Fortnite: Battle Royale started out as a pet project for studio Epic Games. It spawned off of their original zombie wave mode game Fortnite (now Save the World) in September 2017. At that time, the Battle Royale genre was nothing new. The most popular BR game, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (or PUBG) was the most played and streamed game. On PC, that is. Console gamers were waiting in the wings for their chance to try out the genre. As an Xbox player, last fall I was looking forward to PUBG’s exclusive launch on my platform. PUBG released in December for Xbox One, a month and a half after Fortnite. As is custom for gamers, the two games immediately became rivals and the debate on which is superior has raged for a year now.
The overabundance of Battle Royale games was nothing new for PC players. PS4 players, however, have had Fortnite as their sole experience. It is no wonder that part of the hype for this year’s Call of Duty game Black Ops 4 revolved around the inclusion of a BR mode. The mode, titled Blackout, is incredibly similar to PUBG and gave PS4 players a second choice in the genre. I have played all three games and have been a part of the discussion for over a year now. Putting it’s mega-popularity aside, Fortnite is the best game for three main, fundamental design reasons.
The biggest staple of Battle Royale games, other than the large player count and single life, is that everyone spawns with no items. Across all three games, you search for your loot on the ground across the map. Both PUBG and Blackout bill themselves as “realistic” BR games. This means that they use military style weaponry that you can customize down to the smallest attachments. But unlike regular Call of Duty, attachments aren’t owned and interchangeable at all times. You have to find them on the floor as well. Extra armor, helmets, and backpacks can also be found on the ground in PUBG and Blackout. PUBG features three tiers for each of these items, while Blackout only has three tiers of armor but does feature a shield-like boost to base health. Adding to the realism, these two games have actual bullet calibers to go along with each weapon.
All this loot takes away from the enjoyment of the match. There’s always a higher tiered piece of equipment, a weapon attachment for that last open slot, more ammo for your specific gun. Fortnite does away with all this. Guns come with the attachments they’ll always have. Ammo only comes in four types. There are shields but no armor. This simplicity is key to making Fortnite a more fun game. Fortnite is known for adding new content and items every couple weeks. When the total number of items get too large, Epic Games removes some. At the beginning of this season, they removed five items. Last week, they removed three. In a genre where everyone is reset after each match, too much time spent focusing on loot is a bad thing. In PUBG and Blackout, you are rarely ever satisfied with your loadout. This incentivizes a too long playstyle of passive searching during a match. There’s nothing more disappointing in a BR game than looting up for 15 minutes and then dying in your first firefight in less than 10 seconds.
Once you finally decide to seek out an opponent and if you’re able to kill them, their loot drops on the ground all together in a grey bag. This is another part I think Fortnite does better. In the other two games, you would go up to the bag, prone next to it, and scroll through a few dozen items looking for what you might want. It’s not always the most user friendly system and leaves you incredibly prone to death yourself. In Fortnite, when you kill someone, all their loot drops separately on the ground around their body. You can easily see from a distance what items they had and the color of their rarity. All you have to do is run through the items with your character and press a single button. Ammo and building materials are picked up automatically. And through this whole time your character is moving, making them a harder target.
I want you to think back to some of your recent matches of PUBG or Blackout. Did your final fight consist of bold rush of the enemy’s position? Did it take place in two opposing buildings in a drawn out firefight? I didn’t think so. Most likely what happened was you and your opponent were in one of the many forest areas in between the built up points of interest scattered throughout the map. The two of you were probably each standing behind your own trees, or maybe even a boulder, shooting bursts at each other until one got a lucky hit. Besides being one shot by someone you didn’t see, this is the most uneventful ending a BR match can have. And it is unfortunately all too common in PUBG and Blackout.
The map in Fortnite is considerably smaller than it’s two competitors, yet the length of matches between the all three games averages about 25 minutes. Points of Interest is the term given to areas of BR map that are named. This is because they represent a town or geographical landmark and usually contain a larger concentration of loot. Blackout has only 12 of these locations. Fortnite has 20. Now I know this number can be trivial. After all, it is only what the developers choose to slap a name on. But Fortnite‘s larger quantity of interesting locations, combined with a smaller map, means that rotations through the shrinking map occur with less boring firefights. Even if you find yourself or your enemy using trees as cover, the both of you can shoot it down. Or build. There’s always building, which brings me to my last point.
Fortnite is looked down upon for many reasons. It’s cool to hate the popular thing. The graphics are for kids. Get your Minecraft building out of my competitive genre. I think the things that separate Fortnite are the things that make it superior. Battle Royale games are so fun because no two matches are the same. You weave yourself on a new path each time from start to finish, like a story. But with so much player choice, comes playstyles that hamper the fun for everyone. Because you only have one life, and because you took so damn long to acquire that loadout of yours, players tend to play as passively as possible. You move slowly from one small bit of cover to the next, staying as low as possible. This is of course possible in Fortnite. But Fortnite enables more grandiose moves.
You want to get somewhere in Fortnite but are in danger? Put down a launch pad and fly up into the sky and land there. Take a vehicle, serpentining the whole way. Build ways between yourself and your opponent as you move. Build a ramp and dive at them. The building in Fortnite is key to combat, whether engaging an enemy or disengaging. In a genre where player ingenuity is so important, having a whole gameplay system that none of your competitors have, that encourages more aggressive play, and that builds on the uniqueness of each match is a huge asset in proving you’re the top of the genre.