Fortnite is the biggest video game in the world right now, and the best thing is, it deserves it. As battle royale chatter sweeps across every classroom and workplace worldwide, it would have been easy for a small sense of arrogance to creep in. But in fact, the complete opposite has happened. Developer Epic Games has remained thoroughly grounded during its rise to power with constant updates, a Battle Pass that’s setting the precedent for future multiplayer titles, and live events that are changing the game in a meaningful fashion. It’s not for everyone, but for those who do invest their time into being the one in 100, there’s so much to love.
The biggest key to all of this success is of course the fact that Fortnite is completely free-to-play on every major console, PC, and smartphones. It’s absolutely everywhere and with not a single penny needed to spark a download, the barrier to entry is non-existent. With even a mild curiosity, you could be jumping out of the Battle Bus and playing in no time at all. And thanks to the Free Pass, you’re making progress straight away. This is Games as a Service done right with emotes, skins, and even the virtual currency V-Bucks on offer in exchange for simply playing the game. And with absolutely no microtransactions that affect your performance in-game to be seen, there’s no cap whatsoever on how well you could do. It’s all down to personal ability and time investment to improve your skills. This is free, and very, very fair.
If you do want to make an investment however, the Battle Pass will serve your needs perfectly. Priced at 950 V-Bucks, which works out at a little less than £8, you’ll gain access to a truck-load of new cosmetics to customise your avatar with, but it doesn’t stop there. Across the 100 ranks, you’ll also earn back those V-Bucks you spent in the first place as you level up, and with the Season 4 Battle Pass offering 1300 V-Bucks if you hit max rank, you’ve effectively earned all your money back and more. This is an incredibly appealing pricing structure in an age of rip-off season passes and throwaway DLC, and so Fortnite has to be applauded for giving players the chance to actually make a profit in exchange for once again, simply playing the game. Through the combination of the Free Pass and the Battle Pass, Epic Games has all your bases covered. For the players just looking for a quick dabble here and there, they’ll slowly rank up through the free option while having a good time. On the other hand, the more hardcore will opt to upgrade to the Battle Pass to gain access to a whole host of bonuses and the chance to earn all their money back. It’s an incredibly reasonable way of pricing your game for those who want to take the next step in their investment.
But its pricing structure isn’t the only thing Fortnite has going in its favour. The game’s inviting artstyle has received praise for its appeal to children thanks to bright colours and inviting character designs. It’s inclusive, with multiple races, nationalities, and skin colours represented via a mountain of skins. Sure, you do have to pay for these, but even the default character switches up their gender and skin colour between matches. The heart of this point is that there is something for everyone. The image of the alpha white male leading the way still remains supreme in the vast majority of videogames, so for the biggest game in the world to be all about inclusion and representation speaks volumes. This is the future, but Fortnite’s already living in it.
When it comes to the in-game action though, the skill ceiling is there to greet you with intricacies and high level plays that some can only dream of pulling off. I myself honed my battle royale skills in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, but there’s still so much for me to learn and master. Only managing a puny two wins in Fortnite compared to my slightly more impressive seven victories in PUBG proves that for even someone like myself, the skill ceiling is as high as you want to it to be. And for those just looking to make a start in the genre, there’s a monumental amount of depth to every mechanic to uncover. Building is what sets Fortnite apart from any other battle royale on the market, and the sort of forts and structures you’ll come across can be incredibly impressive. It’ll take a lot of time before newcomers can even dream of constructing these strongholds on the fly, but with the newly implemented Playground mode, there’s now a place for people to practise with their friends.
When it comes to the act of shooting however, all you can do is get out there and train. With a rarity system attached to every weapon set, from assault rifles and rocket launchers to shotguns and pistols, there’s a small sense of progression going on within every singular match. And it’s going to take time before you really feel like you’ve really gotten to grips with a particular gun. Learning its fire rate, the damage it deals, and the reload speed all come into play during a confrontation with another player, as you both frantically build a miniature fort for yourselves and then get to work on taking each other down. It may have gotten the stigma of being a game for children, but the amount of depth in its mechanics and the skill on show would suggest anything but.
None of this happens for a decent length of time, though, without a developer constantly updating its game and interacting with the community built up around it. Thankfully, Epic Games has taken to the task of managing things with ease. Updates and tweaks to the map and weapons are almost a daily occurrence and new guns are being added all the time, but the most significant additions come in the form of new modes on a very regular basis. Solo, Duos, and Squads will always be there, but it’s the likes of 50v50, sniper challenges, and Final Fight that are mixing things up in a meaningful manner. This helps to keep things fresh as while you may never tire of firing up a quick solo match, there’s always something different to experience for longer play sessions. The amount of support the title receives is unprecedented, and it has gone a long way in aiding the retention of its huge player base.
In-game events also play a part in keeping fans interested, and one such occurrence a few days ago feels like the game’s biggest moment yet. Epic Games told players to look to the sky at 18:30 on 30th June in-game to witness a one-off event, and what a spectacle it was. Check out Polygon’s video for context. A rocket ship takes off, and then enters dimensional time rifts before eventually creating a huge tear in the sky. This happened across every single game in progress in real-time for all players. You’ll also notice that Polygon’s video takes place in a Duos match, and with so many players swarming on the initial rocket site, it’s clear that participants abandoned their guns in order to get the best seat in the house. This is an incredibly impressive achievement that opens the door to so many more possibilities for Epic Games going forward. Thanks to the event running without a hitch, the developer must surely feel compelled to do this in-game storytelling even more. They now know that their playerbase wants it and most definitely appreciates it.
The rocket launch feels like a landmark moment for Fortnite, because it encapsulates everything that is so incredible about the game. It’s also what inspired me to write this article, because I can’t think of any other experience that I’ve ever felt so happy to be a part of in video games. It has helped me to put into context a feeling I’ve been having for a while now, and it’s that I feel good about the time I’m spending with this game. From its extremely fair approach to the Battle Pass and Epic Games’ efforts to promote representation and inclusiveness via the skins on offer to the sheer amount of depth in its gameplay mechanics and the constant addition of new modes to mix things up, this is a battle royale that is doing everything right. Fortnite deserves its mammoth amount of popularity, and I’m proud to say that I love playing it.
Are you as high as Liam is on Fortnite? Is there anything you think the game could still be doing better? Drop into the comments below.