Epic Games has been a major player in the gaming industry for decades now. They have allowed numerous games to be made using their Unreal Engines, and they have also created some of the most memorable gaming experiences of all time, as is the case with titles such as Unreal Tournament and Gears of War.
Now it is a different era at Epic Games. Numerous key members of their company have left to pursue other interests. Unreal Engine 4 is being released on a subscription based system, and they no longer own the rights to Gears of War, having sold the IP to Microsoft, who in turn has handed it over to Black Tusk Studios to develop the Xbox One’s first Gears of War title.
Epic’s next game is a quirky, extremely fun looking title called Fortnite that is, for the time being, a PC exclusive. If Sony or Microsoft were smart, they would throw a ton of money at Epic to get Fortnite on their respective eighth generation console as a console exclusive game. This is why I want to see Fortnite on consoles.
What is Fortnite?
But before I can get into that, it’s important to know what Fortnite actually is. Fortnite is an over-the-shoulder, third-person shooter at its heart. This is Epic’s bread and butter, and it is a style of gameplay that they have undeniably mastered. However, Fortnite incorporates so much more, and it sounds so, so appealing.
In Fortnite, players are tasked with building a fort, and then defending that fort from monsters. These monsters spawn from lightning bolts that emit from a crazy storm that happens every night in the game. These creatures are called “husks” and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
In order to accomplish this, players must first gather the materials necessary to build their forts. This material is compiled by tearing apart the environment in the level that they have spawned in, kind of like how materials are collected in Minecraft.
At that point, the materials are used to build the fort. The fort walls can be built out of three different types of material: wood, stone, or metal. The building system in the game is based on a grid to make for faster building instead of the slower, more detail oriented building that we see in other games such as Terraria or Minecraft.
The fort will typically be built around whatever it is players are protecting for that particular level, usually a device designed to counteract the storm, though it is sometimes other objects. Traps can also be laid down in the fort to help battle against the monsters as well.
Once night falls, the monsters will begin attacking. They will come in waves, not unlike the Horde Mode concept that Epic popularized with their Gears of War games. Defeating all the enemy waves will allow players to continue to the next level in the campaign.
The game supports up to four player co-op. Characters are directly controlled, and they will do all of the scavenging, building, stabbing, shooting, and whatever else in order to defend the fort.
Each level in Fortnite is randomly generated, so it’s a different experience every time. And that’s Fortnite. So now you can see why I want this experience to be available on as many platforms as possible, no?
Fortnite is also notable for its pricing model. The game is one of the first free to play ventures from Epic, though they hope to create an experience that doesn’t shove the microtransactions down players’ throats. They are apparently taking cues from Riot and Valve on how to do free-to-play, and if anyone is going to be able to pull it off, it’s Epic. How exactly they’re going to be making money on the game and what exact form the microtransactions will take is still a mystery as of right now.
Fortnite is a game that Epic plans on supporting for about a decade, so it will be very interesting to see the game evolve over the years. Fortnite is a surefire hit on PC, but with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 both allowing free-to-play titles, I would love to see such a fun, innovative game make its way to consoles as well.
Alpha signups for Fortnite can be found by clicking here.
Unreal Engine 4
Fortnite is able to achieve all of this fancy cool stuff because of the engine behind it. Unreal Engine 4 is an engine designed for eighth generation systems and hardware, allowing developers to create brand new experiences that were never before possible. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are the perfect platforms to test the Unreal Engine 4 waters, in my opinion.
Fortnite utilizes the beefed up potential provided by Unreal Engine 4 in a number of ways. For one, Unreal Engine 4 allows the AI systems in the game to be far more advanced than ever before possible. The AI will adapt based on how players created their fort in order to provide the most challenging experience possible, and the enemy AI is extremely smart, which means that players have to rely more on strategy than they would have to otherwise.
Unreal Engine 4 is also allowing Epic to provide highly destructible environments. During the scavenging process, players will be able to destroy almost everything in the world–certainly any building they see, in order to obtain the materials necessary to build the most powerful fort possible.
So even though the game uses a cartoon looking art style, it is still an extremely impressive technical specimen. The game originally had a darker, more realistic tone, but Epic decided to trade that out for this visual style, and I honestly can’t imagine Fortnite looking any other way.
Fortnite will be offering a variety of game modes instead of the vanilla, single game mode that most free-to-play games bring to the table. For example, the idea of having a true dedicated Horde style mode has been mentioned, plus there will be the campaigns with randomly generated environments.
Player versus Player game modes has also been a big part of Epic Games. Almost all of their games support a game mode like this, with the multiplayer in Gears of War proving to be extraordinarily popular.
Fortnite will reportedly also feature PVP modes, though with the added threat of the monsters still showing up to wreak havoc. It will be interesting to see how the monsters influence the gameplay once Fortnite launches.
Fortnite will also support live-streaming. Live-streaming gameplay footage is a trend that has become very popular very recently, with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 both supporting the capability to live-stream content from the systems. Fortnite will have its live-streaming capabilities built directly into the game, so it is still unknown what form this will take as well.
Getting the Job Done
In order to build and defend the forts, one is going to need characters to do the building and the defending. As of the time of this writing, only four playable classes have been announced by Epic, with more classes to be added to the game in the future.
The four classes that have been announced so far are pretty basic. While all of the characters will be able to do all of the required actions in the game, such as base building and fighting monsters, some will be better at it than others.
First of all, there’s the Constructor class. This class is the best class for building and reinforcing bases. The Commando class is the best class for straight-up run and gunning. The Ninja class is for close-quarters combat. And finally, the Scavenger class is the most adept at destroying the environment in order to harvest materials from it for building.
Materials that are scavenged will be shared amongst the players. Players will also be able to share other resources as well. For example, ammunition and weapons can be shared between players in the middle of a game.
Players can keep creating characters and level them up all the way to level 20, which is the current level cap for the game. However, these fully maxed out characters actually remain useful even after they hit the level cap. Players will be able to explore a “Home Base”, which they can fill up with various buildings that can then be populated with their characters for various stat boosts.
Players can be involved in multiple campaigns simultaneously. There will be an overall account level that will indicate this, and any of the characters can be taken into any of the campaigns at any given time. Your Home Base will remain the same regardless of the campaign you’re in, so you’re constantly building your Home Base and leveling up characters, even if it means you have three different campaigns going with a bunch of different people.
A lot of these gameplay mechanics are pretty foreign to Epic. Epic has actually brought in talent that have worked on genres that they’ve never really explored in order to bring a lot of fresh ideas and creativity to Fortnite. Another way they are departing from how they usually do games is that the characters will be upgradable with a complete, RPG style progression system at work.
The weapons will also all be very unique and goofy, more reminiscent of weapons one would see in Ratchet & Clank than in Gears of War. These new weapons can be built by finding schematics in the rubble of destroyed buildings and the like, which adds another layer to scavenging. These schematics will come in various forms of rarity, kind of like gear drops in an MMO.
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Fortnite is releasing at some point in 2015, and for right now, it’s still PC only. I sincerely hope that Epic decides to port the game to Xbox One, PS4, or both. . .and maybe we will hear about such news at E3 this year.
Fortnite looks like a one of a kind experience, and it looks to be the most appealing, substantial free-to-play game made to date. Epic Games has often been the frontrunners for pushing innovation in shooters, so why shouldn’t they be pushing innovation in the free-to-play market as well?
Even if Fortnite doesn’t make its way to consoles, I will suck it up and play it on my laptop because that’s how unbelievably excited I am for this game. Epic Games is responsible for creating some of my favorite games ever, and I have no doubt that they will continue to do so with Fortnite, and their many other projects that will surely follow.