I played Fortnite! It seems like an unlikely statement to some of us considering how long the game has been out of the spotlight, but development has been proceeding in various states of alphas and betas since the reveal back at 2011's Video Game Awards. Unlike many games that go under for this long, Fortnite still looks pretty similar to the first trailer, and its gameplay is a heavily refined take on combining Minecraft-style building with Orcs Must Die! base defense and a good layer of cartoony fun.
In the game, you play as a commander, one of the few survivors from a mysterious storm that produces monsters and ghouls at an alarming rate. You have to guide a group of human survivors from afar, build shelters and weapons from found materials, and generally survive night after night as you collect loot and strengthen your heroes.
The game dances around the term "zombies" from what I've seen, but the character design (complete with full Borderlands-esque character introductions for each new foe) is charming, and that won me over even if I've been done with zombies longer than I was actually into them at this point. I mean, who wouldn't be down with a zombie that uses its scalp as a hoodie that fits just so over its bare skull?
As for the gameplay itself, it fits the bill without being outstanding. I wasn't able to toy around too much with anything but your basic melee weapons and guns, and they worked fine. I am a bit worried about weapon durability, which seems to persist between levels and requires crafting new versions of weapons over and over. In a free to play game, that could work out well or it could sink the entire economy.
I also wonder if the third person perspective of the game will turn off the Minecraft crowd, but it worked way better for me as I was building walls and ceilings to protect my base. I appreciated the complexity of the building system, where you could take a basic wall and cut out parts to make doors, windows, or just waist-high cover for your front yard. Given some time, I bet players could build some really unique buildings and forts with this system, and the prospect of getting to actually utilize those creations in a polished gameplay environment makes it all the better.
Despite a premise that could be deadly serious, Fortnite is definitely lighthearted. You have a band of bumbling robots that help you through the tutorial, and you can get new loot between missions by smashing one of a few tiers of papier-mâché "reward llamas." The game is very much driven by collecting, and every hero, weapon, and trap are collected via card drops you get from completing missions. Speaking with creative director Darren Sugg before my demo, I learned that the game has been expanded all throughout the development process, and the game already has over 100 heroes to collect. These characters are split into four distinct classes, but each one has some unique stats to play around with.
That was my time with Fortnite. The game will finally be ready for public consumption on July 25th. You'll be able to purchase the game to play early on the Epic Games launcher, with a full free to play launch planned in the months following that. Darren stated that the game would live solely on Epic's service for the time being without closing the door completely to an eventual Steam launch, so we'll see what the future holds for this Epic game.
Fortnite was demoed at E3 2017. It will be available in a paid beta state on PC via Epic Games on July 25th with a full F2P launch coming in the future.
If you want to know more about this and other announcements happening at E3 then be sure to check out our E3 2017 Coverage Hub.