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Fortnite: Battle Royale – First Look

Since the debut of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Battle Royale style shooters have been cropping up all over in the gaming mainstream. One of the biggest, and initially the most controversial, is Fortnite: Battle Royale. Since its launch, I’ve played about 15 hours of it, and here’s what I’ve found.

Fortnite, as I’ll be calling it for shorthand in this video, is a 100 player Battle Royale style third person shooter. For those who do not know what that is, here’s how it works. You load into a match and a vehicle, in this case a Battle Bus, flies over a massive island. All across the island are different small towns, farms, and various landmasses where you’ll find weapons and items scattered. You have a set amount of time, roughly a minute, to drop from the bus and begin skydiving to the island. Once you’ve got feet on the ground, you race to find guns and ammo and begin killing other players.

Guns and items have different rarities that indicate their quality and imbue certain effects on them. The rarity of items ranges from common, which are white, to legendary, which are orange. The higher the rarity of gun, the better the damage and possible accuracy. For health items, they are an indication of their potency. For example, the common bandage can only heal you up to a cap of 75 percent of your health. Uncommon medkits can heal you to full no matter what. Uncommon small shield potions can only get you to 50 percent shield, but rare and epic shield potions can take you to 100 percent shield. Understanding this dynamic is crucial to your survival both in and out of combat.

Most of the combat happens within the Safe Zone which is this large white circle on the map. Within timed intervals, the circle gets smaller as a storm closes in on the island from all sides. Being caught in the storm is certain death, so you’ll have to plan how you’ll move to both stay in the safe zones and keep a positional advantage over players who are also moving in. The fight carries on until only one player remains.

This is the standard formula that most games in the genre follow. Where Fortnite sets itself apart, aside from the cel-shaded and brightly colored art style, is the building mechanic. Fortnite’s base game has a fairly free-form building system that allows you to construct walls, ramps, stairs, and all sorts of other structures from just about any kind of material you can find and harvest with your pickaxe. This system carries over into Battle Royale, and it is essential to learn to succeed. In fact, as a piece of general advice, don’t be afraid to start throwing up walls as soon as someone starts shooting at you. This will give you a second or two to assess the situation and prepare to fight.

The need to master this building system also means that you’ll not only need to hunt for weapons, but also building materials. You’ll need to be careful when you do this, as it makes a ton of noise and can easily give away your position.

The most important thing I can stress about this game is that, if you like shooters, it’s fun. I actually enjoy this more than I like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Visually the game is, as I’ve mentioned, very stylistic and colorful. Objects just pop and it’s never too hard to see enemies as they roam the massive environment. The sound design is excellent and if you have headphones that can produce directional audio, they’ll really help to keep you aware of what’s happening around you. I’ve actually found and killed players just by the noise they were making around me.

Another neat feature that stands out to me about the game is how fast it is to get into a match. I’ve never waited in queue for longer than two minutes, and games usually launch within a minute of the match being found. If you’re like me and not the greatest at the game, you may end up dying early. This isn’t a problem though as the game doesn’t make you wait until the match is over. You can choose to spectate individual players as long as possible, or bounce back to the lobby and immediately jump into another game. If you’re new, I’d encourage you to spend at least a minute or two spectating when you die. Seeing how better players are carrying themselves can really help you grow and understand better strategies for the game.

In addition to the solo queue mode, there are also Duo and Squad matches. You can team up with friends for these modes or, if you don’t have friends, you can be partnered with strangers.  Fair warning to players in the North American region, the social features, like friends lists and party invites, haven’t worked in a month or so. The good news is that as of time of writing (Sunday, the 28th) these services came back. The reason they cited for the outage was a massive influx of new players; as more flood into the game, these issues may return. I feel that it’s only fair to warn you ahead of time. Trunath and I tested the repaired services though and everything is working as intended for now.

This is actually a God-send though, because in my opinion, the game is way more fun when you’re playing with friends. You can share supplies and strategize a lot more easily in a team, and it makes progressing farther into matches easier as well. This is especially true if, like the dynamic between Trunath and myself, one of you is considerably better at shooters than the other.

Fortnite features in-game transactions, but they’re entirely cosmetic. There is absolutely no way to spend money to gain any form of advantage. A lot of the cosmetic items are pretty cool looking, and if you’re a fan of the game and want to support Epic then it’s a great way to do so. You can also buy a Battle Pass, which is good for an entire season, and increases your experience earned per match. When you level up with an active battle pass, you have the chance to win v-coins, the cash currency, as well as cosmetic items and emotes outright.

That’s really all there is to Fortnite. It’s a very polished and fun survival game experience that’s a blast to play alone or in a squad. The monetization doesn’t hinder the gameplay in any way, and while there is a bit of a steep learning curve, the community is for the most part supportive and engaging. If you’re a shooter fan and have been looking for a less realistic alternative to PUBG, or even just a free alternative, then Fortnite is without question the answer you’ve been looking for.

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