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Fortnite: Battle Royale

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 you 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.

fortnite battle royale

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.”

FNBR Freefall

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.”

Exciting stuff. No? Just me then. And the millions of players currently playing the two most popular games in the genre – Fortnite: Battle Royale and Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds.

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.



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Posted by on January 6, 2018 in Gaming


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Ghost Recon: Wildlands – Impressions


In early March this year, two video games are being launched which I’m interested in. Namely, Ghost Recon: Wildlands, and Horizon Zero Dawn. Tired of being let down by AAA games bought at launch, I’ve researched both of these titles, in a bid to make sure they are what I thought them to be.

Now, I’m not about to buy two big games in the space of a few days. Not because of the cost, though that should always be a factor, but because when I get a new game I like to play it until it’s completed. This would mean if I bought both, one would sit on a shelf, unplayed, until I was done with the other.

Which one to get, then? Both appeal to me because of the vast, open worlds in which they’re set – I’m an adventurer at heart, so I can happily waste a great deal of time exploring a vast, playable map. As a storyteller, I’m drawn to Horizon Zero Dawn because it appears to have an interesting and complex storyline, something I can really immerse myself in. Ghost Recon: Wildlands, on the other hand, has four player co-op, and that is what tipped the balance in its favour.

So when I was selected to take part in the closed beta for Wildlands, I saw it as a good chance to get stuck in and test it to death, to really ensure it met my expectations, and lived up to its promise.

I’m sorry to say, it failed in that regard.

Don’t get me wrong – the game has a lot of good points, and they may be enough for a lot of people to derive a great deal of enjoyment from it. So let’s start with those good points, shall we?

  • Gameplay: In Wildlands, players have the freedom to do as they wish, with the entire map being open to them from the start. You can hop into and operate any vehicle you see – a range of cars, pickups and SUVs, trucks, motorbikes, various boats, choppers, and aeroplanes. How to achieve a mission objective is entirely at the player’s discretion. Do you use total stealth, and sneak in like the ‘Ghost’ operative you’re supposed to be? Do you go loud, and blast everything you see into oblivion? Do you make use of the local rebels, and have them create a diversion for you? Maybe you’ll wait for the cover of darkness, or a passing storm, and make your move then. The choice is infinitely yours.
  • Visuals: Wildlands looks good – it’s bright and colourful, with impressive draw distances. This means you can crest a hill and be greeted by a sweeping vista of fields, forests and snaking rivers with a backdrop of rugged, snow-capped mountains. It really gives you a sense of being in a vast, wild land, reinforced by the knowledge that in the full game you can travel all the way to that distant mountain range.
  • Map Size: The map looks to be huge. The beta was restricted to one region, and that was big enough for a good few hours of intensive gameplay. This region, however, is only one of a total of twenty one, so take those hours of gameplay and multiply them by that number. Judging by the region available in the beta, it’s fair to make the assumption that the entire map will be full of a range of different terrains, and various objectives to keep you occupied.

Sounds good so far, right? And so it should – many game developers would be happy to achieve just a few of the above points. But, as previously alluded to, there are negative points. So let’s take a look.

  • Gameplay: While there is a great deal to do in Wildlands, with a broad range of ways to accomplish those things, the game seems to be unsure of just what it wants to be. Is it a ‘serious’ tactical shooter, making the player think about the best plan of action before attempting said plan? Or is it a more ‘arcadey’ game, with the emphasis firmly on fun? As it turns out, it’s neither of those – rather, it appears to be a bad mixture of the two. Using tactics, you could stay at a distance and use your sniper skills to quietly take out patrolling guards. This is badly let down, however, when the bodies of those you’ve silently killed just disappear. A ‘serious’ shooter would give patrolling NPCs the ability to spot dead bodies, and raise the alarm, making tactics and timing all important, but that is sadly lacking in this game.

    If you play with the three in-game AI co-op buddies, you can order them to do various things, from waiting where they are, to regrouping, and even coordinating synchronised take downs. Impressive stuff… but sadly let down when you quickly realise they can do all the work for you, taking all the fun out of it. For instance, when I arrived at the final boss fight of the beta, during the ensuing shootout, I got myself shot down (I was playing on the hardest difficulty). Your buddies have the ability to revive you, within a certain time frame, but the AI ones will only attempt this when it’s safe to do so. As a result, as I lay bleeding to death on the floor, my AI buddies took out all of the bad guys, including the final bosses, before reviving me. I’m less than proud to say I ‘beat’ the final bosses while slowly dying on the floor, without having fired a single shot in anger. Not fun.

    It is also fair to say that you stand more chance of being killed by a bad game mechanic than by legitimate gameplay. Having no jump ability means you can, from time to time, get caught up on a small obstacle which isn’t deemed high enough to trigger the ‘climb over’ mechanic. Having no dive, or roll, ability means if you’re caught unawares, you’re stuck there like a rabbit in headlights while all hell breaks loose around you. You can go prone, but doing so when under fire is always a bad idea.

    And why is it, when I jump into a big 4×4 and floor it in an attempted quick getaway, that flimsy looking tent in front of me, instead of folding like the piece of cloth it is, actually stays just where it is, while the front of my jeep crumples like soggy cardboard? C’mon, people, destructible environments! They are a thing you know.

  • Visuals: As mentioned above, Wildlands is bright and colourful, with impressive draw distances. But graphically, it is lacking. Now, I’m not particularly bothered by graphic quality, I much prefer to prioritise gameplay. And I’m well aware that to achieve large draw distances in a vast open world environment, certain things have to be sacrificed. But the game still looks bland, with various surfaces being dull and almost texture free. Also, in certain areas during a rain shower, the raindrops hitting the floor were represented by very large, very pixelated  ‘splashes’. Now, as this was just a beta, there is every chance that particular visual effect is incomplete, and will be fixed before the final release. But then, there is every chance it might not.
  • Map Size: Again, as mentioned above, the scale of the game’s map looks to be impressive, consisting of twenty one large regions. Which, for me, started alarm bells ringing. The gameplay in Wildlands reminded me very much of Far Cry 4 – namely, taking over the smaller outposts, before moving on to the large ones, and finally taking out the boss. Whilst that was fun, I couldn’t help but wonder if having to do that for each region, basically repeating the same actions twenty one times, would get tedious. Of course, I could be totally wrong in this, and every region might be completely different. There is no way to tell without playing the finished product.

There you go, some of what I consider to be a few of the more relevant good and bad points. On a side note, I have heard a few people comparing Ghost Recon: Wildlands to The Division. Why, I do not know, the two games are poles apart. Yes, they’re both 3rd person shooters, yes they’re both set in an open world. But that’s all. The Division, though being set in an ‘open world’, is still a cover based, linear shooter. The long, straight New York streets restrict your ability to roam freely, and they’re all chocked full of very handy abandoned vehicles, and various barricades which you can shelter behind while you engage the enemy. The ‘boss fights’ are similar – you go where you’re told, when you’re told, your own thoughts on possible tactics be damned. And bullet sponges! Bullet sponges everywhere!

So yeah, don’t use The Division to judge Wildlands, either in a good or a bad way. Just sayin’.

My final verdict on Ghost Recon: Wildlands then? My impression after having played the beta (and yes, I completed all the story line, did all side quests, collected all the things, tested it all thoroughly)? Sad to say, I won’t be getting the game at launch. I’m kinda bummed about that, as I wanted to look forward to it, but the game, in its present form, just doesn’t do it for me. Sorry, Ubisoft.

That being said, all of the above are just my thoughts after playing the one closed beta. It’s all just my opinion, and should be treated as such. If you’re looking to buy this game, or any other, it’s your money you’ll be spending, so you should do your own research, and make up your own mind.

As always, that shallot.



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Posted by on February 5, 2017 in Gaming


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