After dancing around it for a good while, on Monday night for the first time I played Fortnite’s battle royale mode. I’ve never played PUBG or any of the other battle royale mods of other PC games, so it was my very first experience with the genre. And I have to say, due to me staying up way later than I should have after playing a good three hours of continuous games – I think I can see the appeal of Fortnite. (And then I played for a few more hours yesterday just for good measure.)
The thing that struck me almost immediately was just how easily I got into it. It’s one of those games that is very friendly to new players – even if you suck at it. I didn’t win a match (and honestly didn’t even come close despite having a few top 10 finishes) but I still had a lot of fun playing the matches. Unlike games like Overwatch where I get frustrated with multiple losses in a row, every time I died early I was easily able to shake it off and immediately requeue without any negative feelings or frustration.
So what is it about Fortnite (and the battle royale genre as a whole) that is so attractive and user-friendly?
Well let’s start with the initial concept. It’s a 100-person battle royale where there is only one winner. Every match there are 99 losers. This already mitigates disappointment to other multiplayer games comparatively – whether a 1v1 or 6v6 multiplayer, the loss is usually more impactful because you’re not sharing your loss with a lot of other people. Meanwhile in this, the odds of you winning the match are very low so you go into the match expecting to have fun and not necessarily win. Now this changes in team modes where you can duo or play in squads of 3 or 4, but even in those the odds of your team winning are still much lower than regular multiplayer modes in games where its usually you versus one or a few other people, or one team versus a second team.
This does not happen very often, unless you’re Ninja (the most popular Fortnite streamer).
On top of that, the game is very fast and polished. Aside from a few server issues and a few lag problems I’ve had after a recent update hit, in general the game loads quickly and doesn’t have many technical issues. If you die in a match, you’re out of the match and starting the next one in less than a minute. The lack of loading times and ease of getting right back into a new match is really beneficial to the game’s structure. The game’s popularity definitely helps in this of course – as millions of people are playing Fortnite and PUBG, it’s easy to get 100 people together for a game.
But the best part of the game for me is that I feel successful at the game even though I’m not very good at it. While I’m very familiar with third-person shooters and even played the original version of Fortnite before it went Battle Royale, the actual shooting other people part of this game has eluded me. Because the game combines both deathmatch style shooting with Minecraft-like building mechanics, it makes the combat portion of the game play quite differently than normal. I haven’t quite mastered the strategies of building defense when you get into a firefight while others are moving and hiding and building very quickly and outmanuevering me. I haven’t racked up a lot of kills – my best match so far I killed two people. But I’m still having fun and still feel like I’m doing good.
And that’s because I’m very good at the other, arguably more important, half of the game – survival. Despite my inability to master the combat yet, I’ve managed to make it to the top 10 in solo matches in about 1 out of every 3 games I’ve played – and I can make it to the top 50 over 50% of the time. And this is what makes the game fun for me – there’s a certain level of tension once you drop into the game and have been surviving for a long time. The longer you survive by sneaking around, the more paranoid you get – and as the map gets smaller, each hill and building becomes an even bigger threat. But even if you don’t get into combat until the very end of the game, if you surprise and kill the right player you can take all their equipment and that equalizes you with the rest of the final combatants.
It’s a very unique tension that only shows up in permadeath games. I enjoy the XCOM games for the same reason – every mission brings the threat of possibly losing a soldier forever. It’s slightly different in Fortnite, but every time you play it’s all or nothing – there’s no silver medals or K/D ratio to care about. Either you come out on top and get the victory, or you’re one of 99 other corpses that got nothing. It puts a different spin on the multiplayer genre (and video games in general) since all your decisions matter and you can’t just respawn if you accidentally position yourself wrong. You’ve got to start all over from the beginning if you die.
Have I mentioned you can be a bush?
I’m really itching to play with friends, though. While solo has been quite fun, I think playing in duos and squads are where the fun really lies. Not only can your team watch your flank for you, you can deploy different strategies with building and combat. Also it’s always more fun to play games in a social atmosphere – and since there’s really no pressure due to the quick resets, it can be a very relaxed and casual experience.
All in all, I can definitely see why Fortnite has taken off – the cartoony, almost family-friendly presentation and art style, more fun and unique weapons and items than the rigid, realistic military items of PUBG, and all of what I’ve listed above in regards to gameplay with the easy jump-in, jump-out atmosphere just combines into a great package. Sometimes people are hesitant to get into very popular phenomena due to either wanting to be counterculture or being snobbish, but count me in as a fan of Fortnite.
Now to convert some friends.