When you mix Fallout 4’s sanctuary builder and third-person zombie wave defense, you get Epic Games’ delight creation, Fortnite. Not only does this 4-player cooperative experience handle smoothly with tight controls and a fun atmosphere, it also offers an endless loot train to pilfer from as you race to save the world.
The premise is simple: eerie storms are plaguing the land, forcing humans to hole up while you figure out how to solve the crisis. Fight back against the horde as you attempt to save mankind, with or without up to three teammates. The campaign is broken up into missions laid out on the map, each with a difficulty level and both primary and secondary objectives. These typically involve uncovering clues as to the storm’s origins, obtaining or building tech, and saving lives. Before launching, you can choose from a number of heroes, most of which are unlocked after finishing the early levels. Each of these heroes is unique, with new versions of themselves available as loot, giving each player great amounts of variation regardless of your teammates.
Levels are laid out as large open sandboxes in Fortnite, with your party starting at an origin point. You can spread out and look for crafting materials, objectives, or people to save, each giving you a higher end score and granting medals. The more medals you earn, the higher tier reward chest your team will get upon completion. Once you’re satisfied with your sleuthing, most levels end with a defense objective where you build a fort around a person or object, then hit the switch and attempt to weather the storm. Don’t be fooled by earlier missions; once you advance, the going gets tough. If your team isn’t coordinated, a higher difficulty could very well mean failure.
“Shooting is incredibly satisfying.”
The building itself is actually a lot of fun once you get used to it. The controls feel clunky at first, and performing actions like removing specific segments from objects to create a different shape can take some thought. Early tutorials do help, but when you’re trying to perform under pressure as the enemies advance, it can be frustrating. After a fair amount of practice you should get the hang of it though, and putting up a quick defense post does feel quite satisfying. Players can grief a bit by purposely failing secondary objectives or building in areas that are a hindrance, but the community seems friendly enough so far. Most people are simply interested in looting, building, and then shooting everything in sight.
Combat feels great, with heroes having access to three equipped weapons and a pickaxe. Shooting is incredibly satisfying; damage falls off at range, there’s recoil but not too much, and shotguns can spread across multiple foes. Each hero unlocks skills as they level up as well, putting more tools at your disposal for both fighting and exploring. Melee combat feels just as sweet, particularly as a melee-centric hero. There is weapon degradation, so make sure you don’t become too fond of any one item in particular. Loot is plentiful, so you’ll always have many options to choose from.
So, what’s the point? Well, the campaign is funny enough to carry itself, but the real joy comes from looting, creating your personal fortress, and playing as a team. There is an absurd amount of loot types, and Epic keeps throwing it at you with mission rewards, loot chests, and llama pinatas. Initially rolling my eyes at the concept, I couldn’t help but chuckle and feel some satisfaction as I burst my first pinata. They throw quips at you while you wind up your blunt object, and litter the ground with a loot explosion when you connect. Even if you can’t use something, it can all eventually be broken down as you rank up and improve your skill tree. Recycling everything grants you experience of that type, which can be used to level up your main gear, survivors, or heroes.
Aesthetically, Fortnite is slightly reminiscent of Plants vs Zombies in a cartoony sort of way. It’s all rather colorful, with plenty of purple and green in the mix. The animations for fort building are detailed nicely and make the environment come alive, with brick walls being built up brick by brick, or sheets of metal falling to the ground to create a floor. The traps are comical but can be just a touch gruesome, making the best of the Teen rating. Within the city, buildings are destructible and can be explored, offering a plethora of quaint set-dressings, like messy desks, dirty garages, and unkempt bathrooms, all with at least a bit of loot to be rummaged through for.
It’s still early, but the servers have had some hitches. Most missions went fine, but some were hit with bad lag that made both combat and construction rather difficult. Otherwise, Fortnite runs well and is a lot of fun when your entire team is on mic, communicating and working together to fully clear levels and beat objectives. The matchmaking works, but I highly recommend grabbing some friends to play with. It’s going to be free-to-play sometime in 2018, but a standard edition Founder’s Pack is currently $39.99. If grinding for loot, shooting zombies, and building the coolest forts ever sounds like it’s up your alley, I can’t recommend Fortnite enough.