This time last year, Fortnite was just another cooperative wave shooter that no one really cared about. Released as a paid early access game in July 2017, Fortnite in its original form still exists but hardly anyone plays it for the “Save the World” tower defense mode anymore. Spurred on by the enormous success of the battle royale game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, developer Epic Games crafted their own battle royale mode for Fortnite in just two months’ time and released it in September 2017. Since then, there’s been no looking back, as Fortnite has surpassed PUBG to become not just the most popular battle royale game on the market, but an outright phenomenon that has generated over a billion dollars in revenue.
And up until recently, I wanted nothing to do with any of it.
If you’re playing video games in 2018, Fortnite is unavoidable and much like anything that becomes massively popular, it’s a game that has attracted a large following of haters quick to point its many flaws and how it’s just a “game for kids.” While I followed Epic’s journey with the game and marveled at how it became a legitimate craze, I fell into the camp of people who just couldn’t fathom why everyone was so obsessed with a game that, from the outside, didn’t look all that special. I tried a few matches, got frustrated when I’d get gunned down almost immediately by another player I didn’t see drop in behind me, and quickly decided that this Fortnite business wasn’t for me.
Then I started noticing that most of my friends were playing the game and little else, and I started to wonder if maybe I was wrong about Fortnite. After all, if this game was starting to affect the very social structure of high schools across the country, it must be the real deal, right? So I decided to give the game another go and while my initial impressions were still overwhelmingly negative, I slowly started to come around to the idea that Fortnite might be not just a good game, but a legitimately great one.
If you’re anything like I was and are at the point where you can’t stand to hear one more thing about this damn game, perhaps this article will shed some light on why, even if battle royale games aren’t your cup of tea, Fortnite is a game that at the very least deserves your respect.
Here are 11 reasons why I’ve been converted to Fortnite (pray for me).
11. Free-to-Play is Hard to Say “No” to
If I had to put up $30 to $60 upfront to play Fortnite, I probably would have never given it the time of day and I’m sure there are millions of players in the same boat. The fact is, going free-to-play is one of, if not the most significant decision Epic made in ensuring Fortnite’s success. Gaming is an expensive hobby, so the fact that you can jump in and play with friends at no cost is a hard proposition to turn down.
I say this as someone who knows how painful it can be to try and convince friends to pony up for a $60 game so you can play online together, so the fact that Fortnite is just … there, goes a long way in helping explain why this game has become such a massive hit. The fact that you can also play it on pretty much every modern gaming device – console, PC, even mobile – doesn’t hurt either.
10. Microtransactions Done Right
With free-to-play comes microtransactions and Fortnite is no exception. But whereas many full-priced, triple AAA games like Star Wars Battlefront II and Middle-Earth: Shadow of War continue to insult their player bases with pay-to-win garbage (both of those games eventually scrapped their microtransactions thanks to overwhelming public pressure), Fortnite is the rare game that actually gets this revenue model right … or at least to a point where it’s not insulting or exploitative. First off, nothing you purchase in Fortnite has any effect on gameplay, meaning that you could never spend a dime on it and you’ll still be getting the “full” experience. The game also keeps its marketplace off to the side, so you’re not hammered with ads to spend money at every turn. However, the one transaction that’s hard to resist is the “Battle Pass,” which is honestly one of the most ingenious progression models I’ve seen in a game like this.
Basically, each new Season of the game (which run for about three months) comes with not just a thematic overhaul to the game’s world, but a new Battle Pass that can be purchased for 950 V-Bucks (about $10 in real money). The Battle Pass offers a series of tiered rewards such as outfits, emotes, and XP boosts that are unlocked through completing challenges and just naturally through extended play. The nice thing about this is that you unlock free V-Bucks periodically as you complete the Battle Pass, meaning that you could theoretically earn enough to unlock the next season’s for free. Sure, it’s still a form of online gambling when you think about it, as you’re pretty much leveraging your time when you purchase a Battle Pass (Epic estimates that it takes 75-100 hours to complete all 100 tiers), but it’s still a relatively low cost barrier for hours of addictive progression and isn’t that kind of at the heart of why we play most games?
9. Seasons Are Really Cool And Help Evolve The Game
Speaking of Seasons, it’s hard to think of another game right now that is doing a better job of delivering on the promise of an evolving online world than Fortnite. While the base game of surviving against 99 other players has remained fundamentally the same, no one could accuse Epic of resting on their laurels when it comes to providing the community with new content that has substantially expanded Fortnite’s world. I’ve barely scratched the surface of Fortnite lore, but I can’t help but marvel at the universe-building Epic has been able to do with its cartoony shooting game, thanks in large part to the Seasons model.
Epic has found a way to make their battle royale game feel like a massively-multiplayer online game, to the point where I think games with similar ambitions could learn a thing or two from it (*cough Destiny 2 *cough). For instance, Season 4 had a superhero theme that branched off a mysterious comet that players became obsessed with in the previous season, leading to all sorts of cool secrets and gameplay modifications, including the surprise, limited time Thanos mode that tied into Avengers: Infinity War. It’s hard to know if Epic will be able to keep this pace up as Fortnite starts to move into its second and third year but right now, this is the market leader in “live services”, as Ubisoft would call it.
8. The Building Mechanics Make it Feel Like No Other Shooter
Besides its art direction, the main thing that sets Fortnite apart from other battle royale games is its building mechanics. Honestly, I don’t think Epic gets enough credit for how they were able to seamlessly integrate this feature into the game’s battle royale mode, considering building was originally designed with “Save the World” in mind. Being able to build ramps, walls and other basic components on the fly makes Fortnite a surprisingly exploration-heavy experience and is also an essential part of the game’s meta, as the best players are able to construct absolutely insane fortifications to get an edge on their opponents.
To be honest, the building mechanics are still the biggest source of frustration for me and even though I’m slowly getting better at using them, the emphasis on building elaborate structures in the heat of battle leads to too many incidents where wonky cameras and movement impede my progress. In other words, I get why Fortnite’s building aspects are a major turn off for many, but I’m also here to tell you that you can still have fun (and even win) if you’re completely hopeless at making anything besides a basic ramp.
7. You Don’t Have to be Good at Building to Compete
If you want to be a top tier Fortnite player, you absolutely have to get competent at building fast and effectively. However, even if you can barely throw up a wall in the right spot to shield you from incoming fire, you can still more than hold your own in most situations. From what I’ve played so far and based on talking to friends who have poured considerably more hours into the game than I have, there are viable strategies in Fortnite that require minimal building. If you have the right weapons, you can find ways to deal with players who build up, while flanking is an underutilized skill that I feel not enough players take advantage of or anticipate.
Obviously, take all of this with a grain of salt, as I still think you need to figure out how to build well in order to truly become proficient at this game. That being said, I also barely know how to put two walls together and still manage to routinely survive past the opening minutes of a match, so if not being able to grasp building is part of your hangup on this game, just know that you can still have fun even if you’re awful at it.
6. The World is Actually Interesting
One of the best parts of Fortnite that I feel like doesn’t get talked about enough is the world map. At first, I was a bit disappointed that the large island where players are dropped was the game’s only map but now that I’ve spent more time playing, I understand why – there’s really no need to add another. At first glance, the island looks like a repeating series of rolling green hills and housing complexes, it’s really a large interconnected ecosystem filled with a diverse set of play spaces. From Whispering Woods to Lucky Landing, there are dozens of unique locations with their own distinct style and advantages/disadvantages when it comes to seeking them out.
Additionally, Epic has been able to keep the island feeling fresh by adding new locations to it such as Lazy Links and a large desert area. What I like about this is that it’s created a situation where map knowledge has become second nature for most players, but the steady stream of updates still keeps you on your toes and necessitates figuring new things out as they come up. Plus, I’ll take one varied, colorful map over a dozen drab empty ones any day.
5. It’s Super Polished
When it comes to the PUBG vs. Fortnite debate, there are some good reasons to choose the former over the latter. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is definitely more appealing if you’re into realistic aesthetics and more deliberate gameplay; plus, those pesky building mechanics are nowhere to be found! However, one area that PUBG simply can’t compete is in updates and overall polish. Epic Games has significantly more resources and personnel at their disposal than PUBG developer Bluehole and are able to release patches to known issues very quickly. I’m not sure how much of Fortnite’s success can be attributed to something like this, but I definitely get the sense that the relationship between Epic and the Fortnite community is a positive one overall, as the developer is constantly responding to fan feedback and working with its players to make the game better.
On the flip side, PUBG has a bit of a negative aura surrounding it due to the numerous bugs that plagued it in its early run and the fact that the Xbox One port was rushed out before it could be properly optimized. This isn’t to say that Bluehole isn’t listening to its players or doing their best to update PUBG as quickly as they can, but more an observation that Fortnite does all of these things better and that kind of peace of mind is hard to beat.
4. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Fortnite matches can be played in several varieties and if you really want the true Hunger Games-like experience, Solo rounds are the way to go, as there’s just something pulse-pounding about being dropped into a massive environment and trying to outlast 99 other players. However, I think the best way to get acquainted with the game (and figure out whether or not you truly enjoy it) is to team up with other players in Duo or four-player Squad matches.
Having someone around to watch your back takes some of the edge off, especially at the beginning of matches where you’ll often land in the same area as one or more enemy teams, but it’s also a great way of getting a crash course on how the game operates. Since I was late to the party, most of the friends I’ve played with are already seasoned players and have been invaluable sources of information it would have taken me hours to figure out on my own, such as which weapons are the best in given situations and how the health and shield systems work. Fortnite also becomes a hardcore team game when played with others, as constant communication and teamwork are essential to outlasting your opponents. In my experience, most “cooperative” games can be played on autopilot, so it’s refreshing to find a game that demands my undivided attention like Fortnite Squad matches do.
3. Easy to Play, Hard to Master
Learning curve and skill ceiling are important components in any online shooter and the battle royale genre in particular present a unique challenge in that it doesn’t segregate casual players from the pros. Sure, the prospect of ending up in the same game session as a top-tier streamer who will absolutely dominate you is an ever-present worry, but Fortnite manages to find a way to be both inviting to new players and competitive for pros all at the same time. The main reason for this, I think, is that the basics are easy to grasp (there are literally only three objective instructions on the loading screen), but every facet of the game — shooting, map knowledge, building etc. — takes time to master. Of course, it’s still incredibly frustrating to get run up on by a group of elites but thankfully, the next match is only moments away …
2. Rate of Play is Fast and Alleviates Frustration
I realize this isn’t a feature exclusive to Fortnite, but the ability to jump into a new match almost instantly goes a long way in alleviating much of the frustration that comes with a shooter such as this. Having only one life provides a great incentive to stay alive and not be needlessly reckless but whether you die in the first minute or make it to the final four in a Fortnite match, the next one is just a button press away. The lack of emphasis on your kill/death count too (though you can of course follow all those stats if you so desire) also goes a long way in helping focus on fundamentals and not being as concerned with your overall performance when you’re first getting the hang of things.
1. It’s Nice to be Part of Something Big
Honestly, one of the best things about finally liking Fortnite is feeling like I’m “in” on something. It’s all too easy to get sucked into hating on something because it’s popular or generates ridiculous headlines, but I wouldn’t want to pass up on a good game because it’s the cool thing to do. Yet, for awhile there, I was that guy. I wanted nothing to do with Fortnite and a lot of it stemmed from the fact that I was resentful that this game was taking attention away from other titles I thought were more deserving. But then I remembered that no one could have predicted this kind of success and that games as popular as Fortnite don’t come around that often.
Even though video games generate billions upon billions of dollars in revenue each year, the industry doesn’t produce a ton of mainstream hits that your aunt or grandma would have heard of. Truth be told, I don’t think I’ll ever get as deep into Fortnite as a lot of players already have, as I’m just not someone who can devote myself wholly to a single game for an extended period of time but for right now, I’m glad I finally came around on this one.