In case you missed it, battle royale games are very much 2017's success story. H1Z1 continues to attract a decent following, PUBG needs little introduction, and we're eagerly awaiting that title on the Xbox One.
There is now also Fortnite, a game we've previously covered, but which recently tagged on a free-to-play battle royale mode to the main game. In this instance free to play doesn't require you to have the main Fortnite game, either, though naturally, Epic hopes you do.
Fortnite Battle Royale is free to everyone. It's also pretty good, even this early on.
Cute on the outside
When describing the visuals of Fortnite Battle Royale compared to similar titles, it's closer to H1Z1 than it is to PUBG. But it has its own unique style, with a cartoony, cutesy exterior complete with dancing characters.
It's a double-edged sword. On the one hand it could be perceived as a little childish, subsequently being off-putting to some. On the other, it's quite charming and a refreshing change to the pursuit of "realism."
But this is no "baby's first battle royale." Epic makes the engine that PUBG uses, and the mechanics of Fortnite are sound. There have been criticisms of copying, but also, it's a battle royale game; there are going to be some similarities somewhere.
And the fun starts from the get-go, dropping out of the battle bus. It's a bus. In the sky. With music pumping out loud. Otherwise, it follows the tried and true battle royale formula: 100 players, drop into the map, stay inside an ever-shrinking circle, kill 'em all. The latest update has introduced the first signs of leveling up progression and leaderboards, too.
Easy to pick up, tough to master
Fortnite Battle Royale is entirely in the third-person. There are only brief moments when you'll enter into a first-person view when aiming down sights of scoped weapons. It also doesn't have a free look feature where you can cycle the camera around your character, looking behind while still moving forward.
Whether this would be a good addition or not will split opinion. Not having it adds a challenge, since you'll have to work to keep checking your angles, what's behind you, off to the side, or upon that dangerous looking cliff in the distance. I can't tell you how many times someone has snuck up behind me, shotgun in hand.
Fortnite Battle Royale is really easy to pick up and play, but mastering it will take practice. Aiming is hit and miss, and it doesn't help that the latest patch cranks the ADS sensitivity right up. But, even sniper rifles are fairly simple to get to grips with since they don't appear to suffer a huge amount of bullet drop.
Looting is still a huge part of the game but in Fortnite you have to be careful about what you carry. You get five inventory slots, and that's it. This doesn't account for ammo, but if you want to carry shield potions or medkits, these will take up a slot each. So you have to decide whether you want to be able to heal when things go south or whether you want to carry that kick ass rocket launcher.
Build it up high, build it strong
Building aspects of the main Fortnite game have made it into the battle royale mode. This not only helps differentiate from the crowd but adds a new element of strategy in search of outright victory.
When you drop into the island, you're armed with nothing but a huge pickax. At any time you can use this to smash through roofs, walls, fences, cars, and most aspects of the world around you. This, in turn, harvests three resources for you: wood, stone, and metal. Each of these can be used to build structures, perhaps bridging a gap or climbing the side of a cliff, or building yourself defenses for the final shootout.
Whatever you build and however you do it, Fortnite has a hook that no other battle royale has, and it can change the way you play the game. Towards the final few players, you'll see everyone getting inside a fort or building a giant staircase to the clouds to get a positional advantage over the rest.
The map should be bigger. The lack of vehicles is fine as it stands because you can comfortably run the circles without getting hit by the storm. But the fairly small island leaves fewer points to drop in.
If you're a gung-ho, get in and go for as many kills as possible type of player then you'll love the fact you can't seemingly land anywhere without multiple other players being on top of you. If you're a newcomer, it could easily become frustrating very early on.
Fortnite Battle Royale doesn't reward patience and survival as much as something like PUBG. It wants you to go in and shoot everything that moves. That's not going to appeal to some. I'm OK with it personally, but there are times when I'll go seven, eight or more games with someone landing at the same spot and always getting a gun first. That stuff gets annoying.
Should you play?
If battle royale games are interesting to you, absolutely. If for no other reason than we're still waiting for PUBG to make its debut on Xbox. Fortnite Battle Royale isn't perfect and it does its own thing in its own way, but most of the time it's great fun.
You'll have to fight through the frustrating times, and you'll need to perfect the art of building, but it's kept me coming back for more as it has many, many others. The fact that it's completely free leaves you no excuse to not try it out. Epic will probably monetize it through the sale of cosmetic items and such (which has just begun with the latest update), but right now it's committing to keeping the core experience free.
And that's OK by me. It's also still a work in progress, so it should only get better.
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Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine