In Fortnite Battle Royale, you’ll skydive onto an island arena, scavenge for weapons, run from an encroaching electricity field, and fight your way through 99 other players to victory. Sound familiar? A carbon copy of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has found it’s way into Epic’s recently Early Access-launched crafting adventure Fortnite with many notable exceptions, but at least two major additions: building and destruction. Fortnite Battle Royale is an unexpected and disconnected addition to the main game, but one that isn’t entirely without merit.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. Despite feeling eerily similar to PUBG at times, the build of Fortnite Battle Royale that I played was missing a plethora of quality of life features that were sorely missed from my time spent with Battlegrounds. Vehicles, free look, aim down sights, backpacks, and the ability to sort through nearby items with an inventory screen had not yet been added. Weapon attachments, airdrops, and the ability to go prone were absent too, but those struck me more as stylistic differences.
Combat is fast, frantic, and enjoyable for the most part. Damage numbers erupt from your target’s body on impact, conferring a clear understanding of how much pain was dealt. But understanding how close an enemy is to death is another story, as some players can soak up more damage than others thanks to shield potions. Which, unlike the visible helmets and armor of other battle royale games, make engagements in Fortnite a bit of a guessing game.
Omissions and perplexing dissimilarities aside, Fortnite Battle Royale utilizes its intuitive and excellent construction system to introduce a new element to the Battle Royale space. Theoretically the sky’s the limit, you could build a replica of the Winchester house replete with traps, and doors leading to sheer drops…. if you only had the time. As it turns out, building complex structures isn’t really possible when you’re constantly running from the encroaching storm. In spite of this, players do set traps and build simple structures that are remarkably clever and devious.
Two opposing staircases halted my progression up a cliff, while a simple low wall wedge gave an enemy a clear advantage in combat. Whether intentional or not, dropped weapons glow with vibrant colors and make for excellent bait. On more than one occasion I was ambushed while investigating an errant pile of loot, or skewered by spikes on my way to pluck a conveniently visible sniper rifle from an attic. This was the gameplay that I enjoyed the most, and I would love to see Fortnite Battle Royale evolve to better incentivize these insidious behaviors.
Conversely, Fortnite Battle Royale allows you to destroy any part of any structure. All players start with a pickaxe which can be used to harvest materials and break just about anything. Sometimes chests are hidden in attics with no clear entryway, in which case you simply create one. This destruction affects combat too as building campers can be eradicated in spectacular fashion with a well-placed rocket or grenade.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that none of Fortnite’s PVE progress carries over into Battle Royale and there currently are no rewards for winning a match in Battle Royale that transfer back over to PVE. For the time being at least, Battle Royale is very much it’s own thing.
My time spent with the new mode left me with one prevailing question: who would choose Fornite Battle Royale over PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds? And while that may sound like hyperbole, I mean it sincerely and think that there are legitimate reasons why a player would choose Fortnite for this type of experience. First and foremost, Fortnite will be a free to play game at launch. Secondarily, with the mode officially launching on the 26th of September but playable right now, Fornite Battle Royale will be available to console players who have purchased a founders pack long before Battlegrounds launches on Xbox One. Finally, the incorporation of building and destruction, while interesting, has a long way to go before PUBG veterans should feel obligated to try out Fortnite.
It’s going to be interesting to see how Fortnite’s Battle Royale evolves, and if there is space for it to amass a following alongside the leviathan that is PUBG. For all things Fortnite, keep it right here on IGN.