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Mixed Feelings on Battle Royale

By Michael Bitton on September 14, 2017 | Editorials | Comments

Mixed Feelings on Battle Royale

Fortnite is one of those games where you can clearly see its potential for greatness, but for reasons we’ll likely never know, it hasn’t been able to really find its footing in development. The core gameplay is really fun, but the game struggles from identity issues, resulting in a muddled overall experience. Unfortunately, the latest announcement from Epic Games truly crystalizes that lack of focus.

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Hot on the heels of the critical mass achieved by PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Epic Games recently announced that Fortnite would feature the studio’s own take on the nascent “battle royale” genre of shooter. Keep in mind, Fortnite has plenty of issues to grapple with on the PvE side of things and just went into Early Access over the summer. From what I understand, the Unreal Tournament team at Epic pitched in to put this all together for Fortnite, but I’m feeling conflicted about it nonetheless. Battle Royal coming to Fortnite is both simultaneously exciting and depressing.

The announcement is depressing for the reasons I outlined in my opening. Fortnite has tons of potential. The art style is charming, the gameplay is fun, and confused as the game may be, it still offers a fairly unique take in the sandbox survival space. So, what’s the problem then? If the battle royale mode catches on, maybe Epic won’t feel the need to charge hard at trying to crack this nut and get PvE Fortnite to reach its potential. And who could blame them? Games are a business after all, and business has been pretty good for this particular subgenre of shooter. There are a couple of things that work for the game right now, particularly the contrast the game offers against other battle royale games in the space with its cartoony art style. I feel that if Epic can properly polish up the experience, it may end up being a viable alternative so much so that the studio puts the PvE side of things on the backburner. Given the game’s troubles, I feel there’s a really good chance that’s how this will all play out.

Now, why am I excited? Well, truth be told I’m not a fan of the battle royale genre, but after I rolled my eyes at the initial announcement, I realized that Fortnite genuinely offers something different from games like PUBG. As we noted, there is the art style, but it goes beyond that. The building and trapping aspects from the PvE side come into play in the battle royale mode as well, and that represents a legitimate and potentially compelling wrinkle on the formula if Epic can smooth things out.

I say smooth things out because things are still super early for the mode. It’s playable right now on PC, but it’s fairly barebones. While I love the gunplay on the PvE side of things, I feel it struggles right now when it comes to PvP. I haven’t spent a huge amount of time with Battle Royale just yet, but so far the guns feel spready. This is the sort of thing that can be addressed, of course. But there may be other issues that ultimately hold this one back just as we’ve seen on the PvE side of things. We’ll have to see how it goes.

One thing I do find curious about Battle Royale, and this extends to some of the issues on the PvE side as well, is why the heck are character models randomized? When considering the issue of microtransactions being tied into progression on the PvE side, it always confounded me as to why Epic Games would subject itself to that self-inflicted wound. You have a friggin’ cartoony aesthetic. The customization possibilities are endless! Why not monetize that instead? Pretty much anything crazy you can think of would fit into Fortnite, so you’d think this is how Epic would focus its microtransactions. Maybe Epic plans to offer paid customizations like PUBG does for both PvE and PvP, but right now you’re a random character model from the existing pool of heroes every time you jump in and that’s pretty lame.

Aside from these niggling issues and some concerns about how this could all end up impacting Fortnite’s PvE development, I’m fairly encouraged by how things are playing this early on with Battle Royale. The mode maintains the charm of the original game and the map seems fine so far. Again, I’m not a fan of battle royale overall, but if you are, you should definitely keep an eye on what Epic is doing here. It may end up being what you need if you ever feel you need a change of pace from PUBG’s more straightforward approach.

Have you played around with Battle Royale yet? What are your thoughts so far?

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager.

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