Fortnite has defined and then redefined the Battle Royale genre with its rapid innovation in game play tweaks and balances.
Back in January 2018, my compatriot Rossko wrote about how Fortnite had “won the Battle (Royale) over its rivals”. I’m not going to re-tread these points (but you can HERE if you would like read it) but the TL;DR version is that the game is more fun to play because of the design decisions made by Epic. When we published this piece, we were met by a wave of “Fortnite is just a PUBG clone” and “It’s just a cartoony PUBG” comments, right on cue. Since that day, Fortnite Battle Royale has gone on to break Twitch records, become the biggest ever Free-To-Play console game, has had a profound cultural impact (specifically on Footballer goal celebrations apparently) and is now the “one to beat” in the Battle Royale genre.
One of the reasons that Fortnite has seen this explosion of popularity is because of rapid innovation. Epic quickly introduced new game modes – Solid Gold (only gold weapons), two different types of 50 v 50, the Blitz mode, teams of 20 and various different weapon modes have all had their time in the sun on the Fortnite island. There has hardly been a week that went by that didn’t have something new to try and this is something that most of its competitors have tried to copy. Where Epic and Fortnite stand out from the crowd is the speed at which they introduce these modes and the attention to the minutia that changes how the game is played. The Avengers Infinity War cross over mode is the most apt demonstration of this to date.
Ignore, just for a second, that the Infinity Gauntlet and Thanos are in the game at all because, I would argue that that’s the least interesting change in this new mode. Instead, look at the characteristics that are given to Thanos. He can one punch your face off, has a ranged attack which does damage over time and does a splash damage attack from a super jump. This is at the expense of the use of weapons, building and healing. The gauntlet and Thanos always show on the map, painting a target on him or warning you that he’s near. These are all fantastic innovations without the context of him being a Mad Titan from the year’s biggest movie. For everyone else, the game is also vastly different – Chests have a vastly increased chance to spawn and the weapons they grant will be Rare at their worst. Resource pickups are doubled making building your way to safety that bit easier. The storm approaches quicker and does more damage, penning you in with Thanos and the other players as soon as you hit the ground. This isn’t just the inclusion of an OP item that makes you neigh on invincible when played right.
There are whole sale gameplay tweaks and expert balances which fundamentally change the way the game is played. Drop outside the safe zone and you’ll have to gear up quickly or get caught in a storm which is now capable of killing you in 20 seconds with full health. When Thanos approaches and he’s fighting others, do you wait it out to see if they take him down, pick off the prey of Thanos to prevent his shield regeneration (which regenerates when he kills a player) or join in to take Thanos down and hope you get to the gauntlet first? It feels like a whole new game and it’s not the first time either.
The Blitz mode, which was available in Fortnite during March, felt like a precursor to the Infinity War mode. It shared a lot of similarities – an instantly shrinking storm, chest spawn rate at 90%, resource harvesting doubled – but without Thanos looming over the brow of a hill. This mode made the most of the building mechanic by giving players resources up the wazoo. It wasn’t uncommon to see people build giant towers and have rocket battles reaching across the safe zone for them to then abandon their creations as the storm approached, rebuild and start battling all over again.
This is where Epic games and Fortnite Battle Royale are becoming trailblazers. They’re almost reinventing the genre, offering up new and unique ways to experience Fornite time and time again. Compared to PUBG’s Tequilla Sunrise Event mode that did little more than limit weaponry to Shotguns and Melee weapons and not much else, it’s night and day. Player Unknown’s Battle Ground might have been the first to make the genre popular but Fortnite has quickly defined it, refined it and is inventing on it. If anyone wants to trump Fortnite in the battle royale for the Battle Royale genre, they need to start innovating in the way their games play rather than just limiting what weapons you get to play with.