Fortnite’s Kitchen Sink is not Without Hooks

Fortnite is a pay-to-play game with every imaginable sticky hook from mobile/casual/free-to-play games thrown in at it. There are XP bars upon XP bars. Once you fill out ten XP bars, you can evolve and get ten more. Sometimes you find new items with new XP bars, or new heroes with XP bars. Other times, you’re filling little yellow quest bars to progress. Basically, you better fucking love filling bars if you think Fortnite looks interesting.

The gameplay itself takes a similar “everything you can imagine” approach: first, explore a zone for a particular hidden location. Then, build a base (replete with traps and doors and tower defense-like mazing, if you can figure it out) around the macguffin with the materials you collected while searching. Then, activate the entity and pull out your weapons for a few waves of zombie killing. Finish the mission, go to the menu and see which bars you’ve filled up. Repeat.

It’s fun. I like sniping the zombies. Base building is cool, too–I’m surprised at how easy and simple it is, given that it’s a relatively minor part of the game and the third-person perspective isn’t the best to work with. The reward bonanza at the end of every mission is like a hit of pure heroin in the brain stem. It’s got it’s hooks.

Look at all those XP bars!

And yet. It’s a grind. It’s a huge grind. I played for probably 30ish hours so far and now that the core loop is waning a little bit, the grind is setting in and I am not hooked. Missions take around 30 minutes to complete, and even though I’m playing fully-boosted thanks to a generous friend’s purchase of XP boosts, I still only get one skill point per mission. I’m only at the end of Tier 1 of the skill tree; there are four tiers. Same with the research tree.

The trees themselves are a little lackluster, too. Some give big bonuses, for sure–the skill tree node enabling a new character type or granting a new ability is a prime example. But those are few and far between and most of the rest only serve as vectors to level up more stuff. Same with the research tree (which is focused more on pure stat bonuses). There are so many little bonuses to be achieved, but they all serve little to no purpose beyond making it easier to get the next little bonus.

Also, there are loot boxes. (Loot llama pinatas; they’re kinda fun.) And the loot boxes are good, like pay-to-win good. Which is a little shitty since the game was already pay-to-own, and I get a strong vibe of “this wouldn’t be so grindy if the developers didn’t want to spur loot box purchases.” It’s kind of a bummer; without that design element and a slightly-sped-up grind, I think the game would have me in its clutches. As such, I think I’m nearing the end of my fun after around 30 hours, even though there’s probably 100+ hours of content. (Maybe it’d be 50 hours total without such a brutal grind in effect.)

Lastly, I’ll note that I, too, heard about this game because of their drama with PUBG and the Battle Royale format they adapted. Fortnite BR is not great. The gunplay isn’t as precise, the third person-only factor is kinda lame, and there’s just a lack of tension compared to PUBG. Could even be due to the cartoony graphics, but it’s lacking a seriousness that PUBG has. Dying in Fortnite BR is, “eh, whatever. He got me,” while dying in PUBG is orders of magnitude more affecting. For a free version of PUBG it’s fine, but beyond that it doesn’t hold a candle to PUBG.