The doors of the bus clank open, inviting you to disembark. You hesitate, unsure whether this is really where you want to get off. A deep breath, a shrug of your shoulders, and you step out, to plummet hundreds of feet down towards the ground below.
To your north, Loot Lake sparkles in the early morning sunlight. Greasy Grove lies to your west, close enough for you to be able to make out its individual buildings. You can see a dozen free-falling bodies heading in that direction, so you swing around to the east. Retail Row lies in the far distance, but Fatal Fields is closer. You adjust your heading and drop towards the farm.
As your glider deploys, slowing your descent to a less terrifying speed, you glance around. You can’t see any other gliders in the area, but you know that doesn’t mean you’re on your own. A long, red barn lies on the edge of the farmstead and you head towards it, sighing with relief as your feet finally touch solid ground. Rough planks of wood cover the barn’s entrance, but they prove to be no obstacle for your pickaxe. The old wood splinters and splits, and then you’re inside.
You’ve been here before, plenty of times, and you know there’s good loot to be found. But this time it seems your luck has run out. There isn’t a glowing chest on the shelf above the entrance. Damn. You run to the far end of the barn and enter a small room there. But again, no chest. What the hell? Back out into the centre of the barn you check the stalls on either side. Some bandages. A few shotgun shells. A couple of rocket grenades. And finally, a pistol with ammunition. At last! It isn’t the best of weapons, but it’s better than nothing.
Armed with the pistol, you pause, listening. Gunfire rattles in the distance, but it’s not close, and not in the direction you intend to head. All is quiet in your general area – no crash and crack as somebody demolishes the environment for building materials, no thump of running footsteps as an adversary looks for their own loot. Silence.
A quick check of your map ascertains the circle is to your north-west, but not too far away. There should be time for you to explore the other farm buildings, surely one of them will contain better weapons. That’s not too much to ask, is it? Another deep breath, and you’re off, scampering across the bare dirt towards the farmhouse.
Rat-tat-tat! The unmistakable sound of a burst-fire weapon rings out in the still air. Bullets thump into your back. You stagger, trying your best to turn around, raising your meagre pistol as you do so. You squeeze the trigger and your weapon fires with a loud report, the bullet flying away into the distance, not even close to hitting your assailant. Your health is dangerously low, you’re outgunned, but still you try to get off another shot, maybe you’ll get lucky.
Your attacker switches weapons as they approach, a pump-action shotgun now grasped in their murdering hands. You both pull your respective triggers at the same time. Your bullet hits the fence post next to your opponent. Their shot hits you full in the face.
Game over. You grin, swear at the RNG gods, and prepare to try again.
The above describes some of my games in Fortnite: Battle Royale pretty well. Truth be told, it describes quite a lot of my games. I’m not very good at it, you see.
But does that matter? No, of course not. I find the game to be a lot of fun, and surely having fun in a game is a lot more important than being good at it. Some may disagree, but tough, this is my blog, not yours.
So what, exactly, is Fortnite: Battle Royale (or FNBR for short)? Released by Epic Games in September 2017, it’s a stand-alone and free to play game, set in the same ‘universe’ as Epic Games’ base game, Fortnite. It’s important to note that the base game isn’t required to play the Battle Royale version (as a side note, the base game will be released as free to play later this year).
“Okay, yes, that’s nice. But just what is a Battle Royale game?” nobody asks, but I’ll answer anyway.
Wikipedia describes the genre as – “A battle royale game is a video game genre that blends the survival, exploration and scavenging elements of a survival game with last man standing gameplay. Battle royale games challenge a large number of players, starting with minimal equipment, to search for weapons and armor and eliminate other opponents all while avoiding being trapped outside of a shrinking “safe area”, with the winner being the last competitor in the game. The name for the genre is taken from the 2000 Japanese film Battle Royale.”
Wikipedia also describes Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode as – “…up to 100 players…all start with no equipment outside of a pickaxe for resource gathering, and parachute onto the map. Once they land, they can scavenge for weapons, armor, and resources, the latter which can be used to make structures… Over time, a “storm” surrounds the area, and makes it so that the “safe” area of the map shrinks down in size. Once the “safe” area has shrunk to the smaller circle on the map… it will generate, at a random location, a smaller circle within. Those caught outside the area take damage and potentially die if they remain outside it too long. There are also random air drops of resources, weapons and items… with varying randomized items determined by rarity.”
It’s a simple premise for a video game, and that is one of the major attractions. Unlike most games with a deep progression system, which require countless hours of dedicated gaming to advance through, Battle Royale games can be picked up and played whenever a player feels like it. Half an hour to spare? Cool, you can jump in and play a game or two. Just like video arcade games of old, you start every new game from scratch, nothing carries over into the next game (cosmetic items aside). Games can last up to twenty or thirty minutes, or for just a few minutes if you play like me.
The social aspect of these games is also a major selling point. Games can be played solo, in pairs with a friend, or in squads of up to four players. A few beers, a few friends, and you’re good to go for a few hours entertainment. There’s little downtime between games, but you only start when you’re ready, so you can take as long as you like.
Fortnite: Battle Royale sets itself apart by being a lot more light-hearted than other games in the same genre. The cartoony style of the graphics sets the not so serious tone, and the gameplay matches this. The biggest differences between FNBR and it’s ‘competitors’ are the ability to destroy the environment, and the ability to build structures.
Your opponent is hiding behind a tree or large rock? No problem. Repeatedly shoot said tree or rock, or fire off a well placed RPG or two, and they’ll soon be without cover. Don’t forget that they can also do the same to you, too! The same goes for buildings, they’re not the safe havens they are in other Battle Royale games, and can be destroyed quite easily.
Want to get up to the top of that cliff? No problem, use the build tool to construct a ramp up to the top. Need a bit of a breather in relative safety? Again, no problem, just build yourself a fort to rest in. Structures can be manufactured from wood, brick or metal, the materials required are gathered from the objects you ‘harvest’ with your trusty pickaxe. These structures are also fairly easy to destroy, however, so have a care!
Being quick on the build is also extremely useful when coming under fire. Players can quickly construct a barrier between themselves and their attacker, giving themselves a few extra seconds to either go on the offensive, or run away.
I freely admit I’m no good at the quick building part, which is probably why I haven’t as yet won a solo game. I’ve come close, surviving until the last two on one occasion (until I fell off a cliff trying to get an angle on the other player), and I quite often get into the top 10. But no wins. Yet.
But the win will come, in time, of that I’m sure. Because despite being no good at building, despite not being the world’s best player of third person shooters (or any shooters, for that matter), Fortnite: Battle Royale is, without a doubt, a lot of fun to play. And it’s that fun factor which will keep me going back for more, time and again.
So, if you like shooters, or are just looking for something new and fun to play, you could do worse than give Fortnite: Battle Royale a go. Sure, it’s still in early access, so occasional issues are to be expected (and Epic Games do a sterling job of keeping on top of those issues, and also in listening to their community) but it’s FREE, and available on PS4, Xbox and PC. So what have you got to lose?
Apart from maybe your dignity.
As always, that shallot.