I find the core of my base situated on top of a cliff, flanked by a suburban house and a basketball court. The storm is in the south, meaning the husk hordes will have to funnel through a narrow hill to attack my core. It’s the perfect place to build a gauntlet of death. I build towers and traps that destroy all the invading zombies with no problem. But soon the husks stop funneling through. One husk has meandered around the funnel and found another path up the cliff that is lightly defended. Soon it has punched a hole in the wall and created a new path every zombie with half a brain decides is the best path to take. The last minute of the defense is spent desperately trying to push back the waves of undead while building new walls around my core.
Fortnite, Epic-Games’s announced-forever-ago fort-building game, is full of moments like these. It’s a tower-defending, loot-scrounging, zombie-shooting game that just went into early access. Normally I’m fairly wary of anything wearing the early access label(and there are some problems I’ll address later) but Fortnite is a well-polished and unique blend of genres that’s totally worth picking up now.
A normal mission in Fortnite drops you into a randomly-generated map and tasks you with finding and defending an objective from waves of zombies (well, they’re called “husks” but they’re zombies). To do that you got to scavenge for parts and materials to build weapons and -most importantly- forts. After a successful defense you get new gear, loot, survivors, and heroes. Then you rinse and repeat, getting tougher missions and better loot so you can build better forts so you can go on tougher missions.
Sometimes a feedback loop like that can feel played-out, but Fortnite makes it work by just offering so many variables to the fun core formula of building and defending forts. Because each map is randomly generated, what and how you build changes every time. On one map you may be funneling zombies through a playground. On another you may be besieged on all sides in the middle of the woods.
Sometimes a missions will mix up the objective on you. You may have to pick up bonus objectives while defending your fort. Or you’ll have a limited time to find and build a fort before a weather balloon lands. You also have a persistent home base that you will eventually expand to ridiculous levels.
You’ll also unlock a refreshingly diverse set of heroes to play as that each have their strengths and abilities. Soldiers make the most use of ranged weapons and combat abilities. Ninjas are nimble and are masters of melee combat. Outlanders are the best at scavenging for loot and materials. And constructors are tanks that build the biggest baddest forts. Each class their moment to shine, and playing with other people is blast when you got a good mix of classes and heroes.
For an early access game Fortnite seems extremely polished and complete. The game looks great, runs great, and outside of an occasional zombie teleporting a short distance when it gets stuck the game seems pretty complete. The only thing as far as I can tell that needs much improvement is the UI. It’s way harder to join a game, manage gear, and do any other management that isn’t related to mowing down zombies.
It’s also worth addressing the elephant in the room: this is paid early access to a game that’s planned to go free-to-play when it launches presumably next year. I believe the game is complete and fun enough to warrant dropping $40 on now, but I do see this as a problem some people might have with the game. Especially since there are microtransactions for random loot drops. For a loot-happy game, the microtransactions seem a bit manipulative, especially since we don’t know the limitations the free-to-play players will get with their game.
But those things aside, Fortnite is a fun twist on tower-defense and survival genres. It’s a great game about building ridiculous forts and fighting cartoon zombies and really that’s all you need to know about it. I’ve been burned on other early access games, but Fortnite is one of those rare games that feels complete as it is and is genuinely fun! If any of that sounds good to you, I would completely recommend dropping some money to play it now.
Zachary D Long fights the storm. If you want you can follow him and his adventures/dog pictures on @invadingduck on Twitter. Besides spending his free time building forts, he also does a random comedy D&D podcast called RPGeniuses.