Early access with Epic’s long-awaited build-’em-up
Minecraft meets Left 4 Dead is the concept behind this genre-bending mashup of game styles, not to mention a touch of tower defence and more loot-filled piñatas than you can shake a sword at. Six years in the making, it’s now in early access. So how does it all stack up?
The core gameplay is very familiar – you, three comrades and an array of hardware versus wave after wave of zombies – but where it differs from standard third person shooters is in its large, destructible, completely rebuildable environments.
A typical mission involves locating an item and building a fort to protect it before summoning the zombie horde. You can spend as long over the largely enemy-free preamble as you like, and at the start everyone tends to run off separately to gather resources, hunt for treasure and rescue survivors. Eventually somebody locates the item you’re looking for and the fort-building phase begins.
There are just four basic types of building element – walls, floors, stairs and roofs – but you can customise each one by knocking out parts of its underlying 3x3 grid. For example, removing the top two rows of a wall turns it into a low barrier. Removing just the centre square makes a large wall with a window, and deleting the square beneath that adds a door.
Once you know a few simple recipes for the many different arches, pillars, corners and other architectural features that are possible, you can create some pretty cool stuff. There are traps, turrets and all sorts of defensive items to consider as well. You have constant access to the building menus, so whenever you feel the need to knock up an emergency anti-zombie barrier or an impromptu staircase, you can do so, even in the heat of battle.
You can make the fort as large as you like but there are bonuses for keeping it small. The zombie onslaught can be triggered by a single player at any time, and if nobody decides to veto it then you’ve got a few minutes of intense attacks to repel before everyone returns to their home forts with an equal share of the loot.
For the most part it’s so well polished that’s it’s easy to forget it’s still in the ‘closed beta’ stage. The menus are a bit confusing to navigate, the map could use some explanation and it did crash on us a couple of times, but to be honest we’ve seen just as many rough edges on supposedly finished games.
Fortnite isn’t due to launch properly until some unspecified date in 2018, which gives loads of time for balancing and adding new modes. Right now it’s a good game, next year it could be excellent, but by then it will also be free to play, which does make the paid early access thing somewhat questionable value.
No doubt one of the main parts they’ll be tweaking is the grind-or-pay drip-feed of delicious loot, without which you’ll be ill-equipped to battle the undead. Any of the current founders’ packs won’t leave you short of goodies, but you’re still being asked to pay up front for a game model that’s designed to tempt you into parting with smallish amounts of cash on a regular basis. As long as you’re aware of what you might be getting into, Fortnite is worth keeping an eye on.
“So polished it’s easy to forget it’s still in the ‘closed beta’ stage”
Below The bits you need to craft ammo can be found by smashing cars up.
right Every home should have a sniper tower and some spiky traps outside the front door.