By Kimari Rennis
Many gamers out there crave an experience that combines surviving, scavenging, building and killing zombies. Fortnite, via its paid early access program, is happy to scratch these itches. It’s a 3D, third-person tower defense, zombie fighting cornucopia. Zombies are referred to as Husks, which spawn from a malicious purple storm and seek to stop your efforts in fighting the storm surrounding the earth. Fortnite’s sandbox nature allows players to scour the world in search of materials to build their bases and establish a variety of traps to defend your objectives against the menacing waves of Husks.
This mysterious storm of Husks is responsible for wiping out a large majority of the population. The land you see is ravaged, infested with with these monsters. Survivors were left to fend for themselves, often seeking refuge alone in handmade shelters. As the commander of your headquarters, it is your job with Ray the robot and other Vindertech creations to rescue survivors, establish and expand your storm shield and fight the enemies. The survivors you save and your progress towards keeping the storm at bay contribute to making the world a better place, even after disaster. As you advance through a mission-based system, the story is told in audio transmissions.
After completing a variety of story quests you launch a rocket to establish a new storm shield in a new zone. The storm shield allows you to access new missions in the game. As you increase the power of your Storm shield through upgrades, your base becomes vulnerable and you will need to defend your structures in order for the shield to take effect. At the same time, you may come face to face with new types of Husks.
And you’ll go toe to toe with the Monsters of the Mist. So expect to deal with the Smasher, who poses a threat to your base wall and seeks to decimate your architecture. Strong Flingers will be amused at your focus on the smaller Husks and lob their allies to destroy structures and the rooftops of your base. Takers are known as the ones who steal souls: they will hunt you down and move through walls to haunt and put an end to your hero. As you advance in difficulty you’ll even stumble across elemental Husks that lob skulls. They leave a mist of poison and Husks that burn with a fiery passion — segments of their bodies resemble obsidian. If perks are available, you may upgrade your weapons to bare elemental properties to deal with these new threats. Water is effective against fire, fire is effective against nature, and nature is effective against water.
The content available to explore in Fortnite is massive, especially for an early access title. There’s an extensive skill and research tree that will improve the stats of your heroes and unlock new gadgets and upgrades, assisting you in your efforts in fighting waves of Husks. Nodes purchased in the skill tree can allow you to do more things, such as evolving your weapons and heroes to make them more powerful, and setting-up defender slots so that trained survivors can aid you on missions. The research tree adds on to the stats and allows players to have more resistance to attacks and output more damage.
There is so much to explore with this game because what’s above is just a look at the menus. The item pool is massive with different types of weapons, materials, and traps with rarities like a bright orange legendary trap. There are four classes to play as: the Commanders, Soldiers, Constructors, Outlanders, and Ninjas. Each class has its own variant (and design) with unique active and passive abilities to aid in the fight.
Personally, I absolutely adore this game. The graphics are very detailed, clean and cartoonish – kind of similar to the New York Videogame Critics Circle Award-winning game, Firewatch. In fact, the artwork sparked my interest in the storm, heroes, the environment and the Husks. I enjoyed the dialogue between many of the main characters in the game such as Ray and her friend Lars. They become total geeks when introduced to new storm data. I’ve been yearning for the Dragon Pistol Schematics for many days, so much so I’ve counted the days. I slowly back away from sleeping Takers that I spotted while peering around corners. And I vividly remember getting ecstatic when I received my first legendary hero called Sentinel Hype, who is a constructor specializing in Plasma and Decoys to mow down and distract groups of zombies. Every “Thank you” I received from survivors I saved felt good. And every successful mission done via my craftsmanship encouraged me to improve my structures and building techniques. Collecting Bluglo for power and harvesting supplies within the suburbs, city, and forest, have become my daily routine.
It’s not all great, though. One major issue that many Fortnite players are starting to realize is this: the only way to truly advance level wise in the game and become stronger is with luck. In Fortnite, a large majority of your loot, including schematics, heroes, and survivors come from loot llama pinatas. Since there is a large variety of items that range from common to legendary, there is a very small chance to get super rare items that will benefit you. Fortnite allows you to level up and evolve weapons and make them stronger which increases your level. Once you hit max level on your items and you can no longer evolve them, you need to obtain a higher rarity item in order to keep leveling up and become more powerful to deal with more difficult enemies. Basically, if you have bad luck with the loot pinatas, then you be stuck at the same level until you stumble across better items — which is completely random. This is an unfair system for players as you have to work hard to earn in game currency to buy loot llamas or buy the currency with real money, in hopes of finally getting a high quality item or an item you really want.
Also, I have a small problem with the “Play With Others” mission. The missions you join dramatically boost the level of difficulty for the Husks. In some instances, your weapons are almost rendered useless against the Husks because of how much health the Husks have. Players feel as if they do not contribute to the team because of how under-powered they are in the mission.
Hopefully, there is more to come to Fortnite in the future to better our experience. Fortnite is a combination of many of the popular tropes in the gaming industry and is designed in a way to boost its fun factor as you move forward. Despite various bugs in the game, and various issues that need to be fixed, I keep coming back to Fortnite. Patches and updates are highly anticipated as players like me look for new content to be thrown their way. For now, grab your Rayguns and drones because it’s time to fight the storm. Keep those skies clear!
Kimari Rennis is an New York Videogame Critics Circle intern, part of our ongoing partnership with the DreamYard Prep School in the Bronx.