Fortnite Battle Royale Impressions
If you search the definition of “battle royale” you get the following:
Battle royal (plural battles royal, also battle(s) royale) traditionally refers to a fight involving many combatants that is fought until only one fighter remains standing.
The term gets it start in the world of professional wrestling, but was then used by Japanese author Koushun Takami as the title of his 1999 novel, which told the story of forty teenage students who are forced onto a island to fight to the death until only one remained (à la the Hunger Games, which despite being more prominently known here in the West, actually released well after Battle Royale did)
Battle royale-inspired match types have been present in first-person and third-person shooters for a while, but have only recently exploded in popularity due to the unprecedented success of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, a game which has grossed over $712 million in revenue. Essentially spawning a new genre of video games, battle royale games have begun popping up all over the place. Fortnite, however, was actually first revealed well before this battle royale craze even got started, as it first appeared at the 2011 Spike Video Game Awards. Though back then there were no plans for Fortnite to feature any sort of battle royale mode, it was simply a co-op survival third-person shooter, tower defense game. And when Fortnite first launched as an early access title (the game still has not been officially released) it was exactly that with no player-versus-player content whatsoever.
That all changed in September 2017. Clearly inspired by Battlegrounds popularity, Epic Games, the publisher of Fortnite, announced a new version of Fortnite that would be free-to-play and seemingly unconnected to the standard base game; going under the title “Fortnite Battle Royale” the concept of the game is simple – one hundred players battling it out on an island until only one remains. The similarities between Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds go deeper than just the concept as both begin with the players jumping out of a flying vehicle (a plane in Battlegrounds and a floating bus in Fortnite) and then freefalling towards their desired starting location on the island. Once on the ground, players, in both games, begin scavenging for loot and gear while attempting to kill anyone else in their vicinity. Much like in Battlegrounds, there is a constantly closing circle (here it is referred to as a storm) that will kill any players that linger outside of it for too long, thereby shrinking the battlefield and forcing confrontation between the surviving players.
Fortnite, however, is not just simply a copy-and-paste job, as there are several key differences that sets it apart and gives it it’s own unique identity. The opening moments of most battle royale games are frantic and chaotic, but Fortnite’s on a completely different level. The number of living players will often drop from 100 to 50 before the first circle even forms. This is due to the game’s rapid-fire gunplay, where even when you’re at full health and have a shield, it’ll only take a few bullets to put you down. Long, extended shootouts are a rarity here. Another reason for this quick pace is, unlike in other games, inventory management is not that big of a deal; you’ll only have five inventory spots with no way to increase it, so once a player gets their hands on a gun, they are prone to start hunting others than searching for more complimentary gear.
With death so easy to come by, you might be thinking that you might ending shifting through menus and starring at loading times longer than you actually will be playing, but that’s actually not the case. Whenever you die, you’re a only few button presses away from leaving your current match and jumping into another; lobby’s fills up within seconds due to the game’s large player count and the loading screens are fairly quick, making the entire process barely taking up a minute of your time.
Another factor that help Fortnite Battle Royale standout is the carryover of the tower defense mechanics from the base game. Meaning, you can a build a mini fortresses and other structures anywhere on the map, resources permitting. This brings added mobility to the game as players can also build ramps and bridges to make traversing environments faster, albeit more dangerous. Fall damage is a thing, and exposing yourself will not only make yourself a target but your platform as well, which other players can destroy. Though even ignoring the player’s ability to build onto to the battlefield, Fortnite currently only offers one map to play on but it is chock-full of diverse and unique locations to explore and do battle in, like a city made-up of large towers, a forest that contains a hedge maze at its center, and even a toilet factory.
Fortnite Battle Royal features the standard selection of match settings, allowing you to play solo, in a pair, or as part of a four-player squad. Though there are also timed events that allow you play to the game in a whole different way for a limited time. For example, a 50 vs. 50 match setting was made available, where players are sorted onto two teams of fifty, and there was also an event titled Sniper Shootout, in which the only weapons available were sniper rifles. Both of these events have expired now and are unplayable, though Epic Games continues to replace them with different limited time game modes, and who knows, maybe they’ll eventually bring back past ones as well.
Like I mentioned earlier, Fortnite is free-to-play, but the progression system for playing the game without putting any money into it is severally limited. If you have a Battle Pass it allows you access more fulfilling reward tier system where you can unlock new emotes, character costumes, and other cosmetic awards by completing daily challenges; a Battle Pass can be purchased with in-currency called V-coins, which can either be purchased with real money or earned just by playing (although, I should note earning enough V-coins just through gameplay alone would nearly be impossible task for the average person). Rest assured there is nothing for sale that can be used to give a player any in-game advantages. Meaning, the results on the battlefield are decided by a combination of skill and luck, and not due to someone paying more money than everyone else.
While the game will not reward you substantially if you go the free-to-play route, Fortnite is incredibly addicting. Playing the game has allowed me to experience firsthand how this battle royale craze has become so widespread. Many a night’s I will boot up the game with the intention of only playing a few matches, but when I finally reach the point I feel like I should stop, I’ll say to myself “Just one more match”, and will promptly join match only to be killed within a minute. I usually then declare that said match didn’t count and will try again; this time I will not die quickly, but rather reach the final ten and be ever so close to pulling it out before finally succumbing to another player’s grenade launcher. Inspired by this success, I will then once more join another match. And before you know it, I’ve ended up spending way more time playing than I was supposed to. And it’s not like I’m the only person I know that has been infected by this addiction. Case in point, one of my sisters, who is not a gamer by any means, watched me a play a few matches and enjoyed it so much that she begged me to let her try. She struggled early due to the fact she wasn’t used to dual analog sticks, but has now improved to the point that she is considering getting herself a PlayStation 4 just so that she can play Fortnite more often.
Not everything about Fortnite Battle Royale is peachy. No, the game is still in early access, a term which here means playable yet still in development. Some issues that will hopefully be ironed out before its official release include shotguns being overpowered to that point they can kill you with one shot at a considerable distance, no matter the status of your health. There is also the occasional issue of character stuttering, along with there being no way to customize your character beyond choosing between any outfits you’ve unlocked, while your character’s race, gender, and hairstyle are randomized after every match. Although, aside from the problems I just mentioned, Fortnite Battle Royale is truly one of the most stable and reliable early access games I’ve encountered.