Fortnite, a co-op game which could be described as a merging of both Left 4 Dead and Minecraft, has recently launched a battle royale-type spinoff. While the standalone game will put you out at least $40, this new experience is totally free, and has made it hugely successful, with Fortnite’s twitter boasting over 1 million players on launch night.
Over 1 million players have partied on the Battle Bus during the first day of Battle Royale! Thank you and party on! 🙌🎉🚍 pic.twitter.com/Tdqnk8YClb
— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) September 27, 2017
So what’s so special about this new entry into the already-crowded battle royale arena of games? First, it’s built with the cartoony art style of its parent game, with cell-shaded characters doing battle in a cheery world. It also has treasure chests, which spawn randomly and are filled with valuable loot for lucky players. But the biggest difference is the ability of players to build.
The building system, carried over from the Fortnite base game, is very expansive, allowing players to build all sorts of structures quickly and efficiently. A player can start on the ground and build a ramp up to a cliff, gain a height advantage and snipe at players far away, or they can quickly throw up a temporary shelter in order to defend against attackers from cover. Building requires materials, which players can harvest from standing structures, or natural formations like rocks or trees. You can see these systems in action in the gameplay trailer:
Of course, we must address the elephant in the room: isn’t this game just a clone of Player Unknown’s BattleGrounds? You wouldn’t be the first to raise this question, as PUBG studio Bluehole beat you to it in a press release in which they said
We are concerned that Fortnite may be replicating the experience for which PUBG is known…We have also noticed that Epic Games references PUBG in the promotion of Fortnite to their community and in communications with the press…we don’t feel that’s right.
-Chang Han Kim, press release
Bluehole has also said it will “contemplate further action.” But do the publishers of PUBG really have a leg to stand on, should they decide to pursue legal avenues? After all, they weren’t the first game to be released in the battle royale genre. PUBG is also extremely similar to H1Z1: King of the Kill, from the player entry method (parachuting out of a plane) to the methods of forcing players to fight closer together (bombing runs, killer circle closing in), to the existence of vehicles, to the methods of looting, not to mention many other similarities. It seems almost ironic that the PUBG team would raise this sort of complaint.
Speaking of similarities, what new features does Fortnite’s iteration bring to the table? There are some cosmetic differences, such as the Battle Bus, a blue behemoth of a schoolbus sporting a boot on every tire, kept aloft by hot air balloon while players dive out to the playing area. They then use “gliders” instead of parachutes to aim their falls. Then of course there’s the difference in art style that Epic Games has employed, a deceptively saccharine world filled with people that want to shoot you and steal the loot off your still-warm corpse.
It is different in more concrete ways as well. There are more varied weapons, such as a grenade launcher and an RPG. But the most striking difference between Fortnite: Battle Royale and any other sort of battle royale game is the quick building system, which can be the difference between dying or surviving to fight a little longer. Players can throw down a half-built brick wall and use it to hide from a hail of bullets, then peek around the improvised cover and kill an attacker. As the game progresses, players have scavenged for more and more resources, and it’s not uncommon to see players on towers they’ve built taking shots at others on the ground.
This can be a risky strategy, as the blue wall moves quick and can rapidly leave a tower outside the play area. Structures are also very weak against weapon damage. However, it can also be very efficient as a team strategy, with one player building and several defending or attacking.
While Fortnite: Battle Royale’s less-than-serious appearance may at first have some players skeptical, don’t doubt that it can be just as harrowing of an experience as its more realistic counterpart, PUBG. Players report having just as much adrenaline-fueled, cold sweat-dripping fun as anyone could want. And with over 1 million players on launch night, it seems the hype is real.
The game also has some inherent advantages over Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, such as being multi-platform on PC, Playstation, and XBox (PUBG is currently only on PC), and also being free-to-play. With solid mechanics, dynamic environments, and exciting gameplay, this new entry in the battle royale genre just may give the king PUBG a run for its money.