We knew the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds copycats, clones, and homages were coming, and we have one of the first from a major company in Fortnite: Battle Royale. Earlier this week, Epic Games launched an update to its defensive crafting shooter Fortnite called Battle Royale that introduces a last-player-standing mode in which 100 players jump onto a map and have to kill and outlast one another. The mode is live right now in a testing phase, and I’ve spent some time with it. My first impression is that it works as a great introduction to the genre, but it won’t peel me away from the legitimate article.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds launched in March as an unfinished game in Steam’s Early Access program for $30. It has since surpassed 10 million copies sold. It’s also a simple premise — one that developers could easily add into their games. That combination of factors has proved too difficult for Epic to ignore, and the studio has chosen to stick closely to the formula developer Bluehole set up with PUBG.
Here’s how Fortnite and Battlegrounds are almost identical:
- 100-player limit.
- A single, large map.
- Players skydive off of an aerial vehicle at the beginning of each match.
- You can collect weapons, armor, and healing items.
- Bullets drop dramatically over distance.
- A safe zone shrinks over the course of the fight.
Epic has come out and said that it loves Battlegrounds, and it wants to bring that style of game into Fortnite. It even disabled some of the features in its core game to maintain true to Bluehole’s vision. You won’t find zombies, and you can’t craft weapons or ammo.
But Fortnite: Battle Royale is different in some key ways:
- You can still build structures.
- You can find rare versions of weapons that are more powerful.
- The visuals are more stylized.
- The environment has jump pads and other locomotion tools.
The weapons are color-coded, so if you find an orange rifle, it’s going to have better stats than a white, green, or blue rifle. But the biggest change is crafting. Let’s say you want to get to high ground that is difficult to get to on foot. Well, just build a staircase. You can also build your own defensive structures, so you’re not at the mercy of the safe zone if it corals you into an empty field (but you’ll still take damage outside of that circle).
I think these changes set Fortnite: Battle Royale apart, just a bit, from PUBG, but they aren’t the reason I would come to this game. The best part is still looting and taking on other players in heated battles, and having the option to drop my own shack in the world is just a twist on that core gameplay.
Fortnite: Battle Royale is fun. It’s worth trying — especially if you have Fortnite but don’t have PUBG for some reason. It’s going to give you many of the same exhilarating gameplay moments. That said, I think the stylized visuals in Fortnite detract from the sheer horror you feel in something like Battlegrounds. The cartoon-like graphics also make it difficult to see players in busy environments unless they are moving. The draw distance is also broken so that players derender if they are far enough away.
But, hey, this new mode isn’t finished. Fortnite is in its “Early Access Season,” whatever that means. Like Bluehole, Epic can continue refining what it has here, and I think a lot of people are really going to enjoy it. But I’ll keep returning to the beautiful simplicity of PUBG and leave Fortnite: Battle Royale to others.