Review of Fortnite (PS4 and PC)

John Byers, February 15, 2018

This is my review of Fortnite - Battle Royale, the battle-royale style game taking the world by storm. I don't know for sure yet whether the game is out of early-access, but it is definitely polished enough that it can be reviewed. Fortnite Battle-Royale is not the full game, it is actually a side mode of the main game Fortnite. This review is about the free Battle-Royale mode only. For the rest of the review, Fortnite refers to the Battle-Royale mode.

In Fortnite, and other Battle-Royale-style games, you parachute onto an island with 99 other players. Once you land you must find weapons and other gear to survive. The island is huge, but quickly begins shrinking as a storm starts to envelop the island. You must avoid the storm to survive. As the game goes on, the storm grows larger, forcing the remaining players to move closer and closer together. The last person (or team) alive wins. It is very much like a hunger games scenario. However, I have way more fun playing as a team. You can play with teams up to four people. Mics aren't technically required, but they make the game much more enjoyable also. The Fortnite website says there is no cross-play between systems, but this isn't true, as I can play on the PC with my brother on the PS4, which is awesome.

The whole concept of a battle-royale game is awesome. I first heard about it about a year ago when someone told me about Player Unknown's Battlegrounds. It sounded like such an ambitious game-type that I thought it must be a big joke, there's no way somebody could make a game that awesome. To my amazement, it is very real! I started playing Player Unknown's Battlegrounds before I heard about Fortnite, and while Player Unknown's deserves a review of its own, I will be comparing it to Fortnite. Fortnite has a few unique aspects for a battle-royale game. The graphics are good-but very cartoony. They kind of give me a Zelda: Breath of the Wild vibe, but mixed with a 90's animated cartoon. Fortnite is also 3rd person perspective only. I don't like this as much as first-person, but I can understand why, because the most unique thing about Fortnite is the ability to build stuff.

In Player Unknown, you really do drop onto an island with nothing. No weapons, ammo, some people don't even have clothes or shoes. In Fortnite everyone starts with a giant pickaxe. (And clothes). You can use the pickaxe as a weapon, but it is surprisingly terrible considering it is huge and can blast through brick and steel walls in just seconds. Mostly, you use the pickaxe to break down walls, cut down trees, and smash rocks to gather supplies. Then you can build your own stuff. This is a pro and a con of Fortnite. It can be fun building bridges across mountains, barricades to hide behind, and giant stairways into the sky. But it is also extremely frustrating when you are shooting at someone who immediately builds a fort in less than 10 seconds. The game is not trying to be realistic, but when your opponents can build elaborate forts instinctually when they hear gunfire, it takes some of the fun away. Of course, in theory I could build awesome forts too, but I am not good enough to do that. Overall, the building and crafting has grown on me, I just wish it wasn't used to shield from bullets.

Fortnite's art style is very cool. There is only one level, a huge, grassy island, scattered with villages and interesting landmarks. Some of my favorite places are:

Basically, I like landing anywhere that isn't too crowded. The first couple minutes in each game are really intense, with lots of people landing in the best spots, and fighting to get the best weapons. I like landing, catching my breath, and not fighting. But even if you die within the first couple minutes (which happens maybe 1/3 of the time in my case), there is always another game about to start.

Getting into a game is quick. Epic has done a great job with Fortnite, and the Epic Games launcher. It is not even close to as fancy as Steam, but the friends list and voice chat work great. I prefer Discord, but Epic Games has done a good job. I heard a theory that they made Fortnite free to get people using their software, so they can sell more games. We'll see if that happens. Anyway, like I was saying, it is really quick to jump into a game. Usually just a matter of seconds. Last week, there were 3.4 million people playing at the same time. That is a TON of people. Almost 1% of the US population, though I'm sure that was a worldwide number. Epic had a great blog post explaining the problems they have with such a popular game. It's a good read if you are a nerd. With so many people playing, and so many games going on, it is easy to lose track of time when playing the game. So you know its good.

One of the biggest cons of Fortnite compared to Player Unknown is that there are no vehicles in Fortnite. There are a lot of cool power ups, but vehicles would be very cool. Fortnite has a "Boogie-Bomb"--like a grenade, but instead of doing damage, causes anyone nearby to start dancing for a few seconds. You can't fight if you're dancing, so it is a good and funny weapon.

Overall, Fortnite is great. It is a fun, action-packed game to play with friends. It gets really intense when you realize you are one of the few people remaining alive, with the storm closing in around you. You can go in guns-blazing, play it stealthy, build a fort...there are so many fun ways to play. I HIGHLY recommend Fortnite, plus it is free, so you can't beat the price.