Review: Fortnite – Early Access

Here at XLC Gaming Network HQ we would usually do a preview as sorts with titles that fall under the early access category, but Epic Games Fortnite is a little different. In fact its a hell of a lot different than your usual early access title. While Fortnite will be Free-to-Play next year if you want to get stuck into this very large title you will need to part with some cash. This is quite a large amount of gameplay in campaign mode, but the team have recently also released a competitive PvP mode called Battle Royal. This places one-hundred players in one map that gets smaller over time. To start though lets talk about the campaign mode and then we will dive in to the PvP mode at the end.

If you are having a bad day today, just spare a thought for our heroes in Fortnite, as ninety-eight percent of their population was wiped out in a mysterious purple storm. This storm when active spawns a verity of creatures known as Husks. It is down to you and your mates to work together building defences, mining resources all while holding back wave upon wave of Husks. Keeping in mind that things can still change in this game I am quite happy with the progress this game is taking so far. I will talk more about the husks further down but this is pretty much the basis of the games story, all you have to do is team up, build defences and fend of the storm. It may not be the deepest story but that’s OK because your time will be taken up by all the other elements that bring this game together.

When it comes to gameplay in Fortnite there are many areas all joining together to make an engaging, fast paced action experience. It isn’t all action though as there is construction and resource gathering to be had if you want to keep your home base a husk free zone. You also have skill and research trees to unlock and work through. Then there are the many characters, traps and weapons to discover and level up. There is even what feels like a hint of card trading going on as everything you collect is in card form. It’s much easier to digest if we take one element at a time, so let me talk to you about the stars of the show first which are the Hero’s.

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There are four different classes that split up the plethora of heroes on offer which are the Soldier, the Ninja, the Constructor and the Outlander. Now given that this title will be free-to-play I like the fact that there are multiple characters in each class. They have their own abilities and specialities to be unlocked through the skill trees and levelling up. This is good news for fans of the free-to-play model that like beefing up more than one character of the same class and get a different experience. The Soldier class as you would expect provide the firepower along with supporting team mates with buffs as well as debuffing enemies. The Constructor is all about building baby, they provide upgraded bases as well as help with crowd control. The Ninja has speed on their side as well as being more than handy with melee weapons, they are great for up close and personal attacks. The Outlander strengths lie in exploration and resource collecting as oppose to fighting the husks.

In my playthrough I tested out the Soldier and the Ninja class which I found to be fun as well as being able to adapt my play style with ease. This is a big bonus as I hate having to change class and it take a while to get use to it, I prefer the change to go smoothly but feel different when I play at the same time. It seems Epic games has mastered this technique. It was my soldier that I played the majority of the game with and in the interests of time I wasn’t able to unlock both classes fully and see what everything does. As I say Fortnite is a huge game and there is a lot of levelling up to be done. It did help though that my friends had gotten much further in to the game so I was able to see some of the other class abilities in action.

I have unlocked almost all abilities for one of my soldiers which give me frags, Shockwave and a tactical squad bonus, however I still have four other perks to unlock. Another one of my soldiers has a war cry and going commando as well as other different perks making them unique to play. When it comes to my ninjas both can double jump and take less damage dropping from great heights, but that’s where similarities end. One of them has throwing stars where as the other is all about getting up close and kicking butt with a variety of kicks. This makes using booth of the Ninjas fairly unique. During my playthrough I have seen other character classes being able to drop a massive robot bear as well as a piñata when destroyed bursts with resources.

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While each Hero class has their own skills and abilities there are also four separate skill trees to unlock and discover. These skill trees have an effect in various functions of the game, wither it is boosting stats, unlocking expeditions to increasing your backpack size. They will also unlock the ability to evolve your heroes, weapons and traps. The first skill tree only needs one skill point per skill with a total of seventy-four skills to buy which will boost all manner of stats. Where as the second skill tree which I managed to unlock during my time will cost two skill points per skill. Yes this will involve grinding XP but as long as you are playing with mates it’s not really an issue. The second skill tree also increases the skill count to one-hundred.

There are also research trees and again there is thirty-four items to unlock but instead of skill points you use research points. Unlike skill points your research points generate over a period of time. When you first start Fortnite you generate around fifty-two per hour allowing for a maximum of one-thousand and six-hundred to be stored at any given time. If you log in to the game everyday then you will create a fair amount and push through the research trees quicker than normal. It isn’t just here you will spend research points you will also use these to transform cards into more useful things like weapons. Research points are like a reward for continued playing, I would just like them to be tweaked slightly to maybe hold more or the need for less points to buy things in the research trees.

You will also come across Survivor and Defender cards which will help you both outwith and during gameplay. The Survivor’s will give your Fort a boost as well as give other stats a boost. This means it is quite important to make sure you are always levelling up the best survivor cards as and when you get them. As I have found if you do not keep on top of this you will get to a point where you will not be able to continue onwards in the main campaign until you level up. Your Defender Cards are relevant to the four regions that make up the Fortnite world. Just like with the Survivor’s this will give you stats boosts for each of the regions. Making up survivor and defender squads feels like a game in itself although it can be complicated at first to understand. However understand you must if you want to keep increasing your overall power and take on stronger storms.

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Everything in Fortnite is tied to a card and as with most games of this type they range from common to rare and legendary, and colour coded to suit. So the most common will come in silver and cant really be improved much, where as orange is legendary which can be improved upon and evolved a few times. You will soon learn that silver and green cards while they help in the early part of the game, become ineffective from about a quarter of the way in, so you will want to put them in the collection book or recycle them for some valuable XP et to help upgrade your more important cards.

The gameplay can be split into two segments, split between your home base and the outside world. You gradually expand your home base buy building defences upon shield generators and then fend off waves of husks. Successfully do this and your home base expands, this is also a introduction as to what to expect in the world of Fortnite. When you move out to the four separate regions which open up as you play, things take on a more mission based scenario. Each region represents the missions difficulty. Locations you will find in the regions range from forests, Suburbs, cities and even industrial parks. Each of these locations will also define the type of resources you will be able to collect, like nuts and bolts as well as other key resources not easy to come by.

At the start of a mission you are randomly thrown into a map with the mission objective, that includes finding and defending a rocket to rescuing x number of survivors. There is no hand holding hear as a large part of the game is exploring. There is also sub-missions like helping stranded survivors as well as protecting crashed drones etc. The outcome is usually the same with missions where you have to build a defence and face oncoming waves of husks. However there are just enough verity like having to build upwards to defend the rocket etc. to stop things getting to repetitive.

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The building mechanics are very impressive indeed and are along the lines of Minecraft. You will build using three types of material, wood, stone and metal. You can certainly build some awesome structures like full blown castles. When you delve deeper in to building you will see that you can do doors, windows, towers and beyond. During missions you can come across radar towers which will test your building skills and they are a great way to learn the skills needed as well.

When it comes to weapons and traps, you will find that the traps are pretty much more important than weapons. There are all manner of traps to lay for keeping the husks at bay and your defences strong. You have ceiling, floor and wall traps at your disposal with you having offensive and defensive types. Traps I have come across are things like ceiling gas, electric zapper, wall spikes, floor spikes and even health pads. You have defender pads for when you are playing solo calling in your selected defenders to help you out. You even have wall launchers which if placed in the right spot can push husks in to ditches they can’t get out. Again for the traps you really only want to concentrate on cards coloured blue and above, or as a last resort green. It really is all about higher level character’s and items in this game.

On the weapon front you are pretty much covered and in the current build there will be a weapon for all manner of tastes. You have plenty of melee weapons in the form of swords, bats and even garden rakes if that takes your fancy. Then there is the usual pistols, LMG’s shotguns, snipers pretty much run of the mill stuff. Always be sure to check the stats of your weapons as while you may think you are getting a duplicate weapon, you are actually getting one with different stats. It is things like this that the game doesn’t do a great job of explaining but hopefully this will be rectified on the final release which is still a while away.

There are plenty of variety when it comes to Husk’s bringing both cannon fodder type enemies to mini-boss like ones. You have the American football dudes that come in two types, the first one is normal while the other carriers a propane tank. You can use the tank to kill husks around him, just don’t allow him to throw the tank as it will pretty much destroy traps and walls on explosion. Then there is the Lobbers which throw flaming skulls from a distance which are a threat to defences with no ceilings. There is the rather funny but deadly beehive husk that uses swarms of bees to inflict its damage. Ninja heroes will want to stay away until the beehive has been shot from their heads. Smashers land in the mini-boss type category where they will literary smash down your defences if they are not dealt with asap. Blasters also fall in to this category and they shoot lasers at the play causing heavy damage. I would like to see more foes enter the storm but what we have is still good to fight against.

So there are two modes that have appeared in the game which pretty much offer new ways to play. The first is called survive the storm that is pretty similar to hoard mode that you would find in other games. In this mode you and your team are tasked with surviving the storm over three, seven or fourteen nights. The latter according to the development team can take over four hours. These will hit you with increasingly difficult ways and you must make sure you have enough resources not only for ammo but building and repairing defences.

The second mode is the all new PvP mode called Battle Royal. It seems that PlayerUknown’s Battleground’s popularity hasn’t went by unnoticed. In this mode you are spawned into one large map with ninety-nine other players. Your aim is to gather resources and items and be the last one standing. Be careful though as the eye of the storm shrinks and so to does the map. I have tried this a couple of times and didn’t last very long, what can I say I’m just a bullet magnet. The team are looking to introduce squads in to this mode which could be interesting. It would be god if squads had to build defences.

The games loot system is addictive yet still a little frustrating but this could be fixed easily with just a few tweaks. At the end of missions you are awarded XP for skill points as well as XP for the loot chests. The loot chests range from level one through to level six, and you are awarded a loot chest dependent on how many medals you achieve by completing quests and side quests. The current issue with this is a level three chest could give you better loot than a level four, also level six chests can seem near impossible to obtain at times. Another way to get loot is by obtaining llama pinata’s. Currently there are three different pinatas you have a choice of. Two of them require a currency V-bucks which is where the micro-transactions come in to play. There is a third pinata which is obtain via special events. Currently this is through obtaining storm tickets, previously it was founders coins. The llamas also have a chance of upgrading when hit to silver and gold increasing the loot.

Graphically the game is pleasing to the eyes and the team have went for a very colourful cartoon like aesthetics. One colour that features a lot though is purple but that doesn’t bother me. Currently you can also switch between FPS or third person view. Initially I didn’t like the third-person camera but I found using the FPS view at times caused even more issues. I’m not sure that the FPS view would be ideal for the type of game this is as things do get quite hectic in the thick of battle. When it comes to the audio the games voice overs are excellent as well as all audio effects.

The Good Things

  • Excellent building mechanics paving way to some impressive structures.
  • Battle Royal rivals that of PlayerUnknown’s Battleground’s.
  • Survive the Storm is a great hoard mode.

And The Bad

  • Loot system needs a little tweaking.
  • Getting into a party can cause some issues with you not being able to join, unless its through an invite.
  • Like any game of this type it can get repetitive.

My Verdict…

    In its current form Fortnite is a massive game and while a lot may change from now until the final release, this is shaping up to be one of the better Free-to-Play titles out there. This takes some of the best features from various titles, mixes it all together for an action packed, defence building shooter. The building mechanics are spot on and you can make some spectacular structures if you are the creative type. The main games co-op experience while a little repetitive is a blast with friends while the survive the storm mode will itch that scratch for Gears of War fans. The newest mode added to the current build is the PvP Battle Royal which will rival PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. While it will cost you to jump in to what will be a free-to-play title next year, Epic Games are on to a winner with Fortnite. All the game needs is a few tweaks to the loot system as well as other game balancing issues and this could be a sleeper hit.

    You can purchase one of the Fortnite editions to gain access to this free-to-play title one Xbox One here, or you can wait for I to officially release next year. I hope to update this review as and if any big changes occur from now until full release.

With some more fine tuning this could be a free-to-play gem of a title.

About no1phil

PR Manager & Editor for XLC Gaming Network. I have been gaming since the ZX Spectrum days growing up through many generations of consoles. A bit of a jack of all trades when it comes to gaming genres. When I'm not either being shot at, dancing, scoring for the other team or racing I am trying to become a guitar God with Rocksmith 2014.