I’m writing this, instead of playing Fortnite, because the game is currently down for maintenance and taking longer than anticipated because they’ve had to scale up exponentially and broke themselves. That’s a good problem to have, I suppose – game’s doing really well in sales and had to come down to increase server load. But while I wait, here’s why I think the MMORPG.com crowd should give this one a look. Chris Coke will be reviewing the title’s Early Access release later, so consider this our first impressions.
Fortnite is an online shooting/base-building/tower defense RPG. In a lot of ways, it’s unlike pretty much anything you’ve played. A mish-mash of ideas that somehow work together to make a surprisingly addictive experience. The story is that earth was enveloped by massive purple fog, and 98% of the worlds population vanished or were turned into zombies. I know, “another zombie game?!” but this isn’t some bleak future simulator. Fortnite employs a colorful Pixar-esque style that immediately neuters the “horror” out of the zombies.
And I mean that in a good way. This is a game anyone can pick up and play, from kids to grown-ups, and everyone can contribute. There are guns and explosions, but the cartoon look makes it far more tolerable for all ages. There’s no real blood or gore, and the shooting mechanics are tight and responsive. I wish there was a way to actually use cover other than standing behind a low wall, but I’ll take it. As a third person shooter, Epic knows their stuff. Its gunplay is great, no bones about it.
The core cycle of each game is that you have to find something, build defenses around it, and protect it against increasingly difficult waves of mobs. You build and collect resources during the day, and defend at night. Some levels let YOU pick when the waves begin, like when you defend your homebase, and others are on day/night cycle forcing you to manage your time well. The game can be played alone, but it’s not always easy. It’s much more fun, besides, to play with friends or random folks. As a cooperative experience, Fortnite is a blast.
Your weapons and ammo must be crafted too, meaning you’d better find enough metal and bolts to craft your bullets before night hits. There is melee combat, and some awesome weapons for it, but not every class/character is meant to fight up close. That’s the beauty of Fortnite. There’s a huge cast of characters to collect, level up, and customize. Each is one of several classes, some better at gunplay, some better at stealth and melee, others great at building. All weapons break over time and use, so you’ll collect an army of schematics to craft new weapons, all following the gray/green/blue/purple rarity scheme.
If there’s one complaint I’d levy, it’s that you can’t repair weapons. You get some fancy stuff to start with in your founder’s pack (ours was provided by Epic’s PR), and those weapons break eventually. You can re-craft them, but the materials needed aren’t always easy to come by. I’d love if I could insure or spend resources to extend their life for a while.
I haven’t even spoken about the building phase. It’s not voxels, so don’t panic. Basically, you collect rocks, wood, and metals to build walls, floors, stairs, and traps. You can craft them in many different shapes and sizes to make anything from a basic square shack to protect your base, to a massive castle-like structure that would make Richard Garriott blush. The basic missions don’t have permanence, so when you win and move on, if you replay the same one you start from scratch. But your home base does, so everything you place in it one time, is there the next time you come back. As you play, you can make it bigger and badder, and it’ll need to be – some of the game’s most intense fights come in base defenses.
I’m still learning a lot about the game, and Chris will probably have more nuanced observations in his review, but I can’t deny it: Fortnite is just fun. How long it’ll stay that way, and how the game holds up after 100 hours of building and shooting remains to be seen. Let’s hope Epic has some plans to keep the content fresh and diverse over the long haul.