Fortnite - Battle Royale and Horde Bash Impressions
One's free, one's not, and both are new to Epic Games' action-builder.
So Fortnite is here in early access, albeit some of it paid and some free. Two modes that have recently hit the game are Horde Bash, released this week and falling under the 'paid' category, and the Battle Royale mode, that's been out a little while longer and is free to anyone who wants to join the fun. We've been playing both to see what they offer, and at the same time see how Epic Games' action/crafting/shooter is coming along.
Now Battle Royale has caught the headlines recently because of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds devs, who were none too pleased about the mode, but regardless, it's actually been dong very well and it's easy to see why - it takes what makes PUBG popular, and pretty much reproduces the essentials but within its own game.
So like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, the game comprises of 100 players being dropped into an island via a flying bus (okay, it differs a bit there), and then this number is whittled down to one winner as the 'storm' slowly decreases the size of the play area. As you move around the map, the tension rises as more of your fellow islanders are murdered, and the best course of action is to stay out of the open and find as many resources as you can - all stuff that should come as second nature to PUBG players.
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But what's different here is the insertion of Fortnite's own crafting and building mechanics. You can use the same placement of structures and traps as you can elsewhere in the game, making the acquisition of building materials almost as essential as weapons, and although it's not always the most useful, when you find a nice house to hole up in for an extended period of time, you'll be grateful you can build some extra fortifications around it.
You would have thought the crafting extends to weapons and ammunition too, but Epic Games has stripped back the inventory so that it's just a backpack. It's now all about what you find rather than what you've already got, especially since nothing from the base game carries over, which makes each game feel even from the get-go.
In terms of the weapons on offer, these are the same as in the base game and include expected offerings like sniper rifles, pistols, and assault rifles, and although some on the Internet would claim the sniper rifle is overpowered, we didn't find any weapon to be particularly annoying to go up against. In fact, the combat was tense, fun, and fair for the most part; you need to time your shots wisely and you'll be rewarded for doing so.
There isn't much to say about Battle Royale other than that it's effectively PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds but with a more cartoony Fortnite visual style and the addition of crafting. PUBG is successful for a reason, though, and Fortnite's own version is very fun in the same way. If you like Fortnite or PUBG, then, you'll probably like what's on offer here, either alone or with some friends.
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(As an aside, we constantly got up and down on the d-pad confused, up being for the map, and down for a dance, and we noticed, as did this Reddit user, that the dance is inspired by the character Turk from Scrubs, which we very much appreciated.)
Horde Bash is a different beast entirely. While Battle Royale is free, Horde Bash is paid content, and while Battle Royale was focused on repeating games with no overarching progression, Horde Bash has much more of a long-term incentive.
Before we get into that, though, we'll outline what this new mode is. First, you go into a safe zone with a plot of land to build your model fort (your template) out of limited resources and space. Once you're done with that, you save that fort template and then go into a game, where you and a number of other players have their base reproduced on a map. You then select your difficulty and try to survive as many waves as possible (out of 10), with the horde going for different bases each time.
This might come as a surprise to some who might have expected the game to be about protecting the one base, but this keeps players on their toes and ensures a base doesn't become overpowered by having too many players dedicate resources to fortifying it. Instead, you have to keep moving around and repairing and installing defences, but this comes with a cost. If one person's base is terribly defended, the responsibility then falls on the others to protect it, and if one person leaves, that's just more work for the rest of the team. Of course, you can just have a private match if you don't want this to happen, but where's the fun in that?
Horde Bash's skill tree is what's going to be make or break for players though. By implementing a skill tree that you slowly level up by completing rounds of Horde Bash, then giving you options for things like more resources and bigger plots for templates, the game becomes a question of grind as you slowly work for better starting conditions each time, and improvements to go out with. It's not like Gears of War in the sense that you have a clean slate each time - you work to make that slate a bit better at the start of every round.
You can find multiple forum posts of players uninterested in this level of grind, and sure it's divisive, but for some it may be the hook to keep them invested, as you can work to become the best at Horde Bash. There's also bad news if you're super attached to your weapons and schematics (how you craft weapons), as these are all taken away from you in Horde Bash too, to keep things as level as possible.
In terms of the Horde action itself, it's just as you'd expect - monsters pop in from the storm, who you'll be familiar with if you play the base game, and then you have to defend your fort - it's as simple as that. Bear in mind as well that once you're in the game with your template you can add to it as you see fit too, which means traps, floors, and walls to use against this incoming threat. You also get an idea of which base will be under attack next too, due to the ominous purple storm hanging around near it.
One thing we must mention about Horde Bash, though, is that accessing the mode was a mission in itself. It was only with much research and head-scratching did we realise that to play the mode you had to find Horde Bash on the world map, but this required completing another mission (which wasn't actually a mission but instead was opening a skill point on the Horde skill tree) which in itself required a mission to unlock. All of this was not only a wild goose chase, but wasn't made clear anywhere in-game, so we spent a while just wondering where it was.
Overall, though, Horde Bash and Battle Royale bring some variety to Fortnite, whether it's the depth of Horde Bash's skill tree and ongoing appeal, or the fresh take on PUBG's style of survival in Battle Royale. Fortnite is continuing to extend its run as a varied and eclectic game, and these two prove that there really is something for everyone in there.