The Epic Games survival finally sees the light, almost six years after the original announcement
Given the many changes of the last harvest we decided to review Fortnite again. You can find our updated judgment at this address.
We had frankly lost hope: presented in the now distant December 2011, Fortnite seemed destined for cancellation; and instead, with a twist, last month Epic Games announced its launch, with a version initially only accessible for the purchase of a Founder Package from 39.99 euros. The game will take on the characteristics of a real free-to-play only during the next year, and the idea of the developers is that by then the experience will be enriched by several elements, including a competitive multiplayer mode. For the moment, however, we remain faithful to the line originally conceived for the project: a cartoon-style survival style, characterized by construction phases alternated with sequences in which we need to protect a certain location from the attack of hordes of undead.
How did Fortnite’s post-apocalyptic scenario become such? All the fault of a mysterious perturbation, simply called “the storm”, which suddenly fell in all parts of the world, causing the disappearance of 98% of the population. The survivors of the event had to organize themselves to resist further attacks, because in this case the problem is not only thunder and lightning: when the sky is purple, on the earth appear mysterious appendages that open the gates of hell and project for the zombie streets of various kinds: from the simple abjectors to the “baseball players”, from the unstoppable tanks to the “beekeepers”, passing through the witches who can bombard our positions from the distance and from the evil hopping minions.
So many types of living dead, that we will face during the long campaign of the title Epic Games, composed at the moment by four scenarios (Pietralegno, Tavolaccia, Vallarguta and Montespago) from the degree of increasing difficulty, accessible as we complete the missions. From a narrative point of view, Fortnite puts us in the shoes of a survivor who, inadvertently running into a stronghold controlled by some nice robots, is spurred to coordinate the action of human warriors who fight to stem the storm and its evil effects. The dialogues, spoken in English and subtitled in Italian, are very funny and manage to create the Cartoonesque atmosphere that the graphic suggests from the first impact, pleasant and colorful, with a beautiful design for the survivors and zombies. Sometimes even frame rate drops occur on PlayStation 4 Pro, but let’s imagine this is something that developers will be able to fix without major problems in the coming weeks. What really matters for the quality of the experience is the gameplay, and there is sorry to say but it’s not all roses and flowers.
In Fortnite we are therefore the “commanders”, but at the end it is a simple expedient. Selected one of the available characters, in fact, we will check it directly, as in a third person shooter at Gears of War, although with a system of movement simplified and accessible, which does not provide the ability to lurk and regulates quick shots through an indicator of fatigue. A short tutorial introduces us to the mechanisms of gameplay: some catch on the fly, with great ease, but others remain a bit ‘too dark and then you have to engineer yourself to understand them, which makes the first hours of play a bit’ problematic. The basic idea, replicated in practically every type of mission (apart from those in which you are looking for survivors), is to explore some maps of generous size, collect resources by picking anything from cars to trees, from cancel the houses, find the point of interest on duty and eventually collect the units of energy needed to start a device.
Before starting the countdown that will lead to the arrival of the zombies, however, we will have to go to the “construction” mode and put up a more or less resistant structure around the area that we will have to defend from the assault of the enemies, choosing between different materials (wood, stone, iron) and decorating floors, walls or ceilings of traps gradually more sophisticated, able to eliminate the enemies that are stationed there. When we are ready, we will be able to operate the switch and face more numerous hordes, giving depth to the projectiles and experimenting with a simple but solid combat system, which can give some satisfaction as long as not to engage in melee combat: collision detection in this way case is approximate and the fun is less. Organizing together with the other members of the group becomes important as you go to the advanced stages, also because having a companion who covers us can eventually restore the walls and defenses removed without suffering damage.
Forty-six Trophies are unlockable with Fortnite: many are obtained by performing certain actions for the first time, for example building a weapon or a structure, while others are related to the completion of groups of missions for each specific scenario. In any case, you need to spend a lot of hours playing if you want to get everything.
Fortnite is a cooperative multiplayer game for up to four participants (without the need to be registered with PlayStation Plus, however), but nothing prevents you from tackling missions alone. The early hours are actually trivial from the point of view of the challenge, and the biggest obstacle is the understanding of some specific concepts. How to create weapons and their ammunition? What is better to pick up? How to manage “active” defense posts? The latter practice is incomprehensibly cumbersome: you have to recall a survivor, place it on a “table”, create a weapon and leave it close to him, then possibly make him a nurse if the zombies wound him or remain short of ammunition. Better then to fall back on simpler but equally effective solutions, giving up certain facets.
There is a whole outline, which then is typical of free-to-play, ranging from unlockable characters (each with special abilities also related to the class of membership) to specialists who can take care of certain “departments” and enhance the our action in the field, from the huge trees of the unlockable skills to the research and development sector, passing through a rich list of achievements and the inevitable ritual of opening the piñate, from which to take virtual dollars, materials and extra survivors. From this point of view the purchase of a Founder’s Package is justified only by the ability to access the game in advance, because in truth the contents of the pack are not essential to play in a fruitful way. The biggest problem of the Epic Games title however lies in the strong repetition of the missions, which move along a path well known to those who know the free-to-play productions, artificially made full bodied to give the feeling of a wealth that is missing, all in order to focus on monetization. Legitimate solutions, but maybe they will be more understandable when the game will be available in a free way for everyone and you can decide if and how much to spend to speed up your progression
The hunter-style cooperative shooter’s formula still works very well and nobody knows it better than Epic Games, but Fortnite lacks something to convince. Will be the inevitable distortions of a free-to-play structure that has the obligation to grind numbers in spite of the variety of action, the mechanisms will be too cumbersome that characterize some aspects of crafting, the experience entertains briefly but does not take off. The battles against the zombies of Fortnite have in fact some good moments, but the acute ones are missing and the feeling is that for the moment there is not the case to spend for the access in advance a dangerously close to the price of the premium productions.
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