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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.

fortnite 4

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.

See, Fortnite at its core is a summation of multiple games I am keenly familiar with. There is, as I mentioned, the smacking-trees-to-get-wood-to-build-things aspect of Minecraft. Okay, easy enough. There's the never-enough-ammo-or-guns-so-loot-everything part of survival games. Also base-building. Lots of base-building. And then there's the shooting pew-pew bit, which in the mission I played consisted of an on-the-fly version of Gears of War's Horde Mode--hold out against waves of enemies until you run out the clock.

It's a lot of pieces of a lot of different games that I understand. I know how to play Minecraft and DayZ and Gears of War. Throw them all together though--build those three bits (and more) into the larger, complex entity known as Fortnite--and damn, it's amazing how quickly I feel lost.

Running before walking

Fortnite is a terrible game to demo.

That doesn't mean it's a terrible game. I'd like to get that out of the way early. I had moments during my half-hour with Fortnite I really enjoyed--particularly the base-building, which I'll talk more about later.

But it is a terrible game to demo, particularly in half an hour's span. It is the polar opposite of Epic's other game, Unreal Tournament, which is literally "Shoot anything that moves." There are too many fiddly bits to Fortnite, too many facets that are desperately important for you to understand but require too much explanation and experimentation for you to really comprehend in the time given. It's like if someone opened up the lid on a piano, gave you thirty seconds to look inside, and then said "Cool, now build me one of those." Where do you even start?

Well, with Fortnite you start--if you're me--aimlessly wandering around. Literally. I chose the Constructor class (which has a slight bonus to base-building), dropped into a co-op match with three Fortnite developers, and was told we were looking for a "gateway" we needed to close. That was our mission.

Each match is procedurally generated though, so not even the developers knew where we were headed. We all walked off in different directions, and I just sort of got lost in Fortnite's cartoon-apocalypse world. And it is a very pretty world, all soft edges and bright colors. Very Sunset Overdrive-esque.

I mostly spent the next five minutes admiring, because...well, I didn't know what to do. I didn't even know what the gateway looked like. I chopped apart a tree. I found some metal bits on the top floor of a house. I opened up my crafting menu and immediately got overwhelmed by all the stuff I could build.

 

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