Fortnite First Impressions, Tower Defense Meets Survival: Is It Worth Buying?

After great titles like Gears of War, Unreal, or the somewhat unknown Bulletstorm, Epic Games returns with an ubiquitous, yet far more complex and profound construction/tower defense game than its cartoon graphics might suggest. The principle of Fortnite, at first glance, is actually quite simple:you build defenses around your goal, then defend it against waves of zombies. Thus the tower defense tag. But that does not stop there. Resource harvesting, talent trees and crafts are but a glimpse of everything that makes up Fortnite.

The Basics To be quite frank, new players can quickly find themselves lost with everything that can be found in the menu alone. The best advice I can give is to simply follow and pay attention during the tutorial, which will guide you step by step, taking you on quests and explaining all the features and options.

To give you some context, one day a big storm appeared, bringing along hordes of zombies. Fleeing this threat, players find themselves in a kind of bunker, managed by robots who will give instructions on how to defend against these hordes, or even eradicate the storm.

The first step will be to build (then defend) a shield that miraculously can prevent the zombies from crossing. Over time, this shield can be improved by developing its power and unlocking new areas, and thus new missions.

The game is quite linear in its progression, it is necessary to carry out the missions in order to be able to advance (and to unlock new functionalities). Nevertheless, we can replay previous missions to recover useful items.

Resources and Exploration
Okay, now let us dive into the fun of it all. After selecting a mission on the map, players end up in a “war zone”! The environments are different according to the missions: city, plain, etc. This is reflected on the objects to be recovered. Urban environments are full of houses, and therefore provide metal and electronic parts. In more “natural” environments, plants can be excavated and harvested to recover materials that are useful.

Small note on a very well thought out feature: to recover resources, we have a pickaxe that is used harvest nearly everything in the world. By striking an object, its resistance decreases according to the power of your pick (initially doing 25 points of damage per hit). To add some depth to it, a small circle appears on the object to be destroyed. By targeting it, the damage done with each hit is doubled. This makes it possible to recover resources much faster and make farming for resources a little less monotonous. Note that one can then improve the pickaxe through the talents trees.

Each mission has its specific purpose, but overall it is a matter of finding a specific point, then defending it. However, there are also secondary objectives, which will require to explore the surroundings. There are, for example, survivors that it is up to you to save or not (assuming they provide good rewards), or radar towers, which will have to be built beforehand in accordance with a specific pattern.

The farming aspect is omnipresent, with three main resources usable for constructions: wood, stone and metal. It is thus possible to break everything (or almost) in the area: walls of house, furniture, cars, plants and trees, mineral vein and so on. In addition to these three main resources, materials can be found or manufactured, themselves to manufacture weapons and traps.

After you have farmed the resources, now is the time to use them! Each mission ends with a defense phase, where it is necessary to protect a specific point and prevent the hordes from approaching it.
Strategies will be required when building your defenses, as the AI is good enough to get through anything half-arsed. Several types of construction can be used:

  • Walls
  • Ground
  • Stairs
  • Pyramids

Each of these types is available in three materials: wood, brick, metal, wood being the weakest, and metal the strongest. Materials can be selected with a simple right click.

At first glance, the possibilities remain rather limited. But…you should not rely on your first impression. By pressing the G key while targeting an element, you access a very simple and rather well-made editing interface. For example, when modifying a wall, 9 squares are displayed. You can then remove the squares to give the wall another form, or include another structure type. You can even add a hole in a wall, allowing you to shoot the zombies while inside the base.

The possibilities are really numerous. And do not forget the traps! They will be very useful to slow down or even eliminate hordes of zombies that threaten the target to be protected. There are tons of sorts, but here’s a little glimpse:

To be frank, I had not specifically heard of this game before. And I’m delighted to have discovered it. Deep, complex, yet still accessible, Fortnite clearly has the potential to become a tower-defense reference. Even those that are not necessarily tower defense fans will enjoy the survival, RPG and crafting mechanics. Fortnite will be free-to-play at full launch but it will remain in early access until 2018. So is it (the early access) worth buying? My answer is YES. 

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