Remember when Minecraft came to public attention?
God, what a storm. Every man, woman, child and bacterial cell came out of the woodwork to praise its sheer scope of creativity and like always, the imitators arrived in full force, looking to make a quick dollar. Castleminer Z, Terraria, No Man’s Sky, Trove, so many invade the marketplace of console titles, with a few trying their all to make sure that what they have is better than Notchs magnum opus. Well, another one has come to fruition, seeking the fame and glory of its peer, and that’s Fortnite.
They called it Fortnite because that’s how long the missions take.
This peculiar subject comes to us from Epic Games, the fellows behind the negatively seminal Gears of War, and People Can Fly, the Polish kings behind the positively seminal Painkiller, an FPS so full of bloody guts and fun, it makes DOOM look like an episode of The Cabbage Patch Kids. So already, we have two teams who have worked on very different games clashing heads, with it not being the first time. The misguided blast of joy that is Bulletstorm and the blast of buckshot boredom that is Gears of War: Judgement being prime examples, so hopes are higher than average.
The basic premise is that a purple storm of Unobtainium has appeared out of nowhere, with its origins being unexplained for a while. This storm of eggplants has turned 98% of the worlds population into ravenous freaks who now wear their skin as fashionable hoodies, set to storm the Gucci catwalks. It’s now up to you and a team of 4 to take back this world, one grudgingly slow step at a time.
You have more than guns at your side, however. You are also armed with a pickaxe that can tear through buildings like butter. And with the resources you gain from the destruction, you can craft bigger forts (Oh, so that’s why they called it that), weapons and traps built to annihilate the freaks en masse. In layman terms, it’s Red Faction meets Miinecraft with a sprinkling of Destinys’ super long gunfights.
Ashamedly, I had a nitpick with TwoWeeks before it was even released. Upon looking at screenshots and gameplay footage, I was ultimately confused since a lot of the art direction and visual design is HEAVILY reminiscent of Popcaps recent sleeper hit, Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. The design for the zombies, the environment and the cartoonish combat all reeks of EAs baby but is that a bad thing? Well, I personally have 200 hours on both Garden Warfare entries so more is better, I say, on with the fight.
Starting the game up is kind of intimidating, to say the least. You grab your hero, and the skill tree is huge. It’s a line longer than the Castlevania timeline, and all of it is kind of pointless in reality. What you level up is so trivial in nature, like +1 of something that isn’t tracked properly among the mountain of stats, that it just begs for it to be trimmed down so you can focus on the more important upgrades, like a new gameplay changing mechanic or skill.
The gunplay of FourteenDays is easily its best trait, fights are methodical and the crafting elements only adds more tactical playstyles to experiment with. Various heroes and guns all respond in vastly different tones, meaning what you might main is not always going to be the winner in battles. Teamwork matters in this, more so than in the titles its inspired by. A battle won in Fortnite is more satisfying than any of the strikes in Destiny. It’s just a shame that the AI doesn’t want to help progress this.
See, it doesn’t matter how good of an architect you are and how practical you want to be in your execution. You could make a Rube Goldberg machine of tricks to thwart the oncoming threat, but in the end, most of the zombies will just ignore it for an as-the-crow-flies path. They always seem to avoid your traps via walking around your meticulous traps, or just straight up FLYING THROUGH THE FABRIC OF REALITY. Some would call that smart AI. I call that utter nonsense.
While it’s annoying, you can also cheat the AI just as hard. By building a literal stairway to the heavens, supported by nothing but the utter will of your comrades, the hordes will be more occupied with destroying that instead of the base filled with your objectives and lovely, tasty humans. Mmm. Playing like this was always annoying because for the most part, it was the only way to gain a victory without being beaten by the skin of your teeth. But, if the AI wants to be Superman, I’ll be Brainiac. I won’t say this breaks immersion though, since the game looks like a Dreamworks film but with bullets instead of wholesomeness.
The missions also lack a certain spice of variety. Almost all of the objectives revolve around holding a specific area with an undetermined amount of enemies coming from a single direction every. Single. Time. I don’t mind repetition, hell, I’ve got 800 hours on Rainbow Six Siege and about 500 on Destiny so it’s good if done right, and in 336 Hours, it’s not too terribly tedious. However, it definitely needs a boost of content soon before it dies a painful death.
The best thing that can be said about the missions is that the stakes are always upped every time, and even then, that’s not a good thing. Oh, you can stand your ground well here but what if we make you defend more than one spot? What about three? Four? It’s clearly not a good game to solo queue but if the matchmaking worked, I might be more inclined to grab my buddies and go take on this mess.
This can’t even be considered a negative, I mean I’ve played since release day and onwards, so it was inevitable. I was met with server crashes, severe lag and the attempts to play with friends was a virtually impossible task. But it’s something that should be mentioned, considering that the likelihood of a crash in the future is high, and you’ll meet with the title screen sooner or later.
But after mulling it over, I realised something. The missions, the character evolutions, the obligatory loot boxes, all of it reeked of a free-to-play experience. Shocked by my silly thinking, I decided to run over to my hacking machine to see if this theory wasn’t as half baked as I thought. And, sure enough, 20’160 Minutes will be going F2P sometime in 2018, and I don’t know whether to be insulted by that or not.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this marketing decision, however, the fact that I had to search up this theory instead of knowing about it beforehand, is very off-putting. So, the question of content is kind of negligent, what matters is, as a free to play title, should you buy it before its price cut? The short answer, maybe.
There are tons of things that Fortnite does right. The crafting element is precise and accessible. The building element, while simple, adds a lot of brevity to what would’ve been a mindless shooter with no brains and all brawn. And the gunplay itself is superbly executed, possibly thanks to People Can Flys’ mastery of the genre. But the lack of a mirror shine for a game that’s been in development since 2011 is possibly its biggest negative.
The writing of the characters is full of quips and playful musings, but it does not match at all with the sheer nihilism that the crew are faced with, and it seems like the script was written at a weekend in Starbucks. The AI practically cheating you out of your effort in missions is never a fun thing to be put up with, especially when all your work is consumable and will be lost, like tears in the rain. And the non-existent variety in missions will quickly turn your enjoyment of this game into a sleeping simulator.
And that’s 1209600 Seconds, a free-to-play title for $40. Was my 50 hours of game time worth it? Yeah, I’d say so. Then again, I consider Gems of War to be one of the best titles to come out of this generation thus far so what do I know?
This early-access review of Fortnite is based on the Xbox One version of the game.
As a paid experience, it lacks charm in the areas it's needed. As a free to play experience, it's more than enough to set you over for a long time
Owner of the largest collection of indie games in the Western Hemisphere, and TimeSplitters’ biggest fanboy.