I still remember the first time I played Fortnite. By then, I was deep into the abyss of PUBG and was dying for any new battle royale game. Epic Games also recognized the genre’s potential early on, and quickly turned its little-discussed crafting and zombie defense game into a battle royale shooter.
The company has moved So fast, in fact, it drew the ire of PUBG developers, who took it to court for blatantly copying its ideas. It’s no accident either. Epic Games directly used PUBG as the core inspiration for its then-emerging experiments.
Of course, the game concept is not proprietary, so a lawsuit will never happen. Leaving aside the debate at the heart of the controversy, Fortnite Battle Royale wasn’t all that interesting at the time. It exudes desperation, and Epic’s first release feels like a patchwork (probably because it was made in two months) to ride the incredible wave of PUBG. Its only claim to fame is bringing instant building mechanics from co-op defense mode to BR.
When I tried it in 2017, I thought it was bland and horrible; I didn’t think any of its core mechanics felt good, I didn’t like its lighter, more kid-friendly aesthetic, and — most importantly The thing is — I feel like being able to create its own cover on command deprives it of any stake in the convention.
I’ve checked it from time to time over the years, trying to find any have a good time. Fortnite was, and remains to a lesser extent, the biggest game in the Western world. Even if its gimmicks don’t fascinate me, its countless intersections with movies, TV, anime, manga, and other games are hard to ignore.
As best I could, however, I never got involved. Then Epic created a mode where buildings can’t be randomly generated.
Suddenly, to my baby boomers, Fortnite looked more like a traditional shooter. It feels very approachable. I no longer have to compete with kids half my age who quickly build into towers and snipe me before I can even open my build UI.
But it’s not just the lack of architecture that brings me in.
Fortnite has been evolving with each season. It looks – and plays – completely different from the last chapter, let alone when it started five years ago. It has become an MMO in a sense; your main goal is not to “win” but to play the game.
I’ve always loved modern progression systems and their tricks on our lizard brains, but Fortnite uses this dark science to make everything achievable Exactly The type of player who tends to avoid BR games.
When I started playing regularly at the end of last seas on, my first few games were spent discovering how items work, what I can use to restore health and shields, and what ammo I need to buy which guns.
This quickly turned into trying to decipher how to complete my myriad of quests and track down NPCs. Note that these are not typical challenges to “get X kills” or “use X items” (although these do exist), they are an entire storyline that unfolds over the course of several games.
Most tasks require very little effort, which is the fundamental reason why you never reject them. You’ll be asked to land somewhere, find items, talk to NPCs, click buttons to perform certain goals, and even dance at a certain location. Everything you do earns you XP, which boosts your battle pass level, which earns you stars, which you can use to buy cosmetic items on your battle pass.
you never, i mean no way,No improvement. Something as simple as landing and exploring parts of the map you haven’t visited before can earn you XP. When the thought of beating other players becomes a secondary or tertiary priority, the legendary high stakes of battle royale disappear.
Epic played these strengths well early on, too. Every season, Fortnite gets new or previously arched items. Sometimes they’re mobility-based, like grapple gloves or jetpacks, sometimes they’re themed around crossover events of the season, or just old favorites from the loot pool.
Years ago, I would have scoffed at how some of them made firefights unrewarding and eroded the integrity of the game, blah, blah.
today? I could not care less! I once picked up a downed enemy and when I ran out of ammo, dropped them off the top of a mountain to kill them. Another time I used a grenade as a defensive tool to help myself out of a situation. Last season, when fire was the main theme, I would regularly burn down entire areas to wipe out opponents. I turned into a chrome blob the other day and decided to test what I can and can’t do in this form. This is quite beneficial.
I think my softening part of the whole Fortnite thing might herald the start of some kind of midlife crisis, but while I still like my tactics and tough shooters, Fortnite feels like its own thing. A lot of times, it doesn’t register as my shooter and doesn’t trigger the same response in my brain.
With so much disparate content seemingly drawn from across pop culture, even casually shouting out teammates during a game can be surprisingly fun. If you’re a recent Fortnite player, I’m sure you’ve heard and uttered some truly ridiculous sentences before you know it.
“Beware, John Cena is offending,” is such a ridiculous phrase. I don’t even watch Dragon Ball, but I now know what Nimbus Cloud is and what Kamehameha does.
Or when you need to quickly identify a target, you’ll yell “Spider-Man and the Master Chief come in on our right”. If you didn’t know what Fortnite was, you’d think you had a stroke when you heard the news. Just the other day, I saw Darth Vader playing the saxophone in the pregame lobby.
This desire to stay fresh and unpredictable is part of the formula. Instant gameplay benefits from regular shuffling of loot pools – something some other BR games are starting to realize. Map changes large and small, transforming pickup drop points from mundane and loot-centric to exciting adventures.
I’ll probably get tired of the game loop eventually, but I can’t ignore how much effort Epic goes into to keep things exciting in the game, especially for someone like me who casually plays games without any investment in the details.
Ironically, the early PUBG parody set the tone for Fortnite’s future. Epic is happy to draw inspiration from other games without regret. It happened in the middle of America, most recently in Splatoon, and no doubt many times before.I still believe game developers should be free to iterate on each other’s concepts, I just hope Epic isn’t so Openly talk about it.
In some ways, this short period of time reminded me of what I was thinking when Fortnite BR was a thing: this constant evolution made the game almost immune to criticism. Fortnite is an irrelevant game. Everyone was talking about Dragon Ball Crossover last season, and this month is Spider-Gwen – who knows what the next zeitgeist will be?
If Fortnite is always mutating and never ending, how can you adequately distinguish what makes Fortnite popular/satisfying/interesting? Is there a final form? I do not know yet. Now, forgive me, some scientist needs me to dig up something for them to complete a mission step.