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Fortnite hands-on: Epic's new PC-exclusive shooter is like twelve games in one

Hayden Dingman | June 30, 2015
Fortnite is one of the simplest games I've ever played. Fortnite is one of the most complex games I've ever played. This is the duality running through my head as I try to wrangle my thoughts on Epic's upcoming Minecraft-alike/survival game/shooter/whatever this thing is.

And the answers were "Yes," "No," and "Sort of." Our base held up surprisingly well, and as the Constructor I spent a lot of time running back inside and repairing damaged walls. We only had one wall break down, and I was able to kill the shambling horde that came through.

I did not have enough bullets, though. I ran out maybe three-quarters of the way through, and since I had absolutely no idea how to make more (or even what kind of ammo I needed) I just...put my gun away. I also had some sort of melee weapon on hand so I wasn't completely helpless, but this game does not mess around--if you are out of ammo, you are out.

As for "Sort of" knowing how to play--I mean, it's shooting. I know how to shoot things, and Fortnite is pretty similar to any other Horde mode. You have tons of fodder enemies, and then a few specialized types that throw grenades or soak up damage or what have you. Again, I think it's the cartoon aesthetic that's causing me to draw this comparison, but if you played any of the tower defense-esque missions in Sunset Overdrive then you get the gist.

I still felt like I was missing out on key parts of the game, though--like if I knew my way around the crafting system more, or I knew how to make other weapons, I'd be better off. There's an entire traps category I barely played with. There are, as I said, about a million weapons.

There's a lot to take in. This game is massive. On the one hand, cool--it opens up a ton of player-agency. On the other, it feels a bit loose or (at its worst moments) unfocused. It's like a crazy Frankenstein's monster of influences, as if Epic set out to build a shooter and then said "Well what if we tacked on a Minecraft component?" and then later went "We could combine that with this survival component..." and then it just kept growing.

It doesn't help that the game is in massive flux right now. During my demo I was cautioned that the entire UI is getting scrapped and rebuilt. Like, all of it. And the current campaign map? Also getting scrapped.

Despite how dire that sounds, it actually has me hopeful--like maybe Epic also feels the game is a bit too big and unwieldy, and is pruning the game's least important aspects. And just to reiterate, I feel like some of my demo-specific issues would be fixed if you started the game from scratch. Minecraft can be similarly overwhelming in its late-game, but it's easy enough to get started by just punching trees.


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