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Developers have been experimenting with genres for ages. They're a lot like the chefs that practice bleeding edge culinary fusion in their expensive hipster restaurants around town. Homestyle Italian with just a dash of Japanese could be amazing, or it could be two things better off left alone. That's what Epic's doing with Fortnite
, although admittedly they're throwing in every ingredient they can find. And you know what? Surprisingly enough this tower defense, horde mode, third person shooter-RPG, crossed with Minecraft
and free to play elements actually works really well. Yeah, it's a mouthful but is it ever delicious. Bon appetit!
can be intimidating with its complicated menus and what seems like hundreds of bars that need to be leveled up, but the gameplay itself is pretty simple. You're dropped into a mission in either your home base, which persists every time you visit, or a randomly generated map from a variety of environments. Your first goal is always exploration and the ultimate goal is always to complete the main objective. Along the way you'll gather materials. There are all kinds of resources and literally everything except the ground you walk on can be broken down to its core components. While you're gathering, the game also spices things up with minigames you can participate in like defending an NPC or building a specialized building for a reward. These activities make what might have been a dull world shine a bit brighter.
Once you've found all the resources you'll need, it's time to complete the objective that is invariably horde-style defense. This is where tower defense and Minecraft
come into play. The building system is surprisingly robust and while you can't build just anything, you can build a lot of cool structures from a simple house to a six storey sniper tower or a castle — it's up to you. Then you can fill it up with strategically-placed traps that can help you slaughter the waves of zombies that are about to attack. Combat is third-person with guns, swords and class abilities to keep things fresh. When the timer runs out, you're done and victory is yours.
This gameplay structure works. If you're of a mind to explore and see everything, there's plenty of little details to make you smile or grab your attention. Even if you don't like the exploration, it doesn't take long before you can jump right into the horde mode and that's where the game is truly fun. With up to four friends and four additional AI and a matchmaking system to fill in the gaps, there's always plenty going on in these defenses. Enemies with new abilities will appear regularly to change your strategy a bit as well.
Outside of the core gameplay loop are a hundred different free to play mechanics all coming together. You'll get loot boxes to level up heroes, prestige them, level them again, level schematics, level followers, and level strike teams. You'll send people on missions. There are daily quests. There's a daily XP bonus. There's close to a dozen research and skill trees combined that require different resources to power through. Frankly, it's an awful lot.
Luckily, these all come together. Like a typical free to play game, this one levels everything very slowly. Since there's so much to do, you're always making progress on everything and, more importantly, you're always reaching the next level in something. While you might need quite a few more games to level that Ninja hero up, you just got a skill point or you've earned a loot box or your schematic finally hit the right level. Something is always happening so it feels really good as you move through the motions of completing all the daily activities. It's a system that constantly feels rewarding, which is the perfect hook to keep you coming back for more.
While building is a bit pointless in those random missions, in your persistent home world you can build a castle to stand the test of time, or a skyscraper, or a meandering series of catwalks. There are tons of options and creative players are going to make some really special defenses. There's certainly more that could be added to the system, but what's there takes what would otherwise be a decent game and makes it quite good or even great.
Everything about this game is polished and it feels good. It's got a great progression system that makes you feel rewarded constantly and respects your time. There is no doubt you should check it out when this game finally launches officially next year as a free to play title, but right now you'll need to invest nearly the price of a full retail title to get in on this closed beta. If this game sounds right up your alley then jump right in. If you're unsure, just remember it will be free later on. The bottom line is that whether you play it now or when it officially launches, you owe it to yourself to check out Fortnite
and see just how good a free to play game can be.