GAME REVIEW: Early Impressions of Fortnite’s Early Access

It’s a game that I first became aware of around 2012 and one that intrigued me even then. Developed by Gears of War’s Epic Games, Fortnite is a third-person horde-mode survival game with fort building and a whole host of collectibles and purchasable items thrown in. The game is currently in Early Access (purchasable for £35 or more if you want extra gubbins). Next year, the game will be free to play (with – not-so – micro-transactions available to help ease players along. I bought a copy. Here are my early impressions of this early access game …

  • Platforms: XBOX One, PlayStation 4, PC
  • Developer: People Can Fly
  • Publisher: Epic Games Ltd.
  • Platform Reviewed: XBOX One

DON’T TAKE SHELTER. MAKE IT.

The Storm came without warning. 98% of the world’s population vanished … then came the monsters. Lead the world’s remaining Heroes in the fight to hold back the Storm. Explore the large, destructible world where no two games are ever the same. Build huge forts, craft exotic weapons, find loot and level up your Heroes. Take on the Storm with four player online co-op. Welcome to Epic Games’ new Action Building game, Fortnite.

I mentioned that I bought the game. What I didn’t say is that I paid for the £120 Super Deluxe edition which comes with two extra copies of the game (one for my Wife (capital W intentional) and one for Barry Nugent – the Director of Geek Syndicate. It also came with a fair old number of in-game items, people and XP boosts to really help me hit the ground running. But yes. I paid £120 for a game that will soon be free-to-play. And I am considering paying another £80 to get more stuff and things (including two more copies of the game for others).

I guess that this probably gives you the impression that I enjoy Fortnite. That impression would be correct. I’ve not played any of the many “survival builder” games that are flooding the market, but I’ve watched some videos of Conan Exiles, heard about the other games and can tell you straight off the bat that Fortnite is actually a great little introduction to the genre and has increased my interest in some of the other titles on the market.

Fortnite Spike Trap

Husks Advance … into a well placed Spike Trap

The format of the game is as follows: there’s a “home base” menu screen which players use to manage the various items they can acquire – more on this later. From here, players delve into missions. There are a number of different mission types in different map biomes – City, Suburban, grasslands and forest for example. Each biome offers different types of resource to locate and each mission takes place in a procedurally generated map, meaning no two sessions will be exactly the same. Players also have persistent “storm shields” that they must build and maintain throughout the game.

Fortnite’s building system is at first glance somewhat limited. There are three materials to build from (wood, stone and metal) plus a range of minor components that can be found in the game and four basic constructs – floors, walls, stairs and slopes. From these though, several variations can be constructed. Walls for example, consist of nine sections. Removing one square from the middle tier will add a window. Removing one from the middle row and one immediately below it adds a door. Low walls can be built, as can arch-ways. In the same way, stairways can be wide, narrow, bend to the side or double back on themselves. While the game hints at this in the tutorial levels, it’s only really through experimentation (and the building side quests in mission zones) that the possibilities become fully apparent. Once constructed, basic structures can also be upgraded to increase their durability – if the player has purchased the appropriate skill on the game’s skill-tree.

Fortnite Learning Build Patterns

Learning Build Patterns

In Fortnite, players don’t just need to worry about building a stronghold. Traps, ammunition and a wide range of weapons can be constructed once an appropriate schematic has been acquired. Each of these items has a durability which needs to be monitored – if a weapon is “recycled” before it breaks, then a few resources are gained. If it breaks … well, you’re left with nothing.

Different schematics offer different bonuses when upgraded. An assault rifle schematic, for example, might have a reduction to recoil when upgraded while another schematic for the same rifle may have additional damage or higher durability. This adds a level of player-preference and prioritisation to inventory management as players can only hold a certain number of schematics, heroes and other survivors in their home-base (the menu screen).

As might be expected from the publishers of Gears of War, the combat in Fortnite is implemented well and is never dull. Players can pick from four general classes of heroes, each of which has several sub-classes which determines the bonuses and abilities that hero has. There’s a good mix of individuals here and each class has a range of male and female characters and an assortment of skin tones as well, which is refreshing to me, who is used to there being one or maybe two options for a character in each class in action game multiplayer modes.

Fortnite Husks Attack

A Horde of Husks to Slaughter!

I’ve seen people complain that the first of four game zones can feel quite repetitive but in my opinion, ALL games become repetitive since they are built around a set of core mechanics but if they are implemented well don’t feel cumbersome or flawed then all is good. Fortnite keeps me coming back. I’ve played about twenty-five hours or so now, and I’m about four-fifths through the “repetitive” first zone. I am having a blast. Being a co-op game, I even enjoy jumping into other people’s levels to help out and I have not had a bad experience yet.

Where Fortnite stumbles a little is in the “home base” between missions. This menu screen controls the meta-game, allowing players to switch out their heroes, manage schematics, progress through the skill tree and more. When opening Llamas, players will receive new items which appear in one of the sections of the home-base. Going into each section allows the player to browse them by rank, or in the case of heroes by class and for schematics by type. Unfortunately, “ranged” is one type, meaning sniper rifles, assault rifles, handguns, rocket launchers and so on all appear in one list, making finding the right schematic something of a pain when one is pressed for time in the middle of a battle.

Fortnite Home Base

The Home Base – Where Fortnite can get Confusing.

The game also includes a “collection book” which players can fill to gain more rewards – indeed it’s a powerful way to progress as skill points, v-bucks and experience are all rewards from adding enough items to a collection. The trouble is that the only way to add an item to the collection is to go to the collection screen then browse to the correct category and then select the item to slot. This gives collection xp and removes the item from the player’s inventory. However, remembering which items are duplicated is a pain – it would make far more sense to have an “Add to collection” option when selecting items in the other screens of the home-base, if the option is available.

A clunky meta-game aside, Fortnite is a game that keeps pulling me back. Gathering resources before defending an objective or rescuing survivors doesn’t ever seem to become a chore and the inclusion of persistent bases to construct gives a sense of progress that would otherwise be lacking. Fortnite isn’t perfect but offers a good variety of missions in locations that are never the same twice. This variety in a game that could easily become repetitive keeps me coming back to slaughter those husks.

When the game goes free-to-play in 2018, I would definitely recommend picking it up. Heck, I recommend paying for an edition and getting involved now. Quickly. There’s a storm coming…

Rating: 4 / 5
Reviewer: WedgeDoc

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