After five years of waiting Epic Games has finally released its co-operative survival game, Fortnite, on PC and consoles. Offering an array of grotesque, zombie enemies to take down, a dizzying variety of characters to collect and a crafting system encouraging you to embrace your creative side, it certainly delivers on the promises that Epic Games made all those years ago.
But how does Fortnite hold up in today’s current gaming landscape and does the game manage to make a case for itself over all of the other multiplayer titles available on the market right now? Read our Fortnite review and find out.
Fortnite Review: How Does Epic Games’ Survival Sandbox Stack Up Against Competitors?
The premise of Fortnite is that 98% of the world’s population has gone missing and great, purple-tinged storm clouds now cover the Earth, bringing with them husks (zombies) that are apparently dead-set on destroying the remaining 2% of the world’s inhabitants too. It’s up to you, as the Commander, to build forts, take down husks, rescue survivors, and helping NPCs figure out what caused them in the first place.
Fortnite is best described as a cross between Valve’s Left 4 Dead and DreamWorks animated movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Epic Games has shunned the gritty, post-apocalyptic realism for Pixar-animation realness. The game isn’t exactly cute, but it’s vibrant and inviting enough that you want to bounce around the landscape, from building sites to abandoned houses, and from graveyards to wooded areas. If it was just a tad bit cuter, you would almost feel bad for smashing it to smithereens.
As you complete your objectives – including helping a totally chilled-out scientist send a van into the sky with a weather balloon or to protect your own fort from damage – you’ll also be tasked to gather materials along the way. Taking your trusty pickaxe to the world, it’s time to tear everything down, striking at the walls, floors, doors, cars and almost everything that you lay eyes upon in order to gather stone, metal and wood resources. You can also loot chests and search things like cash registers, trash cans, and vending machines to pick up more fiddly crafting materials to make items such as ammunition, weapons and traps.
With your stone, metal, and wood it’s time to get stuck in with the building of, er, buildings, which is really what Fortnite is all about. The game gives you a range of set tiles to put down (e.g staircase and wall tiles), made up of the three materials and you’re able to build them how you want.
Turning walls into low ledges or building a staircase to the heavens is refreshingly intuitive whether you’re using a keyboard and mouse or a controller. Epic Games had already revealed that Fortnite is different to Minecraft because it won’t take your loot away as you hop from world to world, but it’s the ease of the crafting that makes me so enamored with Epic’s game. Fortnite is the accessible cousin to Minecraft‘s complex and confusing mechanics. With the way that building pieces snap together, it’s like LEGO brick building compared to managing an actual building site.
The fact that Fortnite makes building a doddle is vital because you and the players you’ll be working with will so often have to put together new structures in a pinch. Whether you’re defending your home base or defending those hapless NPCs, there will always be times where you feel overwhelmed by the zombie husks.
From the bone-throwing boneheads who deal a devilish amount of damage with each pitch to the frustratingly tough mist monsters who will most definitely catch you off-guard, there are plenty of different husks to defend against and to tailor your strategy around.
Taking these enemies down will generally require just shooting them a lot with the craftable melee and rifle weapons (which have different rarities), but it so often requires the use of those traps too. You can chip away at their health with wall darts, fling them halfway across the map with launch pads or fry them to delicious, crispy bits with a ceiling zapper, as Fortnite lets you equip your structures with all kinds of different traps.
Or, maybe you and your teammates will use your abilities to grenade them. The playable characters offer varying stats (depending on their rarity) across several different classes. It allows you to play the way you want, whether that means tanking your way through the toughest enemies or calling in a missile strike when your base is being overwhelmed. Sometimes you need more than your bog-standard arsenal of weapons.
Undoubtedly, Fortnite is best enjoyed with friends and the fact that it includes cross-platform play between PC and consoles is a massive plus. But if your friends have yet to buy the game or are holding our until Fortnite‘s free to play launch next year then I’m happy to confirm that you can still get by playing the game with matchmade strangers. You’ll still find fun shredding husks to bits and silently coordinating your builds – I’ve yet to come across any abusive players, but that’s especially useful if you’re concerned about that sort of thing.
Fortnite can pretty much be enjoyed solo and this deals with one of my concerns about the game; another concern is about how much fun you could wring out of it. The loot system is relatively deep and there is a ridiculous amount of things to collect and skills to unlock, but it sometimes seems unnecessarily so, as though Epic Games has included it just for the sake of making life difficult.
The complexity is necessarily a hurdle to enjoying the game. Figuring out how to transform items in your inventory, for example, doesn’t take away the enjoyment in Fortnite the same way that Minecraft’s complexity prevents me from fully enjoying that game. But if you’re spending a lot of time in the Epic Games title, then this is a key area for improvement.
In comparison to the significance of the loot system, it sometimes feels that there is a small amount of mission-types and objectives to complete. Initially, my other concern with Fortnite was whether it had longevity and whether its gameplay would grate.
While I’m not saying that tedium won’t set in if you play it to exorbitant levels, this issue has largely been addressed since launch (I’ve been playing Fortnite since then). Epic Games continues to release new content for the main game, including new weapons and heroes (its characters are already diverse, including male and female characters of different ethnicities and body types), objectives and entirely new game modes.
As I write this, Epic is announcing a Fortnite Halloween event called Fortnitemares. On top of this, there’s also also the free to play spin-off, Fortnite Battle Royale which switches the main game’s PvE (player versus environment) hijinks for competitive PvP (player versus player) fun.
It remains to be seen whether Epic can keep up the current pace of Fortnite updates, continuing to give players new reasons to stay engaged in its world and not be swayed by Destiny 2, Grand Theft Auto Online and all of the other games that promise multiplayer antics.
But right now, in early access, Fortnite gives you plenty of reasons to spend all your free time in it. It’s a solid, entertaining foundation but Epic Games can build its new game into something great.
Fortnite is now available on Windows PC, Mac, PS4, and Xbox One.
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