Week of October 8th: Fortnite Battle Royale

My friend group and I are gamers by heart, and the majority of us know each other in real life. Oftentimes, when we can’t find time to hang out together, we’ll play online games in order to bridge the gap. As you can imagine, multiplayer and cooperative games are heavily valued in our group, and we often try to find new games to play with one another if certain members aren’t up to play one of our usual picks like League of Legends(LoL), Counterstrike : Global Offensive(CS:GO), or PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds(PUBG). This usually stems from our competitive nature, from when we played smash bros at each others houses back in high school, however, cooperative games with a challenge are just as good.

This week, we’ve been playing Fortnite’s Battle Royale, a side project of Epic Games. The main game consists of cooperative zombie killing, with resource gathering and building being a core part of the game, whereas the battle royale section is free to play and pits you against 99 other players to be the last one surviving. They’ve since added in a squad mode, allowing up to 4 players to play together on the same team. After recent successes in the battle royale genre, most notably PUBG(arguably the first decent battle royale game), many other studios are developing their own battle royale games. While these types of games are nothing new, no single game managed to handle the genre in a way that attracts casual and competitive audiences alike. That is, until DayZ and, more recently, PUBG came around. Both were originally mods of other games, with DayZ coming from ARMA 2, and PUBG coming from ARMA 3.

 

Fortnite contains more cartoony graphics and a resource gathering and building feature. The map is much smaller than it’s competitors, allowing anyone to go anywhere on the map from any spawn bus trajectory versus the limited areas one can reach in PUBG. There are no vehicles to get around faster, or to avoid the “storm”, which creates a “death barrier” that gets progressively stronger as the game goes on and forces players into a smaller area. The game encourages creative usage of the “build” mechanics to create alternate routes, scale mountains, or make a fortress to fight others. Some practical uses of it are to make walls protecting you from long range enemy fire in order to engage them at a closer range, or creating stairs to reach the top of a mountain for vantage points.

Resources can be accumulated from anything that’s not the ground, with wood, brick and iron. Wood is the cheapest to get, but is also the weakest. A few rifle shots will take out a wood wall or platform very quickly. Brick is the middle ground, being mined from rarer rocks and stone buildings, but stronger than wood. Iron is the hardest to mine, and there are fewer sources of it, however, it does have the most strength. This makes it ideal for late game fortress battles. Buildings range from walls and platforms to stairs, and roofs, and if you’re familiar with the base game, can be outfitted with windows or otherwise modified using the edit tool, though very few people know about this, and even fewer care. The editing consists of 4 “tiles” you can activate or deactivate for platforms, and 9 tiles for walls. For example, a wall with the center tile deactivated will create a window in the middle, but also slightly decrease it’s durability. With how new the game is, people will begin to pick up these skills and use them more effectively.

In terms of gun-play, the game falls flat on it’s face. While yes, it does run fairly well on most lower end PCs that can’t run PUBG, the complexity of the game itself is very neutered. If it doesn’t have a scope on it, you can’t aim down sights, forcing you to rely on the random number generator(RNG) to be in your favor. Pistols do decent damage with low fire rate, as they should. Sub Machine Guns(SMG) do little damage with high fire rate, and the RNG makes them practically useless at range. Rifles have a bit better accuracy, with high damage and fire rates, making them highly sought after, especially if they have scopes on them. Shotguns have extreme damage falloff which causes them to be useless at distances less than 10 meters, but they are excellent for sieging rooms after breaking a wall down, or creating a staircase to drop on top of an unsuspecting foe. Snipers are the only guns that have bullet drop, but have a quick travel time. Due to their accuracy, they are game breaking for skilled players, and you will most likely see someone stack staircases for a higher angle on unsuspecting prey below. With head shots, they can easily one shot most targets, even with over-shields. Rarity of loot goes from common(white) to epic(purple). Uncommon(green) and rare(blue) are better than their common counterparts, with improved stats, but even common weapons are decent enough to fight other people with as long as you play to their strengths. A purple SMG doesn’t magically become a long range rifle just because it does 50% more damage.

Health is pretty standard, with lower tier healing items like bandages only able to heal 15 at a time, and only up to 75/100 health. Med kits are rarer, but will heal the full amount. Energy vials can be used to create an over-shield for 50 hp each, capping at 100 over-shield past health, effectively making someone a 200 hp target.

Overall, the game is very niche and unique, which isn’t always a good thing. Many people play battle royale games for their tense moments, where you never know where you’re being shot from. Fortnite’s battle royale makes it incredibly easy with tracker shots to see where you’re being shot from and to fight back, and the graphics help you spot targets who would otherwise be difficult to see in other battle royale games. The biggest issue for most, however, is the gun-play and lack of supplies. Oftentimes, you’ll find that many people die in the early stages of the game simply because of bad RNG in looting areas. A shotgun is going to beat the base pickaxe 99% of the time, and if you don’t find a weapon, you’re basically helpless against those who do. Late game fights are incredibly exciting with each player trying to build fortresses or get a flank on the others, but the problem is getting to that point with good gear. If you don’t take out at least 5 other people who’ve looted earlier on, then chances are you don’t stand a chance against those who have unless you play incredibly smart.

Moving ahead, Fortnite’s Battle Royale is going to have to find ways to balance these mechanics, because as far as PC gaming goes, most computers will be able to run Fortnite better than they will be able to run PUBG, allowing a much wider audience to be engaged. This comes from the fact that it has a parent game with dedicated support, whereas most other battle royale games start as offshoots and mods of other games like ARMA. Unfortunately, the experience has been pretty underwhelming for me, and it has a long way to go to catch up to PUBGs status in the battle royale genre.

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