Fortnite's Battle Royale Is A Delight (And A Whole Lot Like Battlegrounds)

The prospect of besting 99 other gamers through sheer resourcefulness and daredevilry is why the battle royale genre has become so compelling to millions of gamers. Survival shooter Battlegrounds now has the second all-time highest concurrent player count on Steam, and yesterday Fortnite, a multiplayer game about building forts and defending against zombie swarms, just launched its own standalone battle royale mode for free. It sparked a little controversy after Battlegrounds' developer BlueHole raised an eyebrow. But, questions of copyright aside, Fortnite's battle royale mode is solid and joyous to play, a welcome respite from the more tedious parts of Battlegrounds.

Fortnite

Fortnite's base game entails building and defending forts against incoming swarms of enemies called husks. In my impressions of it, I felt that its over-complicated progression system obscured what is, at base, a very good game. Since August, I've been waiting for a reason wade through my frightening to-do list of awarding XP, unlocking heroes, levelling up abilities, navigating skill trees, and figuring out what the hell "survivor" cards do — all so I could enjoy Fortnite's clean-feeling mechanics, sugary cartoon world and diverse cast. Fortnite is a tower defence, player-versus-environment, resource management, third-person shooter/builder, so why not throw a little battle royale in there, too?

Fortnite's battle royale mode takes everything I want to love about Fortnite and provides a fresh context that lets me love it unabashedly, without the weight of an over-complicated meta-game. It's a last-man-standing mode in which 100 players are dropped onto an island, gather guns, and shoot each other down, all while a "storm" constricts the playable area into a smaller and smaller circle. To defend themselves, players can construct forts out of whatever they amass from destroying buildings or environmental objects such as cars or dumpsters. Strong impulse control, quick-wittedness and spatial awareness will carry players far, but always working against them is the threat of random, unforeseen death by enemies they can't account for.

It might sound a smidge familiar. Immediately after hopping into my first game, I understood the public scepticism Battlegrounds' developer expressed over the obvious similarities. Players are thrown into a lobby where they run around and hack at each other. They're then shuffled onto a floating vehicle (a bus — not a plane) from which they dive toward an island. From there, they collect guns from buildings, mostly clustered across a hilly, green map. They can play in singles or squads, and soon there will be supply drops and cosmetic items. A little awkward is the fact that Fortnite's developer Epic Games also makes Unreal Engine 4, which Battlegrounds runs off.

Fortnite

There's no point being coy about it: Fortnite's battle royale mode is crazy similar to Battlegrounds. Developer Epic Games certainly was not coy: The studio's creative director even directly referenced Battlegrounds in a PlayStation blog explaining their motivations to develop the battle royale mode. Truly, the parallels are glaring, minus Fortnite's fort-building mechanics.

Those fort-building mechanics are a welcome replacement for Battlegrounds' obsession with whiling the game away gathering guns, ammo, armour, scopes, silencers and whatever else before, inevitably, getting head-shotted from a motorcycle side-car by a more gifted player. In Fortnite's battle royale mode, guns and ammo are still hot commodities, and it's important to grab them immediately after landing. However, there are no real add-ons to chase aside from traps and medicine. It's great. I'd much rather hack away at things, collect materials and construct small huts from which I can shoot at opponents in my time between landing on the island and getting killed by someone better than me. And, anyway, it's about as exciting for a stranger to infiltrate your fort and head-shot you as it is to get head-shotted from somewhere totally unknown.

Fortnite

The construction mechanics lets players make forts and barriers to protect themselves, but they also make it very difficult to stay sneaky. Demolishing environmental items for materials makes noise, which can draw attention to you. Unlike Battlegrounds, complete silence isn't really an option, so games move a little more quickly. Also, as the storm closes in, forts might get zoned out, forcing players to abandon their new homes, which they hastily deconstruct.

In Fortnite battle royale's squads, I was hugely compelled by strategies that involved splitting up duties. One person would construct a fort and another would defend it while the third and fourth player would aggressively pursue opponents with gunfire. With more asymmetric roles than Battlegrounds, squads felt dynamic and tactical in ways I hadn't previously experienced in this genre.

Fortnite

Two big things Battlegrounds gets right are lacking in Fortnite's battle royale: Cars and that ineffable "gun feel". There is no powerful force behind shooting in Fortnite; it feels inconsequential. Epic Games says they're working on it, but frankly, I can't imagine how they could approximate the jump-scare rush of firing a semi-automatic inside Battlegrounds' terrifying hospital. The reason why Battlegrounds has captivated millions is because it's a jumpy, raw, high-risk firecracker of a game that feels a little like the good parts of gambling. I'm not sure that Fortnite, which its cutesy aesthetic and weaker feedback, could design that vibe in a game, or should even try to.

So, what does it matter that these two games are so comparable in the first place? I am not BlueHole, who are perhaps rightfully concerned about how similar these games are. I am but a humble fan of Battlegrounds who has small complaints about its emphasis on gathering loot, as well as a wanna-be fan of Fortnite who has complaints about the main game's clunky progression system. And, thankfully, those complaints are done away with in battle royale mode.

As such, I am convinced that Fortnite's battle royale mode is superb and euphoric, especially in squads. So, I am choosing not to make its liberal use of Battlegrounds' designs an issue for me and will, for the time being, be voraciously playing it in lieu of Battlegrounds until the guilt creeps in.


Comments

    Exactly! And what about H1Z1? Released way before Battlegrounds. If anything, Battlegrounds is the copycat here. They have no right to complain.

      Dude it's the same guy that did h1z1 and battlegrounds.

      The specific issue is that PUBG is paying royalties to Epic for using their engine, and now Epic is creating a direct competitor thats their main gripe not the fact they are creating a battleground mode.
      Personally I am hoping this just fuels competition and keeps PUBG devs making improvements to their game rather then just giving us expensive loot crates

      if you really want to get down to it.... H1Z1 never had battle royal, it was added as a mode later

      what started all this BR is the Arma mod. just like the dayZ mod but seperate and different.

      however a arena match goes way back to SNES and megadrive, and OFC the movies, hunger games.

      Could even go back as far as the gladiators in rome who fought to the last man standing in the coliseums

      Totally agree and there is also too many games with the same similarities to say they are downright copying a game

    Is this fortnite? i really want to get it do you know if you could send me a copy for windows 10 pc?

      The Battle Royale part is free, you just need to download the Epic Launcher, install Fortnite and choose Battle Royale from the menu.

    I'm enjoying playing. I feel like it's missing a lot though. You can't prone or crouch (that I can figure out anyway), there are no gun upgrades (scopes, extended ammo etc), there are no cars, so if you happen to be on the edge of the map when the circle shrinks its a long run (doable, but long) across half the map to get inside. The weapon accuracy is terrible on the low-tiered guns. There is no customisation at all. No rewards for winning. Nothing to progress. Which I am sure will come in time, but right now it feels a bit rushed and unfinished.

    That said, it's still fun. There is great strategy to be had in using building to get access to loot and stay safe and its different in a lot of good ways to PUBG.

    AND it has one massive selling point that PUBG doesn't have - It's available on multiple platforms! Which imo could really hurt (but not kill) PUBG so long as Epic keep adding content for the mode.

      Its a brand new game base to build on, feels like an alpha but its a solid base. possibility of increasing players and making a random generated map.

      saying that the servers are overloaded at the moment worldwide, they took em down to fix.

      feels like TF2,
      i havnt got PUBG,

      Fortnite is my new fav tho!

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