June 22, 2015 by Paul Curtin
Fortnite’s debut at the VGAs in 2011 had many hyped to see Epic Games trying something fun and new after so many years of developing the more serious Gears of War series. But with each E3 since being another quiet year from the developers behind the project, Epic’s new base-building IP quickly switched from being on the top of everyone’s most anticipated lists to their what-ever-happened-to lists.
For those unfamiliar with the game due to how little has been shown over the past few years, Fortnite is essentially the beautiful combination of games like Minecraft, Team Fortress, Left 4 Dead, Orcs Must Die!, and even other RPG item-scavenging games like Diablo and Borderlands. Basically, Fortnite has A LOT going on… and it’s making this all work together in a perfect ecosystem that has likely been keeping Epic’s developers up all night and causing so many delays in new looks at gameplay.
While these delays might be a slight cause for concern as it would seem that Epic might have bitten off more than they can chew, we finally got our hands on Fortnite at this year’s E3 and can confirm that this game is going to be worth the wait. If you’re a fan of any one of the games and genres mentioned above, then you’re going to have a blast playing Fortnite.
Executive Producer Tanya Watson explained that they plan on having multiple modes in Fortnite, but the one we got to play with the developers focused on defending incoming attackers like Epic’s previous Horde Mode. This mode in Fortnite essentially played out in three waves: Gathering, Building, and Defending. A team of up to 4 players can drop into a location of their choosing on a huge world map with the goal of gaining new resources and discovering new items.
Whether you’re a fan of shooters or building block voxel games, Fortnite is made with the goal of allowing fans of all genres to come together, work as a team, and have fun. In our hands-on demo, we got to see four unique classes with different abilities that suited different play styles. The Constructor and Outlander classes specialized in contributing more towards the building of the team’s fort, while the Commando and Ninja focused more on defending the base with ranged and melee weapons along with even more powerful special attacks.
Once dropping into a new area, Phase 1 consists of players exploring the procedurally-generated maps to scavenge items. Like popular RPGs and Minecraft, there are hundreds and hundreds of objects that can be opened and looted, and almost everything you see in the world can be broken down for parts by chopping away at it with a pickaxe. With secret treasures randomly hidden in basements and attics, it’s easy to let your OCD kick in and get hooked on just running around maps and clearing out everything to make sure not a single rare item is missed.
After the necessary items are done being collected (or your team just gets sick of you breaking down every level of every building in search of epic purple and legendary orange loot), Phase 2 begins. Taking all of the scavenged materials, players can then begin building their fortress to protect a core power supply known as the Atlas. Again, like Phase 1, with how detailed and easy it is to build structures based on blueprints, it’s easy for players to get carried away with building gigantic structures that funnel enemies through crazy death traps as with any great tower defense game.
Building bases really is as easy as promised, allowing for walls to instantly be placed wherever you want, then rotated and modified to create windows, doorways, and supporting arches. Each floor and wall can be created with different materials, such as wood, stone, or brick, and then additional parts, such as spike traps that impale enemies or bounce traps to launch them into the air, can be added on top. Fortnite’s blueprint system is deep and advanced, yet surprisingly simple to understand and use. It’s going to be interesting seeing all of the crazy ideas that fans come up with once mastering the system and building structures even the developers never thought were possible.
Phase 3 of course is when everything gets crazy as incoming waves of enemies begin emerging from the purple fog on the brink of each map and putting your fort to the test. Not knowing what types of enemies are going to be mounting a massive siege against your structure makes for complete chaos. Mobs of Husks (mutant zombies) will begin breaking down walls that you didn’t properly reinforce and ranged foes will hurl swarms of bees over your walls that you accidentally left exposed.
Taking advantage of their own beautiful Unreal Engine 4, Fortnite not only looks great, but it feels great to play. With so much going on between the base-building and zombie-killing, combat remained fast-paced and movement was seamless with no drops in framerate. Even with our demo being stocked with high-level weaponry and how fluid the combat was, Fortnite was a true challenge that had zombies knocking down our last lines of defense with only seconds left on the clock.
With so much going on, it was hard to understand all that Fortnite offers in just a 45-minute preview. In addition to a world map that lets players jump in to new locations, each player gets his or her own town hub where buildings can be placed to give buffs to your team and hire workers to produce materials — similar to garrisons in World of Warcraft. Epic’s even working on Player vs. Player that we can’t wait to see and hear more about because for as crazy as our demo was, the thought of adding in a whole ‘nother team of human foes sounds epic.
As of E3, there’s still no official release date, but a beta is set for this fall. Fortnite will be launching on PC and Mac first as a free to play game, and based on what we’ve seen, those fearing the stigma of “F2P” can rest assured that Epic has been taking their time like Blizzard and Valve to create a lasting experience that doesn’t lock content behind pay walls and will hopefully only improve as it grows in popularity over time.