NOW PLAYING: FORTNITEMARES
It’s Halloween as we’re writing this, so what better time to dive back into
Fortnite’s Save The World, whose Fortnitemares event returns to throw spookiness into the PvE zombie survival mix. Oh wait, what? You don’t play Save The World? You only play Battle Royale? Well, sunshine, you’re missing out on one of the best and most enjoyable co-operative shooters going.
Fortnite has itself had a truly phenomenal year with Battle Royale hitting record numbers for concurrent online players, and catching the zeitgeist with everyone either playing it, or condemning it as the new evil corrupting our youth. Back in August, almost a year after the Battle Royale mode’s launch, Epic claimed 78.3 million players glided onto its island across all six platforms. That’s nuts. But, in case you didn’t know,
Fortnite started out as an early access PvE game called Save The World in July 2017… when this writer first got on board (yes, I’ve got the Founders Umbrella in BR, nah nah na-nah). And, to this day, I prefer Save The World to Battle Royale. Which in any case, ask any teenager, is now “dead”. That’s ‘dead’ as in possibly not quite as cool any more, although it’s still clearly doing the business.
Let me explain this to the uninitiated. In Save The World, across a number of modes and events, you defend a target – for example, an Atlas storm-shrinking machine – against hordes of zombies, known as the Husk, who are materialising out of an apocalyptic storm.
To this end, you’re smashing stuff up, mining for resources with your pickaxe, crafting weapons and traps and putting up your Fort around the thing you’re protecting. Sound familiar? It should, it’s the basis of BR right down to its pickaxe handle.
From launch, the beautiful, characterful cartoon visuals really turned our heads. The Husk themselves manage to be at once scary and zombie-like, and… cute. Come on, how cute is it that they wear the faces of the formerly human bodies they possess like hoodies? Then there are the baseball pitchers, and the flaming skulled screeching ladies, and the giant lumbering beasties. The different types of Husk and their behaviours are a great bit of game design in themselves. On top of this, the different character classes and types are fun and wonderfully realised, particularly the launchquartet of AC, Ken, Ramirez and Penny, with absolutely tons of personality.
So we’re fans, right? And we loved last year’s Fortnitemares, so despite the absolute tidal wave of amazing new titles, not least Red Dead
Redemption II, to get our fangs into right now, we couldn’t resist seeing what this year’s Halloween-themed spookiness would bring.
Penny for your forts
Playing as constructor Penny – in last year’s Halloween costume, as Catstructor Penny – we head back into the game’s event setting, Hexylvania. We love Penny, she’s one of the game’s strongest characters with a wealth of great dialogue and movie references delivered in her very English accent, as she does sarcasm as only the English can. She also kicks ass with a bull-rush charge and the useful ability as a constructor to be able to extra-fortify buildings.
“From launch the beautiful, characterful cartoon visuals in Save The World turned our heads”
Plonked into a spooky forest, our robot companion and fount of all exposition, Ray, screeches on about scary stuff and much evil abounding. For the event’s first mission, we’re asked to explore the gloomy surroundings. Ray gives us some pointers and we’re off to the locations she’s put on our map, finding abandoned cottages, clusters of upright-sleeping Husks, and, eventually, the source of all evil in these parts. There’s a massive Transylvanian castle in the middle of the forest, belonging to someone called Vlad. Ray reminds us we’re here to take readings of the Storm, and instructs us to put up four bits of equipment in certain optimal castle areas. Once we’ve found these locations, we put up the equipment and are told that we have a few minutes to fortify those machines, which hordes of incoming Husk will be hell-bent on smashing up. Oh good. Four locations to defend is, in Save The World terms, a right witch. Further complicating our attempts to put up brick, metal or wooden walls and traps around the sensors is the castle’s complex architecture – arches, steps, gates and so forth that prevent us from doing a straight ‘box it over’ job. We do our best to block off as many approaches to the sensors as possible before the countdown
begins and the Husk rock up. Epic fail Now, this is meant to be a four-player co-op game, but we’re alone – there’s nobody else in our instance, and we’re wondering why. Is no one playing this game? Is it the time of day? Is everyone playing Red Dead right now? Whatever, poor Penny’s going to have to handle this alone. A couple of epiclevel weapons, including a shotgun and a massive hammer, are all that stand between those important sensors and the encroaching storm of Husks. To add to being massively outnumbered, finding our way round the many rooms, tight corridors and confusingly unfamiliar layout when we need to return to defend any of our failing machines is proving tricky. This certainly favours the brainless, relentless Husk, and eventually our mission fails with Penny crawling around on all fours, lives spent, laid low by the Husk.
At its core, Save The World is a whole heap of fun, but there’s depth here with a spaghetti-muddle of meta-game mechanics involving passive defenders, crafting and levelling up, so that if you really want, you can spend a long time perfecting your play-style. It’s a shame then that it has been overshadowed by the popularity of the game’s Battle Royale. It’s also suffering from a delay in going Free to Play – something it needs very badly if it’s going to get the numbers playing it. Fortnitemares itself, while still an event worth playing, feels like a repetition of last year’s theme, a shameful neglect of the mode while all of Epic’s resources are clearly being channelled into Battle Royale. My fear, as a fan of Save The World, is that by bringing PvE elements into Battle Royale (specifically, zombies), Epic might instead put all its gaming eggs into one basket and Save The World may face a slow but certain death. We sincerely hope not. Save our Save The World – the campaign starts here.