Fortnite is finally here and I’ve spent a good portion of my time since Friday playing and figuring out the nuances of the title, both solo and in co-op. As the game is quite deep and still in early access, I’ll have a full review coming in the future. For now, I wanted to share some impressions for those who were curious about the game and what it offers.
To start, Fortnite is a blend of several genres and thus offers a gameplay loop that is rather unique. It mixes aspects of survival co-op, tower defense, looting, and building games with characters, weapons, and squads that you also build and upgrade. Got all that? It’s rather daunting to start and there is absolutely a learning curve to the game early on. Once you begin to get a handle on the systems at play though, the game becomes extremely enjoyable.
The largest detractor at this point in my opinion is the lack of concrete information on exactly how everything works. There is an extensive amount of customization that occurs from the main menu yet very little instruction on how it all works or why it’s important. I feel as though short training videos should be presented upon unlocking further capabilities and those videos should be accessible at any time. Right now a lot of information is being shared online by players who were in the Alpha or have figured it along the way which of course shouldn’t be the way to understand game mechanics.
Once you do begin to understand the depth to which you can customize your own gameplay, and the support of teammates, the game begins to shine. There’s an extensive amount of customization available depending on how you prefer to play and the ability to level heroes, schematics, and your support characters is a lot of fun. You earn XP for each that you can spend how you see fit which is an excellent design decision as well. So you can continue to play as your favorite hero while earning XP that you can then spend to level other heroes. This account wide approach allows you the freedom to prioritize any way you’d like which again, adds depth and longevity especially when coordinating with teammates and/or friends. For those that appreciate min/maxing, you won’t find depth to the level of an ARPG here, but there is quite a bit of squad and character development that you can spend your time with and even early on, I’ve enjoyed playing around with my squad to see how it can best serve my play style.
As you play and earn XP you’ll also work your way through two skill trees. The first is a traditional skill tree in that you gain XP, level up to receive a skill point, and then use that point on the tree. This tree unlocks additional storage, stat bonuses, gadgets, attributes, the ability to further level your heroes, and more. The second tree, labeled the Resource Tier, uses resources that you gain simply by spending time in the game. This is a simpler tree and focuses mostly on stat bonuses for you and your squad. Both of these trees have four levels and it’s clear it will take some time for players to unlock everything which of course, is by design. So far I like the design of the trees, but on console navigation is cumbersome as you have to scroll node by node through them. Simply adding a cursor would make it much more efficient in my opinion.
The gameplay itself is where I feel Epic is really onto something special with Fortnite so let’s start with the gunplay. Running and gunning, which you will do a lot of, is quite simply a blast. Everything feels very fluid, using the various weapons is gratifying, and the variety at your disposal is impressive to say the least. There are a load of different weapon types and variations on those weapon types thus allowing anyone to find something they enjoy playing with. As an example, just in assault rifles alone there are 8 variations of the style of assault rifle, with 5 rarity levels, which are created with randomized stats and attributes. And the schematics for the weapons, and the weapons themselves, can be leveled up as well. Factor that across all of the weapon types and you begin to understand just how many variations you can find and how fun it can be to experiment. This applies to melee weapons as well where you will find swords, machetes, axes, scythes, bats, golf clubs, etc…… In short, you won’t be lacking for weaponry. Weapons do however break over time, but while I was concerned about this aspect going into Fortnite, I am less concerned now. With the ability to craft weapons at any time, and the sheer amount of weaponry in the game, you’re never left searching. And if you find a weapon you truly love, then you can simply build that weapon as often as you want.
Onto the building, another large aspect of the title. Building in Fortnite can be cumbersome initially but the more you play with it, the more you understand some of the design decisions that were made. As this game is still essentially in a form of early access, it should go without saying that there are absolutely some QOL improvements that could be made. But overall, it functions well especially when you consider the need to move in and out of crafting quickly without obstruction to entering combat. It’s challenging to discuss a crafting and building game without mentioning Minecraft nowadays but Fortnite manages to offer a lot of the functionality of Minecraft while doing so in a uniquely stylized, human world. And in that vein, is succeeds pretty thoroughly. I’ve already spent a number of hours just scouring the world, finding secrets, and destroying/building as I see fit. Think there may be something on top of that tower? Quickly build a staircase to the top of it and then destroy the wall to get inside. The inherent freedom in that gameplay design is liberating and further encourages exploration. My favorite part however, is preparing to defend a structure against waves of Husks. I’m enjoying it immensely and working with my friends to figure out the best way to funnel enemies towards our death traps, when it all works to plan, can be very amusing. And frankly, when it all fails and all hell breaks loose, it can be even more amusing.
The mission structure right now is rather basic and while there is a story at play, it’s nothing terribly intriguing. Missions are mostly comprised of going to a new area and either finding, defending, or destroying something – none of which are hugely engrossing. That said, story isn’t truly the focus here and with the gameplay and building being so much fun, I haven’t focused too much on it. There are side quests and challenges which do expand upon the variety slightly as well. And one of the features that isn’t talked about too often, but that I appreciate greatly, is the levels being procedurally generated. So going back and playing a prior mission to farm materials or loot is not only possible, but the level layout is different each time. This is one of my favorite aspects of the game and feeds my hunting and looting tendencies heavily.
At this point in time, I’m enjoying Fortnite immensely. It’s a very fun game for anyone, and if you have a group to play with, it’s even better. But more than that, it’s refreshing. It has blended several genres together into a single package that scratches multiple itches at once. Whether you enjoy building, shooting, looting, or tower defense, there’s something for you. While still in early access, it offers a compelling package right now and with presumably many more features and adjustments to come, it’s only going to get better.
I’ll be back with a full review in the future but stay tuned for more coverage and check out our Fortnite live stream on Tuesday evenings starting at 10pm EST / 7pm PST on Mixer: mixer.com/Porshapwr