Fortnite

Developed by Epic Games and People Can Fly, FORTnITE is a combination of Gears of War’s Horde mode, Bulletstorm’s crass humor, a cartoonish style, and some minecraft item-crafting thrown in for good measure.

The game has a pretty simple rotation: Collect resources, build defenses and weapons, and fend off hordes of simple zombified creatures known as husks. After each match, head back to base and invest in skills, RPG attributes, and improve the quality of weapons, traps, and characters you can bring into the next fight. Some match types have some non-standard objectives to them, like finding survivors, or focusing on building specified structures within a time limit, but the collection, crafting, and third-person combat elements all find their ways into every match.

The background for FORTnITE is simple: some under-elaborated event happened, and 98% of the population became husks. Luckily, you are the 2%, and it’s your job to get rid of the husks and bring back everyone kill some husks while finding the remaining 2%, with the assistance of robotic companion RaY, and the occasional survivor who lends a line of dialogue or two.

FORTnITE is in Early Access, and is set to become Free-To-Play at some undisclosed later date, but as per the Rules of Gaming, since there’s no way to play the game without paying right now, it’s subject to criticism like a full-fledged release.

Combat. This is the biggest part of a third-person shooter, and- thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster- Epic Games didn’t mess it up. Controls are smooth, shooting is responsive, and while there’s no cover system, the Gears of War-caliber quality still shines where it counts.

Fort-building. Another big feature of Fortnite. While I’ve heard differing levels of satisfaction on building- as there is a learning curve- I’ve found the controls to be sufficient enough with a basic Dualshock 4 controller to not be in-the-way. There are some interesting designs one can make, and the varying terrain means that there’s never a “one size fits all” defense applicable to every challenge.

Customization options. Heroes, guns, traps, fort designs, etcetera. There’s a good amount of variance in the game, especially in the earlier stages when everything is low-level enough to test out. For min-maxers, there’s a lot of options to test, and with how things constantly upgrade and advance, finding that best formula is nigh impossible, and that’s a good thing: there’s no one path to success, there’s many.

Dialogue. While not on the level of Ratchet and Clank or a comedy show, quips and one-liners raise a few chuckles, and keep the game that much more entertaining

Visuals. Instead of a gritty world with scarred dudes wearing eight layers of scratchy battle armor in a desolate wasteland, the environment and the characters look fresh out of a Saturday morning cartoon. While this can be seen as a “neutral”, I think it helps the player identify targets in the map much better than a realistic tone would have.

T H I C C-ness- er, I mean, the diverse set of character designs. Characters hail from virtually every race/gender/body-type imaginable. This means that if I want to play as a wide-hipped latino lady, I can- and I do. And being a third-person game, I can enjoy the view the whole time.

Current pay model. The game costs forty dollars, with up to 110$ in version upgrades. Even with the $150 version, not everything is unlocked. The rest of the goods are gained via multiple RNG systems, most notably the game’s version of loot boxes, llamas. And llamas don’t just contain cosmetic items or small fluffy upgrades; they contain GUNS, CHARACTERS, and TRAPS. Randomization can screw low/unpaying players over with bad rolls or just giving them constant duplicates. It only gets worse as time goes on, and the resources required to invest in new things are trickled thin. I’ve recycled some items without ever getting to see them in a fight because I was too high level for them, and bringing them up would’ve costed me too many resources. This cuts right into customization options, and that’s a huge no-no.

Menus. While they’ve been improving, the menus are still slow, laggy, and heavily complicated. There’s about eleven tabs in the game, and some have up to 6 sub-categories, or a skill tree that spans multiple screens, with no accelerated navigation. Playing the game in thirty minute intervals, but spending another half-hour configuring rewards is trying.

Non-existent plot. Enjoy the dialogue, because that’s all the story there is. Two cutscenes at the beginning, and then it’s just a linear set of challenges with small lines describing the next event. There’s probably some lore on some random wiki page, but that doesn’t count in the game’s favor, much like Destiny 1’s card system.

Progression. The game starts fast and slows down like walking through quicksand. The rewards never keep pace with the necessary pieces, and there are times where the game essentially gives you a wall to look at while grinding some lower-level missions.

Low mission diversity. Some missions may have some variance to them, but at the end of the day, Fortnite is a multi-faceted game that asks the player to be multi-faceted every time. This is a minor pick, but it can be very prevalent, depending on how much you play.

Soundtrack. There is none. Think elevator music but with less intensity. Yes. Less.

Skill Tree design. One of the least navigable screens in the game, and it’s essential to progress. Many of the skills are fluffery, padding the useful and necessary skills between them, and there’s not really a good way to make your way about the down-syndrome-concocted web.

High need, low incentive for co-op. A lot of matches really need at least two to three players, but matchmaking is weirdly nonexistent for them outside of direct friends list invites. On the flip side, some missions have parts that can be completed without the full help of a team, and so many people choose to join the match, and contribute zero value. Both of these situations are too prevalent to overlook.

Material collection. Building is fun, but if you factor in the 50% of the game where you’re foraging for materials, it’s less so. Collection is slow, and in some cases, randomized. And despite an inventory pouch, it’s never really sufficient to hold all of the items that are necessary to build a proper defense.

Deconstruction. Building a wall takes two seconds. Upgrading it takes two more seconds. Destroying that upgraded wall takes three minutes. Each. Now, multiply that by a fort made of 50 walls. Spending an hour destroying something due to some constraints is abyssmal.

Purple Haze. The visuals are great until they’re washed out by the Purple Haze of “the storm”. The whole damn screen is tinted purple for long periods of time, and to make it worse, they’re typically the most combat-intense sections.

Structure missions similar to the side quests or talent tree. The linearity of the missions messes with the feeling of progression. More or less, it stunts it. It’d be nice to see the game cut into portions where it’s essentially RaY listing off things needed for the next Storm Shield expansion, like X number of husk data, X number of Radar Grids built, X number of BluGlo siphons defended, etcetera, and once you have everything done, expand the shield and do a big Storm Shield Defense. Then, get a new set of tasks to be completed in any order. And the missions go on…

Create more dynamic missions. It’d be nice to see missions that actually cater to one class or playstyle. Maybe a mission where husks come at you constantly, but you lack guns, so you just have to run around building traps and labyrinths (catering to constructors more). Or one where you have to keep a rescue signal burning, so you have to collect materials to constantly burn for a period of time (catering to Outlanders).  Missions with random restrictions and bonuses. It would also be nice to see heavier differences between the classes. While they’re different when they’re maxed out, at low levels, they all play virtually the same.

Add a handful of cutscenes elaborating on… anything. Character backstories. Progress of The Storm. Events happening at the base. Anything really. At least pretend that the game has a fully developed single-player campaign.

Revamp the pay model. If $150 doesn’t buy you everything, it’s not a game, it’s a gambling simulator using real money. At $60, everything in the game should be deterministically available, and llamas should only add RNG treats, cosmetic additions, or speed boosts to accelerate through the game. As it stands, paying 250% the price of a AAA game doesn’t afford you 50% of Fortnite’s. And that’s really fucking sad.

Continue bug fixes and errors. Epic is already doing this. They need to keep at it.

Allow character visuals/skillsets to cross. I like PowerBASE Knox’s abilities. I like Harper’s appearance. Let players combine the two, because there are some characters who would be so great, if they didn’t look so stupid (*cough*VanguardSouthie*cough*). On that note…

Balance characters. In the late game, melee-oriented characters are a joke, and abilities can’t out-dps a good gun with bonuses. Soldiers take the spotlight while Ninjas and Outlanders cry in a corner, and Constructors grumble angrily as they spend a ton of time and effort moving their chunky asses around to tank shots and fire back. And even within classes, some are way worse than others, like Hotfixer Hazard- that guy was put in as a joke, right?

Tier match payouts based on contribution. On “Repair the Radar Grid”, if I build all five grids, the jackass who just ran circles around the map to not get kicked for being idle shouldn’t get the same prizes I did. And vice versa. Also, same thing goes for losses. If I used thirty traps, 2000 materials, and 800 bullets only to lose a 30-minute fight, I don’t want to come out to a “prize” of 1 Hero XP. That’s a fucking insult.

Add a soundtrack. Light rock when the fights start. Generic brass music when characters are building. Airy woodwind while exploring. Gentle fades between them when the current situation switches. Feel free to use public domain music, but just do something other than the non-existent sound that is the current BGM.

Overall, this is where the game sits. Gameplay is good, but with the poor progression system, it’s a comfortable treadmill with a credit card reader. I’m not sure I can recommend the game to anyone trying to have a fun fort-defense experience, as long as they’re willing to cut a game at the thirty-or-so hour mark with no resolution. Also, they just recently added a PUBG Battle Royal Mode, which may invite some console players who have no other options.

Personally, I’ve already ‘bought in’. I’ve payed the entry fee, and I’m also a big fan of the game’s visuals, both for artistic and perverted reasons, probably moreso than the average player. With this in mind, I’m sure I see the game in a higher light than most will, and that’s fine with me.

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