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Thursday, August 16, 2018

I can't stand Fortnite

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - We need to get rid of this game.

When Fortnite was announced at Nintendo's E3 2018, and then shown off on Nintendo Treehouse Live, I was upset and bored by it. However, I thought that Nintendo wouldn't talk about Fortnite after E3. Yeah, I was wrong about that. Nintendo is treating Fortnite on the Nintendo Switch as a big deal, so I figured, well, it's free to play, I might as well try it.

Let's back up a bit. Fortnite is currently the most popular game in the world. It involves two parts: A co-op zombie-survival mode (“Save the World”) that was the original game of Fortnite, and a be-the-last-human-standing mode (“Battle Royale”) that outgrew the popularity of the first mode. Only Battle Royale is available on the Nintendo Switch — publisher Epic Games has no plans for the Save the World mode to come to Switch.

Battle Royale mode has you jump out of a flying bus to somewhere on a large map. You need to run around collecting loot (building materials, weapons, ammunition) and survive encounters with other players, preferably hiding in forts that you've built. The large map quickly shrinks as time passes due to “The Storm”, which serves as a death-bringing counter-measure to camping in the corner of the map where no one is, as well as eventually forcing an end to the game session. Conceptually, the game design mostly makes sense (I'm not sure why the map is so big to begin with if going to its corners will ensure your demise due to The Storm), but in practice, Fortnite reeks of sloppiness and a total lack of sublimity.

The first thing that happens when you download the game is that you're given an End User License Agreement. Unlike the EULA for Dragon Ball FighterZ's Open Beta from last week, Fortnite's lacks contrast between its text and its background, making it a struggle to read. The small text size is also frustrating. I was so upset with it that I actually Video Captured it so you can see for yourself:

You can also note that the user interface totally goes against other games on Nintendo platforms, where Accept is Y instead of A. But that's the start of problems.

When you go ahead and start the game, you're given a busy lobby screen akin to this:

Fortnite Nintendo Switch black woman character avatar lobby
Oh, I'm a black woman and I can't change it.
Well, I guess since this makes me feel uncomfortable, I shouldn't minimise how underrepresented minorities feel when they play games.

I guess there's nothing to do but try matchmaking, so let's do that. The whole Season 5 thing makes me feel like I'm starting way behind other players, but if I'm only playing Nintendo Switch players and not PC players or anything, then I should at least be on sort of equal footing, right?

You can buy outfits and other cosmetic items for your person (pretty sure I still can't pay for myself to be a white male, or whatever), but Epic maintains that these give no gameplay advantages. Somehow, they're making a billion dollars on this, suggesting that there are a lot of idiots out there who really don't like the default look. Anyway, let's go to some gameplay action.

Fortnite Nintendo Switch user interface experience problems DAILY CHALLENGES map screen
This is the user interface of the map screen.
Notice the top left corner of the screenshot, where the DAILY CHALLENGES text is on top of the actual challenges
and interfering with your ability to read what it says. Absolutely pathetic and unclean interface.

So you're probably going to jump from the battle bus around the centre of the map. You want to go collect stuff. You don't really know how to play the game when you're playing for the first time... because there's no tutorial or anything. But the game pits you against 99 other people anyway. Fortunately, if you don't jump off immediately with everyone else, you can get some alone time to figure out the controls. That doesn't quite give you enough experience in learning how to build things. I hear that people who have played the Save the World mode (remember, not available in the Nintendo Switch version of the game) have a better handle on building things, and forts have a real purpose for that other than serving as cheap, uninspiring cover.

Every button does something at some point. X gets you to using your Pick-Axe, which is what you start off with to scavenge for materials. A allows you to build stuff (and the user interface tells you what the contextual controls are), and once you get a gun, the right-trigger button lets you shoot. Something you'll notice immediately is that, unlike most Nintendo Switch shooting games, Fortnite does not support gyro controls. That means you have to aim with your right stick while moving your left, instead of moving with your left stick and using motion controls to aim your reticle.

As you can see in the video below, after being spoiled with the precision and fluidity of motion controls with games like Splatoon, I forgot how to use dual-stick aiming with any degree of competence:

To make things worse, Fortnite is only available at a dismal 30 frames per second.

My first experience with the game featured some really ear-grating voice chatting with young kids... and crying babies. (Yes, someone literally had a baby crying to their microphone, which is a great reason for why games shouldn't have voice chat with random people.) Subsequent play sessions sometimes featured voice chat reactions from other players, none of it good. It brings the lack of any background music during gameplay to my mind's forefront, since the only audio you hear will be from other players and uninspiring sound effects. Well, as seen in the video above, there is sometimes music if you choose to taunt other players by using the game's dancing options.

Fortnite is unpleasant to control on the Nintendo Switch, and violates basic user interface standards. If you manage to survive for a long time (I've gotten into the top quarter of living players by just gliding as soon as I jumped out of the Battle Bus, leaving my character suspended in the air while the other three-quarters of players were on the ground, dying) then the game just turns into people camping in their forts — the winning players will be the ones who correctly guessed where the eye of The Storm will be. I don't find that very compelling.

Conceptually, I thought Battle Royale would be pretty similar to Kirby Air Ride's City Trial — you spawn somewhere on a large map with a lot of differing terrain and collecting things, occasionally running into other players. Where City Trial succeeds and where Fortnite doesn't is that your decisions in City Trial are pretty consequential — whichever air ride machine you associate yourself with, and which power-ups you collect, have big implications for how the game experience is. In Fortnite, as far as I'm concerned, the guns you collect are sort of interchangeable. (You can get a gun, and you might get a rarer, bigger gun. Maybe a rocket, which outclasses everything else.) If you know how to aim, you shoot, and you kill. While Kirby Air Ride's City Trial is on a timer, and then all of your collective decisions culminate at the end via a special event match, Fortnite's actions are an end-to-themselves, where building elaborate forts in the eye of The Storm and hanging out in them is always the best option. You're not given the incentive or the intelligence in Fortnite to adapt to do something else — if your one strategy doesn't work, it's game over. In City Trial, you're given ample opportunity (especially since you can't actually be eliminated) to try different tactics and have that adaptation.

That's a criticism of the Battle Royale genre in general. Again, conceptually, Battle Royale seems like a good idea for a game mode. In practice, I don't find it fun, or at least, Fortnite isn't the way I'd go about it.

In short, my Fortnite experience can be summed up in this video clip made by KoopaTV's RawkHawk2010... though I have no idea how he made it. Dude probably stole it from someone and put a crying baby over it:

Truly dreadful. Which describes Fortnite accurately.

(Update: That's exactly what Rawk did. Here's the original video from Master0fHyrule. All of its contents are dreadful.) 

Update 8/20/2018:

I've received some comments from a number of people, both off and on KoopaTV, about what I wrote about Fortnite.

One of the comments was that there is a designated (albeit limited-time-edition) “playground mode” where you can learn how to build forts and stuff because resources are quite bountiful. Low pressure environment without The Storm killing you. That should address my bit about the lack of a tutorial space to learn how to play, shouldn't it? (But why would it only exist for a limited time...?)

Here is what happened when I went to playground mode (be warned, headphone users):

(According to someone who talked to me about Fortnite, Epic Games fixed the map user interface issue, but as you can see in the videos above, that's clearly not true.)

So, yeah, I didn't really learn much from the mode, but it did mean that I needed to learn how to access the settings. Eventually, I figured it out: press the Plus button and then go to the right side of what appears to the SETTINGS. Look at these BEAUTIFUL SETTINGS:

Fortnite Nintendo Switch how to turn voice chat off audio settings
And why the heck is Voice Chat Volume on maximum by default? And why is there a Music Volume slider when the game lacks music?
Fortnite Nintendo Switch motion enabled controls settings gyrometer

Unfortunately, the motion controls don't feel good at all, even after turning off Invert. For some reason, Fortnite refuses to play well on the X-axis for motion controls. Y-axis is fine; you can go up and down easily. But left and right I got literal pushback, and then my view went all over the place and I'm not sure what the “reset camera” button is, if Fortnite even has one. (The equivalent to the Y-button in Splatoon 2.)

But turning off the voice chat is great. Absolutely necessary. Just listen to those videos if you don't believe me.

Not that I plan to play Fortnite ever again, but I've said that about three different times already. Seriously. I'm never going to like the game. Stop trying to comment to get me to try this or the other thing. Every time I play Fortnite I get a headache. But if there's one thing Epic Games is good at, it's keeping Fortnite updated with new stuff. Sure, it'll never get out of “Early Access” or whatever, but the team is very actively working on it. A lot of what they're working on are useless microtransaction trinkets, though...

/endupdate 8/20/2018

Ludwig doesn't consider this article to be an actual game review, since KoopaTV's standards for reviewing involve playing much more of the game than Ludwig actually ended up doing. This is more of a collection of complaints. He never wants to talk about Fortnite ever again, but of course, he'll respond to your comments in the comments section anyway. If someone could explain why Fortnite is appealing to anyone to begin with, please explain that.

Another reason to stay away from Fortnite is that it's a prime target for hackers wanting to get your personal, sensitive information.


  1. My attitude toward Fortnite (moreso people who play it and love it) pretty much from the word go has been, "Yes, I get it, you think it's the greatest thing since Sliced Bread Simulator, get off my lawn."

  2. While Fortnite did not have gyro controls when it first released, it does now as of a recent patch. Anyway, I have not played many solo battles, but I have put a fair amount of time into the 50 v 50 mode because I find it to be more enjoyable and forgiving as slow as it may be. Overall, for a free game, I would say it is a decent battle royale for just about anyone. Even if you're not familiar with the genre, it does not take long to grow accustomed to the basic mechanics and eventually win your first round. The developers have also listened to fans and added or removed features to better enhance the gameplay such as the gyro controls I have mentioned earlier. Fortnite is still far from being the best game ever and is highly overrated, yet there is just something that brings me back to it again from time to time.

    1. I have just updated the article addressing some of what you wrote here. See the big UPDATE 8/20/2018 header.


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