lurking, camping, or sniping behind any tree, house, or corner. And this is where the real tension and excitement of the game design pay off. There’s not a whole ton of weapons and the various guns don’t handle much differently from one another, but the constant tension of not knowing where someone might be can be thrilling in the moment.
There were many instances where I would be running to a particular house (most of the weapons and loot are stashed inside of buildings), only to find another player running towards it from the opposite side. In the moment, there is no way of knowing if they saw you or not, and what kind of arsenal they may be carrying, so you never know how you’re going to stack against any given player out there until you start gunning at one another. To someone watching you play, it may not be that exciting, as much of the game is spent running around a large, open world map looking for loot, and then hiding or camping waiting for any players that may have the misfortune of running into your ambush. But when you’re playing, the tension that the design creates is palpable, and it only increases the longer you hang in the match.
Ratcheting up the tension and keeping the game moving along is a timer of sorts in the form of an electrical cloud that reduces the available area players can participate in without dying. You must constantly remain in the eye of the storm to avoid taking 1 damage per second, and that area gets smaller by a significant size every few minutes. The storm moves faster than you are able to run, so if you end up hanging out on the outskirts of the map for too long, you can easily find yourself in a position where you’ll get taken out as your racing to get within the “safe zone”. And of course, while you are desperately racing to the eye of the storm, another player could be waiting to take you out at any moment.
The graphics are pretty nice, especially for a game that doesn’t cost you anything. The world has a bright vibrancy with smooth textures and cartoonish yet realistic characters. I wouldn’t be surprised if they took more than a few visual cues from the guys and gals over at Blizzard with Overwatch.
The sounds design is compelling, in that there really is none. A lot of your survival depends on reacting to audio clues in the form of footsteps from your fellow challengers. There is no music or soundtrack to speak of, and to have a successful game, you need to constantly be listening for those cues or else you’re going to find yourself staring unexpectedly down the barrel of a digital gun. If you even see the bullet coming.
Finally, there is an element that I need to explore more, but can tell that it’s the difference between seasoned and non-seasoned players, and that is the building aspect of the game. See, while you’re running around collecting loot and weapons, you can also use your enlarged pickaxe to destroy various items in-game and collect material drops, which you can then turn around and use to construct traps and various constructs such as walls and staircases, which you can use in a variety of ways. In certain instances, you will need to build a staircase to access areas that are otherwise unreachable, while in others, you’ll be able to construct ramps and makeshift buildings for either cover or an advantageous position.
I actually had a lot of fun with this game for the roughly 5 hours I’ve put into it. It’s not an overly deep experience that you’re going to be thinking about when your console is off, but it does have this insanely addictive quality, one of those games where you find yourself saying “just one more” about 13 times before you finally put down the controller.
With that being said, matches can vary wildly. I’ve been as high as the 6th person left on the island, but have many more instances of dying within moments of landing (Check out my first playthrough above if you haven’t yet for an example). But I also think it’s that very quality that keeps you coming back, because you know that if you did it before, you can do it again. And again, this is with only a rather modest 5 hours of gaming invested.
This is definitely one of those games that fall under, “easy to learn, hard to master”. I will say that for the most part, I did come to understand the game more each time I played, and after my first hour or two, I’d become pretty consistent at finishing at least top 40 or 50. The game also defaults to following the player that killed you upon your death in game (which you can bail on anytime you want with a simple button push), and that can be very useful for watching more advanced players and picking up on strategies, especially as it comes to effective usage of building.
So would I say it’s worth a shot? For the low, low price of zero dollars, absolutely. But I don’t know if I would be one of those people that finds myself investing over 100 hours into it the way I have with Overwatch, for example. The one thing that I keep coming back to is that, by nature and design, it’s an incredibly isolated game. It’s literally you versus everyone else all the time, and while it’s this very quality that creates the tension, it’s also the same quality that leads to a lack of camaraderie that you get in the best team-based shooters.
If I had to slap a number on it, I’d give it an 8/10, with a potential variance of 0.5 in either direction depending on if the lack of variety ultimately got to me, or if becoming more familiar with the game would make me appreciate certain qualities more. Either way, it’s certainly well worth the financial investment.
*Fortnite: Battle Royale is available for PS4 and PC. As of the time of this review, the game is in Early Access stage.