Fortnite: Battle Royale was released last week as a free-to-play title on the Playstation Network. It’s still in a fluctuating beta-mode of sorts, but it certainly delivers on its simple premise: bringing the multiplayer-online battle royale genre to Playstation consoles.
When Bluehole Studios’ Player Unknown’s Battle Royale released on Steam in March, it quickly amassed over one million concurrent players in just a few months. It wasn’t long before Sony realized that they needed a response to PUBG’s imminent release for the Xbox One console, or they could face the possibility of losing a significant opportunity to jump on an emerging mainstream market. Epic games stepped in and delivered them a title that has to this point gathered a lot of buzz amongst PS4 owners. The game hit one million downloads within a week of its launch.
I’m new to the online multiplayer battle royal genre of gaming, myself, but I don’t imagine it would take anyone very long to understand the game’s objective: be the last man standing on a map where anything goes. From there, just throw in some accompanying variables: crafting, weapons and ammunition, stealth—the works—and you’ve got yourself a perfect online experience for the attention deficit.
What you get is essentially the original premise of The Hunger Games, without the post-apocalyptic utilitarian government (or really any form of plotline whatsoever). Players are corralled into 100 player lobbies and then “sent” to the map in the form of a flying school bus carried by a giant hot air balloon.
A timer ticks down until players are free to jump out, skydiving and then hang gliding to whatever destination they see fit. From there, everyone pretty much scurries into the nearest building, collecting weapons, ammo, and bandages along the way. Your starting axe doubles as a crafting tool. You can use it to destroying existing structures which add to the stockpile of materials you can carry for crafting. You can use those materials to build things like walls, stairs and floors.
It has the feeling of a sandbox game, for sure. If you paired that basic premise with popular shooter and horror/survival game elements, you’d have a rough estimate of what Fortnite: Battle Royale is at its best. Think Grand Theft Auto, with dash of Minecraft and the Call of Duty zombies mode. It’s a damn good time, and even more fun if you team up with a squad of four players.
The game’s premise needs to be driven by some external form of motivator, however, or players would have a hard time finding each other when the numbers got down into single digits. In Fortnite, that driver is a storm that changes location every few minutes. If a player is caught in the storm, they’ll start losing health at a massive rate.
The idea is to keep the field in motion at all times, which increases the tension and forces players to be slightly more aggressive at the right moments, or else the game would lull uncontrollably near the end.
The highest I’ve finished so far was fifth, and by the end of that game, all of the remaining players were corralled by the shrinking field of play onto the shoreline of a lake, which prevented us from having any ideal cover situation.
Sometimes, I would be driven to the point of nearly rage-quitting, but the game would suck me back in. Even the several minutes of waiting required to join a new game are worth it, because it only heightens the stakes.
This isn’t the video game you grew up playing, there are no Full Restores, spawn points, or Mercy rez. You die, you’re out. And something about that, to me, makes this game more thrilling, and at times, scary, even, than titles that are meant to keep you in suspense. I spent hours trying different landing locations, figuring out which weapons were worth keeping, and learning when the right times to fight or run.
The fun was there, even if many simply brush this title off as a studio trying to mooch off of the success of PUBG, while trying counteract its eventual deal with Microsoft. It does what it does well, and because it’s still in a sort of “beta mode,” I see vast improvements being made to the title going forward. We’ve already been promised a statistic and leaderboard section, and I would guess that crafting is only going to improve, and also that we’ll get more maps to work with. To a smaller capacity, I think it’d be cool to see player’s names in the pre-lobby, especially if you end up in a standoff in-game—but that’s neither here nor there.
I don’t know how long I’ll continue playing Fortnite: Battle Royale, but it certainly won’t be until I finally get a win under my belt. Regardless, I’m thoroughly enjoying the game as a welcomed break from Overwatch, and if more features are added going forward, I’ll happily make it a staple in my current gaming cycle.