Starting off with some full disclosure, I did not play any of Fortnite during the first season, and not because I’m antisocial or dreading playing multiplayer games with small children using open mikes. No, I didn’t play because I was afraid my crap internet connection would ruin the game for other players. Still, I kept up on the stories about the many map changing developments, and from a distance, it all seemed so intriguing to me. A shooting game with an elaborate story playing out within the game world, always changing like some great living chimeric island? Yes, this is most intriguing.
With the literal end of the first world, I decided I’d go ahead and download Fortnite and see what all the other gamers already knew about this new social giant. If the lag was horrid, I’d be able to let it go easily enough because, hey, it’s free. If it was as good as everyone said it was, maybe I might be able to stick around and enjoy this in-world storytelling firsthand.
I’ve now played about thirty hours, and I want to talk about it. I wouldn’t call this a review, and I don’t think you can really review something like this, a product that’s always evolving from one month to the next. All I can do is talk about the modes I’ve tried, and offer impressions on this short vertical slice.
Within the first round, I found lag wasn’t a problem. Players moved smoothly around me, and when someone shot at and missed me, it felt more like a proper miss than a lag teleport saving my butt. I went into this knowing some of the “contestants” in the first rounds were bots, which probably explains some of my early victories. But I think it helped ease me into the game before dumping me into matches with more and more real people.
Some of those people are very little kids, and they have open microphones. This means on any given match, you might be teamed up with some five year old singing nursery rhymes AND at the same time with a random twelve year old swearing in ways that make this salty redneck blush. But for all their endless chatter, they can sometimes be efficient little boogers, grabbing enough loot and materials in their first drop zone before tearing their way to the storm’s center, dropping opponents like so many unsuspecting prey. Watching some of those kids play led me to offer this possible back-box quote: “Fortnite, the most fun you can have with a six year old handing your ass to you!”
I choose not to game with an open microphone precisely because I don’t know who on my team is a kid, and when I get shot by a sniper from out of nowhere, I tend to let loose with several choice words. Then again, sometimes I get teamed up with other kids with open microphones, and it’s clear they’re not good team players. So one gets shot down, and I run to revive them, the whole time with them wailing at me, “Save me, please!” I’m yelling back, “Yeah, kid, I’m coming! Just calm down already.”
So I get to where they are, start to revive them, and then I see the other team was camping his butt, waiting for me to be a good person so they can snipe me, too. Then I look at my map and see our other two teammates have abandoned us and…yeah, I’m glad I don’t have a voice in the game cause I’d be a terrible influence to the youts.
Keep in mind, I’m not really complaining about any of these kids. I’m just as hyper excitable about firefights and finding sweet loot. So if some kid from France or Germany wants to constantly narrate their match to me, I’m cool with that. And hey, twelve year old dude cussing up a streak…dude, chill out a little. You’re going to give yourself a heart attack with all this hyper-tension.
Setting that aside, there’s a satisfying loop going into any mode, be it solo, duos, or teams. You pick a spot to jump, search frantically for items while waiting to see if you’ve picked a spot within the first storm ring or if you’re going to need to make a panicked run across open terrain where snipers will have a field day with you. It’s tense and exciting, and I like playing it even when I lose. If I lose, I either hit Ready Up to go straight to another match, or I go into the lobby to switch modes and get right back out there. It’s got the right amount of “just one more try,” and I can see why Fortnite has captured the attention of so many people.
Before yesterday, there was an added mode where all the players were teamed up together against a giant boss called the Storm King, and that mode was fantastic. I loved fighting this boss and it’s minions, frantically scrabbling whatever ammo I could find between panicked dashes to pick up fallen allies and carry them to safety and revive them. Win or lose, it felt like we were all together in some epic struggle, and it’s brilliant. That mode is gone now, and I will miss it, but I appreciate modes coming out for a limited time. It keeps the game fresh and always makes me wonder what they will throw at me next.
If I have any complaints, it’s with the slow, agonizing pace of getting the good prizes. I’ve got two different styles of umbrella parachutes, some loading screen art, and some music to play while I’m skydiving into a new map. No custom outfits or picks or gun skins. I want those things. I want more V bucks. But despite the hours I’ve put in, I’ve only got 100, and that won’t buy me anything. I get what the game is doing. It wants me to whip out my debit card and buy some V-bucks and buy the battle pass. But I can’t because I’m too broke to do it. And that does suck, seeing other players looking all cool, and I’m stuck playing a rotating roster of nobodies.
But that loot is all “just cosmetic,” and even if I don’t know how long I have to play before I get enough V-bucks to buy a better outfit, I like playing it. I can see why there’s so much hype about this evolving beast, and I admit, I’m feeling swept up in that hype. So for now, count me among the hordes, and if you also play on the Europe servers, maybe I’ll see you around.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play just one more round.