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“In order to succeed greatly we must also fail greatly.” – Bobby Kennedy.
My youngest brother walked into my room unannounced a few days ago – he does that a lot – with a somber look on his face. He looked at me and said: “Second place with six kills in solo mode”. Those words might mean very little to the uninitiated but to a Fortnite player they mean a great deal. They mean defeat, they mean the luck of the draw or the trajectory of a bullet. Most of all they mean a new beginning. A new dawn on the horizon. A chance to try again. That’s sort of what Fortnite is about but it’s mostly about winning so I called my brother a loser and told him to get out until he’d actually won a game.
No I didn’t and it’s not like I can talk anyway. But the above is what I tell myself whenever I too place second with six kills. Fortnite is the one of the most popular games on the planet right now. There’s no story – well there is but you have to pay for it – just multiplayer. 100 players are dropped onto an island and they must kill each other until there is only one player or team left standing. But what makes Fortnite so popular within the over-saturated battle royale genre? Part of it is luck definitely and part of it is the fact that it’s free but there’s also a definite sense that care and attention has been and is being lavished on the game.
The island Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode is set on only changes incrementally. Some matches are set during the day or at night and there’s a comet heading for the infamous Tilted Towers area of the map right now but beyond that the changes are microscopic. You’ll only ever really notice them if you pay attention to the weekly challenges set by developers EPIC Games and People Can Fly. Most players will notice them considering the challenges are the only way to level up in the game outside of buying levels. Some such as kill X amount of players in location Y are fairly common. Others such as dance in five different forbidden locations are a bit more specific. Either way both give the feeling that there is more to be accomplished than just slaughtering your way through a hundred cartoonish characters.
The style of Fortnite is unique. A great deal of games from the Pixar-like Overwatch to the spookily simple Limbo use basic but aesthetically pleasing designs. These designs also translate well graphically and can be run on most basic computers. It’s a good, inclusive tactic that allows PC gamers to play the game without having to take out a second mortgage just for a new graphics card. Where other battle royale games can often take themselves too seriously such as PlayerUnknown’s Battle Grounds (PUBG) and others try and fail to mix the serious with the goofy like H1Z1 it’s Fortnite that strikes the balance between a pleasingly fun aesthetic and tightly wound gameplay.
The reason Fortnite has 45 million players at the moment isn’t because it’s free – although that may have something to do with it – it’s because Fortnite is very fun to play. The island’s landscape is suitably varied with sky scraping mountains, deep ravines and numerous towns that provide all the tension of a PUBG match with double the verticality. What separates Fortnite from the pack is its building. Players are able to construct entire buildings out of wood, stone and metal. The tactically minded can reinforce a ramshackle house with thick iron plates or charge a sniper building shoddy wooden walls for cover as they move forward. The game’s shooting is fair and never too difficult. With a little practice a new player can stand their ground against a level 100 juggernaut with the John Wick skin. Yes the game comes with a John Wick skin – provided you’re good enough to get it – what other reason could you need to play it?
Fortnite is free in its most basic form. But to really engage with the game and level up as fast as the more committed players you’ll need to buy the Battle Pass. It’s only €10 which, unless you’re a gambling addict, is all you’ll ever need to spend on the game. The microtransactions and the game’s in-game currency, V-Bucks, cost an arm and a leg but Fortnite’s levelling system is fair enough that by completing set challenges and with a little bit of practice you’ll be levelling up with the rest of the 45 million strong community.
Fortnite is still in Early Access on PC, XBox One and PS4 which means that it still has a fair few teething problems. Overloaded servers, frame rate drops and texture loading are all par for the course in Early Access games. But where some games never take full advantage of the experimental benefits Early Access gives them Fortnite goes all in. With an update nearly every week EPIC Games keeps adding to Fortnite with the likes of new weapons, challenges and game modes. When PUBG was in Early Access it added one new map and under ten new weapons. Although Fortnite has only one map its challenges, varied weapon selection and game modes keep it fresh and interesting. As well as all this Fortnite’s player base is significantly younger thanks to its cartoonish, less violent style and it doesn’t suffer from the massive, ongoing cheater problem PUBG has.
Fortnite is set to become the next Minecraft with its young player base which will increase exponentially as 2018 goes on. Considering the game is still in Early Access the phrase “Shoot for the moon at least least you’ll land among the stars” applies here except Fortnite is likely to land in the next galaxy over. EPIC Games new monolithic property has rapidly climbed the steps to the throne and will go down in history as one of the most played games of all time.