If you’re here and reading this you have either lived under a rock for 2 years, or you have a strange curiosity for popular games that no longer require reviews. But since I am the kind of person who likes to appease hermits and the deranged, I decided to give my thoughts on the international sensation that is Fortnite. The Switch edition, if the title hadn’t tipped you off already.
When you boot up your Switch and hop into your first game you will find yourself sitting on a bus. A surprisingly small and oddly avian bus filled with 99 other players. Unfortunately none of these people are your friends. Quite the contrary. All 99 are chomping at the bit to send you back to the lobby kicking and screaming. Once your boots hit the ground you have mere minutes to get into some form of cover and crack open a chest or two. You better cross your fingers and hope you get a decent weapon. Ideally you want a nice selection of killing tools so you can bring the pain at a variety of ranges. From here you can either go guns blazing or take a more cautious approach. Either way, your goal is to be the last man standing.
Unique to Fortnite is the rarity system. Every piece of equipment is given a rank from Common to Legendary. As a general rule of thumb: the funkier the colour, the beefier the weapon. Remember that your legendary shotgun isn’t going to do squat at a distance. Variety is the spice of life. Epic also decided to bring in a building system. By using your handy-dandy pickaxe you can harvest Wood, Stone and Metal to construct a series of walls, ramps and flooring. Using this system you can create elaborate constructions in seconds, giving you a constant source of cover. Once you master this system, you can use your materials to get a height advantage in the middle of combat letting you secure some tricky kills.
Unfortunately as unique as the building system in Fortnite is, it will not be for everyone. It takes quite a while to get the hang of building. When you are first starting out you will often find yourself getting the jump on someone, only to have a series of walls and ramps to appear swiftly followed by death. Ignoring the mechanic is not an option. Either you will love this system, or it will fundamentally ruin the game for you. Building is unfortunately not the only issue with Fornite. The core gunplay is, simply put, not good. On your base joy-con you will struggle to aim effectively as the controls just feel too floaty. This is somewhat fixed with the Pro Controller or gyro controls enabled, but I have never managed to get comfortable with Fortnite. Everything just feels innaccurate and floaty.
Almost as controversial as the building, Fortnites visuals are the video game equivelant of Marmite. Personally, I am a massive fan of the heavily stylised look Epic brought to the table. Everything is oozing with colour and charm. But don’t let the focus on style trick you into thinking there is no substance to the graphics. The game doesn’t skimp on graphical flare, and seeing the wonderfully crafted world fall into chaos as explosions and bullet trails fill the air is quite a sight, even on the Switch. The unique style gave Epic the opportunity to make one of the most diverse maps in all of gaming. As of Season 7 you have forrests, cities, japanese temples, subburban streets, viking villages, deserts, medieval castles, snowy mountains and that is just scratching the surface. Each area of the map is named, and unique in its appearance. It keeps the game feeling fresh, as every match you drop into will look and feel different.
But that is not all. Whilst Fortnite only has the one map, Epic are constantly rejigging it. Either adding whole new areas, or completely changing existing ones. You can expect a whole new experience every month at the rate they pump out the changes. All of these graphical flares do have their faults however. The Switch version is plagued with performance issues. It is capped at 30FPS both docked and handheld, which might be the final nail in the coffin for some. But what makes this even worse is the fact that 30FPS is not at all a certainty. The game drops frames constantly and it massively impacts the experience. Frame drops and janky aiming just makes for a very frustrating experience.
Oddly enough, the majority of these issues come into play when you are playing in docked mode. When you are playing in handheld the frame rate seems much more stable. I personally found the controls to be more responsive in this mode too. The graphics tend to look a bit nicer on the smaller screen for the most part, if a bit on the blurry side from time to time. All in all, if you want to play Fortnite on the Switch, I would highly recommend you stick to handheld.
Despite the mixed bag when it comes to gameplay and visuals, Epic have kncoked it out of the park in terms of sound design. You will absolutely want to hook up some headphones when playing Fortnite because sound is key. You can hear people long before you see them, allowing you to plan ambushes or hide away until they leave. Someone fires a shot at you from 200m away? You can pinpoint their exact position using sound queues alone. You are doing yourself a deservice if you play without headphones.
As you might have guessed, Fortnite is a multiplayer game. So playing with friends would naturally boost your enjoyment of the game. Luckily for us, jumping into games with friends is quick and simple. Infact there are a number of game modes designed around working as a team which helps stave off the monotony of playing solo all the time. If you don’t have any friends (like me) you might find yourself getting a bit bored after a while, unless you fancy teaming up with some pubbys.
I can’t move onto final thoughts without first bringing up the fact the Fortnite is Free to Play. A dreaded phrase in gaming that almost always sours ones initial impressions. Luckily, Fortnite has a borderline acceptable business model that doesn’t require any investment. All items are cosmetic only. This means pay to win is simply not a thing. Also, all game modes are included as standard, so you can hop into the game without spending a penny and get the full experience. Awesome. I do have a one major gripe – the cost of cosmetics. Playing Fortnite you will earn ingame currency at a very low rate. Naturally this incentivises dropping some cash to get some awesome looking kit. Unfortunately it will cost you about £40 to get some of the cooler sets. To me, that is just way beyond the realms of acceptability.
Like I said though, it is all optional. You will either love Fortnite, or you will hate it. Almost every feature the game has to offer is polarising to some extent. I for one find myself enjoying Fortnite immensly, but only when playing with my son. I get no enjoyment from the building mechanics and the controls are not tight enough for me to really get into. Unfortunatly this is the only Battle Royale the Switch currently has to offer, which means you either have to fork out and get a different platform, or suck it up and deal with the issues.
Overall I give Fortnite a 5 on the Toaster scale. You’ve found yourself holding a piece of burnt toast and you’re not sure if you should man up and eat it, or throw it in the bin and look for something else.
For more awesome Fortnite content, check out my comprehensive beginners guide and my thoughts on the best platform to play Fortnite.
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