Six years sure is a long time to pass by and the game still be in “Early Access” but finally we can say that Fornite is here! Epic Games and People Can Fly have teamed up to bring us their latest co-op online survival-crafting sandbox game. Upon looking back at the 2011 trailer, it almost looks like the same aesthetic today, so what happened with the project during the six year gap? What could six years of development limbo bring to the table when its all said and done? We will try to answer these questions and more in our review.
In Fortnite you are tasked as the lone commander over a “storm shield” as the game calls it (and eventually many others), and its the only thing holding the line between civilization and mass chaos. The story basically boils down to humanity having been killed off or transformed into monsters by this mysterious purple storm. You can take control of different hero characters with different stats and abilities and build a base to hold off these creatures. Fortnite refers to these creatures as “husks” and there is a surprising amount of variety. Some husks are beefier in size and may be wielding explosives that you need to take out before they explode on your base. Others may have ranged attacks or may be beefier in size with flight mechanics or juggernaut type health pools.
The meat of Fortnite comes not just in the baddies but in the base building too. You will scavenge 3 main resources around the in-game levels (or various crates) and use those resources to protect key objective points (other weapon/ammo crafting resources can be found too by scavenging). The main materials include wood, stone/brick, and metal. Each material progressively has a higher health pool and it goes upward in the order stated previously. Depending if you have the skill tree unlocked you can upgrade the wall, ceiling, floor, (or what have you) to further fortify its health pool and resilience. Another bonus is the addition of traps such as shock traps, wall darts, enemy catapults, floor spikes, and all sorts of goodies that help defending your fort feel more exciting as well as a breeze.
PICK A HERO
Fortnite is expansive in the sense that you have various skill trees you can pour tokens into that accumulate over time (research points) or others that you get for completing main quest-line missions. You start the game as a female soldier and it will be that way until you get more heroes in the llama loot packs (whether it be mission reward mini-llamas or using various in-game currency or real world money to open premium packs and get the decent heroes that you will DEFINITELY require later). There are several hero types like builder, medic, soldier, support, and others. When you unlock the skill tree branch, you can add support heroes or defenders to your “current mission” squad that beef up your hero’s stats. Heroes can be upgraded and you can unlock different abilities that will mix up the game and help you at higher difficulties (and skill tree unlocks will also increase the stats of your overall efficiency when playing in-mission).
PICK A WEAPON
If you are looking for more depth, then you’d be happy to hear that Fortnite comes with a lot of items to craft and a lot of things to micromanage. It could be a dream to some but a nightmare to others (which will further be explained as well). Weapons are gained by looting on a mission, finding in a hidden level crate, reward crate, or loot crate. If the weapons are found in crates, they are usually schematics and depending if you have the resources to craft it, you can create the weapon to later upgrade if you wish. Weapons are not permanent whether they be melee or gun oriented (sniper, revolver, shotgun, plasma rifle, rpg, etc), and ammo is also a precious commodity that needs to be scavenged or crafted.
EXPAND YOUR BASE
The meat and potatoes of Fortnite’s game modes has to be to no small part given to the home base building sections. As you start the game you are given a home base with a storm shield you must to protect and work towards expanding. This seems to really be the main goal of the game. You can clear out the land of debris, rocks, and trees and use them to build your own unique and permanent fort that you can customize to your hearts content (as well as using the resources gathered from missions to expand your base too). Create the best looking base you can and invite your friends and even strangers to help defend it as well as show off your handiwork to!
GO ON A MISSION
The world map is expansive and filled with various missions in different locales of the map. If you wish to revisit a mission, the main objective’s location is usually randomized, so there is definitely a degree of replay-ability in that aspect. It’s not 100% foolproof in its current form though. The missions you are sent on in most of the game is just a variation of 2 different scenarios (discounting the home base expansion sequences which feel separate and apart from the more “scavenger type” missions). While you have mini-objectives to complete depending on where you are on the major story quest-line, the overall missions you have to replay over and over and over again feel somewhat shallow.
THE GLARING ISSUES
The voice acting for your robot pal Ray is very well done (as for most NPC) and the dialogue outside of the missions are fun and interesting. However, there are some stunning issues. When playing the “protect Lar’s van” type mission, the ending dialogue repeats exactly the same, each, and, every, time. Its not annoying at first but after the 50th time you’ve protected Lar’s van and he shoots off into the sky, you really do wish that someone would actually either “…airbrush that on velvet” or pull a shotgun round into the annoying one-liner robot. Sure, its a crude illustration but maybe there is a real solution to this by having various random dialogue cues or otherwise (rest in peace play-testers).
Secondly, the user interface and menus are terrible to navigate. This was clearly designed only with PC/Mac interaction in mind and very much a headache for the first hours you will be working with them and even then you might not get used to it (the Xbox One version was used for this review if that helps give perspective). This along with some items being finicky to pick up (no visual cue/cue disappearing while on object) will reflect in the “visual” component of the review score. Another thing to mention is that its possible to get lost when the game tells you to add gadgets to a hero (which you have to unlock via skill tree progression) but fails to explain how. Fortunately the Fortnite community (not the actual game) was quick to answer our question on how to do this along with others who seemed to have this exact question. There were other moments too that left heads scratching, so the game could certainly use a little more player enlightenment or streamlining.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
If you are looking for a good time waster to play with friends (which ups the experience by A LOT and takes away likewise without them) then Fornite is a good choice. There is a decent amount of content that expands the game and to be fair would keep you busy if you are of the “completionist” sort. A full retail game it is not however. The future direction of the game beyond pay-walling the player is relatively unknown. All things considered, Fortnite should have been Free-To-Play from day one even despite it having its fairly fun and enjoyable merits.
Fornite has a lot of menus and sub-menus, progression trees, skill trees, and a lot of things that truly feel like a Free-To-Play. It was clearly designed to be that way and in 2018, Fornite will actually be “Free-To-Play”. This begs the question as to why they want to try and have it both ways. Currently the base price is $59.99 MSRP (can go up to $149.99 with various bonuses) and we even have boxed copies on the shelf. That is NOT free to play but yet the game economy, grinding system, loot crates, and all things encompassing it is so well rooted in that formula.
When you charge standard MSRP price for a game that was built on the “mobilized” Free-To-Play ideals, it only makes the game a Pay-To-Play-To-Pay-To-Win if you catch the ideology. On the surface, there is a lot of conceivable depth to Fornite but the current amount of repetitiveness of the game really starts to sink in after 10-20 hours when dealing with the game. To be fair, that is a good return on what some games would only give you 4 hours for (like Kane and Lynch 2). On the other hand, it does feel like a kick in the teeth to sell a boxed “Early Access” game that someone can get for absolutely nothing later (and planned that way from release). Sure, you don’t HAVE to buy into it now and all things considered that might be the right thing to do.