Fortnite Battle Royale Review: The Best Of Times
Written by Nick Petrou
Venturing into the periphery of game development myself, I now have little time and energy to spare. Moments glaring at my monitor must be worthwhile. I cannot, for my own health, play video games for five hours after working on the same screen for eight. Well, such was my attitude before Fortnite Battle Royale.
If you haven't seen the sun all year, like me, then you likely have heard of battle royale games. I know that Daybreak Game Company's H1Z1 may have been the first of the genre, but let us not elude that it was made popular by Bluehole Studio's PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds. For ReasonsUnkown, the hype never swayed me. I had a friend offer to purchase me PUBG as a gift, but still, I refused to worsen my carpal tunnel and give it a go. I cannot pinpoint the reasoning behind my lack of enthusiasm for it.
Then, through a grey and cynical cloud struck a potent beam of light. My eyes beheld a cartoon world of wacky physics and afternoon skies better than those in the waking world. I played Epic Games' Fortnite Battle Royale on my PC, and in the very first minute, I realised what this game had that the former did not. Fortnite does not try for photorealism. It is highly stylised, and if I have learnt anything from gaming, it's that games with a unique style age like a fine wine. It hooked me immediately.
But what kept me playing after that initial hook? And what will keep me coming back?
Popular For A Reason
There are reasons why the battle royale genre is so dominant (just have a look at Twitch). Primarily, I believe it's because it is outright fun. Although Fortnite Battle Royale is my icebreaker, I know eerie advances over open ground and sweaty firefights are a genre standard. Fortnite can be tense and overwhelming, but simultaneously hilarious. When I die (which is unhealthily often), I ponder immediately how I could have done better, but also how ridiculous my demise was. With each death, I find myself grinning madly.
The engagements themselves test your skill and wit both. You may be a gun with a mouse and keyboard, but if you have no game sense or cannot out-think your opponents, you may find yourself stuck. Technically, you can win without firing a bullet, so it is about picking your battles, and sometimes patience. I won't go into strategy too much here (because mine is a literal reliance on pure luck), but it is its necessity that separates the battle royale genre.
I think the accessibility attracts gamers to the genre too. There isn't really any cumulative character progression in Fortnite Battle Royale — outside of leaderboards, statistics, and the recently added cosmetic customisation — and I believe this adds to, rather than subtracts from the game. In an RPG, your character gains strength via statistics tied to a level system and acquires new armour and weapons and such. But in Fortnite, you go into each match with nothing and leave with nothing. It is a balanced fight for survival, not a grind, which means that you can hop in, play a game or two, enjoy the hell out of yourself, and then move on and finish that essay that's due tomorrow.
One Must First Destroy
The idea of in-game, essentially instantaneous, construction at first concerned me. I thought it would merely confuse and roughen the transition into a new genre and game. I have yet to master Fortnite's construction, but all of those initial concerns cease to exist. Construction makes this game. It is your superpower. Physics outrageously flawed, you can build a bridge over thin air, erect a staircase against the side of a mountain, close yourself off in a little box, or block your buddy's grenade lob and ruin your entire squad.
On the other side of the coin, is destruction. When finished mauling a downed opponent, you can use your pickaxe to mine wood, stone, and metal. These resources come in natural forms throughout the map such as trees and rocks, but also man-made sources such as abandoned homes and vehicles. You can pretty much destroy everything except for the ground on which you walk and the air you breathe.
No cover? Build it. Need a grenade launcher angle? Build it. The best players are the best builders.
Polished Good And Nice
When a game is in early access, you would be a fool to expect perfection. But call me a fool, because I think Fortnite Battle Royale comes scarily close. In the odd month that I've played, I have yet to experience any major lag or FPS issues. The game runs smooth and it looks fantastic. Take note, Rust.
And honestly, less is more with Fortnite; complication would serve only to deter from the aesthetic.
Although less may be more for Fortnite Battle Royale, that doesn't mean the game should allow itself to stagnate. Players are always going to want fresh content. There are a few ways Epic Games could provide exciting new features without compromising its lavish identity, some of which they have addressed already.
Character customisation became a thing during the writing of this article. So far, it is quite limited, but I can imagine it only to diversify. Cosmetics features such as this will always provide an effective reward system too. The existing map/island is nothing short of gorgeous. And although it isn't unmanageably large, it is expansive enough to disorient me and allude mystery. Imagine how epic it would be if we got another map. Icy tundra, barren wasteland, or whatever looney biome they can conjure, I am sure it would enthral. Even the existing map in a different season would be cool. Adding new weapons can't hurt either, as long as they are balanced correctly.
It is also great to see Fortnite Battle Royale on the PlayStation and Xbox stores. Previous to this game, there were no real battle royale options available to console gamers. It just goes to show that the developers are willing to adapt and allow their game to flourish.
I've Got Friends
Our parents and significant others may not agree, but gaming provides us with a convenient and powerful social medium. We can safely tiptoe the line dividing introvert and extrovert. We can stay home, alone, and hang out with our friends concurrently. And all the while, we can be entirely pantless, in the most metaphorical sense of the word.
In saying this, it has been way too long since my friends and I have fallen in love with a game. We want the obsession. We want phone calls at 3:00 am telling us to get on Discord. Fortnite Battle Royale brought all that in on a floating party bus, totally unexpected. In the lobby, we catch up on each other's lives, say kind words about each others' mothers, and chat about other games. Diving into the map, we offer loose strategies and freak out over a rival squad ransacking our precious Retail Row. Then we touch the rolling fields below, and its all compass shout-outs and flanking — a total immersion in the tense happenings of the match. The solo queue is fine, but truly, Fortnite Battle Royale shines in squad play. This game is a friendship adhesive.
Fortnite Battle Royale, unless you want to support the developers and buy some cosmetics, is entirely free (eluding entirely the PVE counterpart to the game, Fortnite Save The World). I don't mind paying for games, but before punching numbers, I always conduct rigorous research. With Fortnite Battle Royale, taking that initial leap is guilt free, and I need not sink hours into forums. I can't imagine Epic Games to regret this strategy. Fortnite would have definitely made my previous free games list.
This Is A Review, Right?
And you are longing for that score. But first, let us summarise.
Fortnite Battle Royale is undeniably beautiful and free, so it has that first impression nailed down. It capitalises on an incredibly popular genre, although it takes the initiative to be unique, rather than coast in PUBG's wake. For an early access—— no, for a game, period, it is deftly polished and absolute. In it, players see a potential for growth, not catastrophe, and in the current gaming climate, this is a rare thing indeed. And, of course, Fortnite is pure joy to experience on your own, but especially with friends. If nobody sees your 360-no-scope someone from across the map, did it really happen?
Fortnite Battle Royale ventures beyond ticking generic quality boxes to provide casual and neckbeard gamers both with an enjoyably competitive experience. Truly, I have not so seamlessly enjoyed a multiplayer game in years. If Fornite remains on its current trajectory, I can imagine my squad and myself to play it for years to come.
It's a solid 9/10 for me, and I feel that the last point is a mere patch away.