Last year we heard a blip about Fortnite, the next game from Unreal and the first to use their Unreal Engine 4. The initial teaser video had me thinking “Minecraft”, but it didn’t seem like anyone else had the same idea, so I stayed pretty low-key about it until I got to see some more. During a preview at this year’s PAX Prime I can confirm that Fortnite is indeed Minecraft with way spiffier visuals and likely more fleshed-out gameplay.
Bizarrely, the biggest news on Fortnite so far is that it is a game being developed for PC in mind. I guess for most game journalists this was the big takeaway from the PAX preview, with Cliffy B putting some emphatic notes on the statement. This isn’t huge news though. Its nice to know of course, for PC gamers at least, but we’ve been playing PC games for decades and news that a developer is taking the PC seriously shouldn’t really be “news”. To me its just a return to form from Epic.
The real news for me was in the content of the preview. Let me first say that Minecraft was never once mentioned in the preview. Considering the emphasis on “PC centric” development I find this incredibly bizarre.
The preview began with footage of concept art of the game, showing the evolution from a gritter, darker vision for the game in its early stages to the more colorful and lively visuals that it uses today. “Team Fortress 2″-like visuals will probably be referenced pretty often, I would expect to see this statement a lot when the game is finally reviewed on release. In reality it only uses the cel-shaded aspect of TF2, but goes on to create a colorful cast of characters and monsters that are unique to the game, even the buildings and “forts” themselves have a certain character to them.
Next was some early development of the game, showing for the first time from Epic video of those checkered walls and floors that are common to early stages of production. These videos showed off some of the unique ways that monsters will find targets, run around walls, run under walls, and run up vertical pillars. One of the cooler parts was a weapon preview. While there will be basic weapons like a crossbow, they can be retrofitted with upgrades to enhance them, such as explosive arrows, electric shock arrows and even a tightrope to walk between building-tops with.
But then the real meat of the preview began and we got to see what the “everyday gameplay” would be like. Maybe what was most telling was that the very first thing we saw on this part of the demo was a character chopping down trees. Sure enough, the lumber from these trees would then be used in real-time blueprints of the buildings to start constructing large forts. I can see that there, so far, isn’t any sort of mining involved in the game, but the similarities are pretty obvious at this point.
Walls can be constructed to nearly limitless heights, if any of the demo’s forts were indication. At this point we began to see a lot of harvesting of wood from various places, not just trees. Characters would knock down fences and boarded up houses. They also busted out a sledgehammer to start taking down concrete buildings. Bricks could then be used in the foundation to build up sturdier fortresses.
And from the looks of it, you’ll be needing some good fortresses, because when night falls, the big monsters come out. The biggest monsters could easily take down those rickety wooden walls. And as mentioned earlier, some of the small monsters could easily burrow under them.
But as far as I’m concerned, everything seems to check out when it comes to comparisons to Minecraft. Knocking out trees for wood? Check. Building make-shift forts? Check. Monsters come out at night to kill you? Check and check. Its pretty obvious where a lot of the inspiration came from. That, of course, doesn’t bring my opinion of the game down in any way, I’m just surprised they haven’t mentioned it much.
Fortnite is also slated to go through a “buy it in beta” period, much like Notch’s early strategy to get word of the game out there. I’ll be looking forward to trying it out sometime in early 2013.