While most of the discussion coming out of the Fortnite panel at Comic-Con today was in regards to Cliff Bleszinski’s revelation that the title would be a PC exclusive and the first Unreal Engine 4 title released none of that says much about the game, besides it looking really great. What Bleszinski, along with Producer Tanya Jessen and Lead Artist Pete Ellis, introduced didn’t tell us too much about Fortnite, but it did answer many of the nagging questions left after that initial Spike VGA reveal.
Fortnite, as many have already heard, is a cooperative sandbox survival title that asks the player, or players, to build a fortified domicile during the day and defend it during the night. This simple design decision helps divide the game into two distinct parts, and presents the player with two different gameplay opportunities.
In the day time players will be able to scavenge for materials, be they brick, wood, or stone, and then construct those materials into various structures: walls, roofs, stairs, and the like. How exactly players will be able to decide what to build, or how many of each type of material they can carry, has yet to be ironed out, but essentially players will be able to create anything from a ramshackle hut to a lofty tower.
Players can edit each smaller structure to give them windows or doors, or even make it so a roof has rounded edges. Heck, you can even create your very own sniper’s nest if your heart desires. It’s all up to the player’s imagination, but there is still a basic rule set at play.
And then comes the night combat, which unfortunately wasn’t as fleshed out as the building aspect. A brief prototype video suggested the game would be a third person shooter with some semblance of a weapon upgrade system – what we saw was a crossbow being leveled up from simple ammunition to electrified trap-style arrows – but Epic Games made it clear they were still experimenting. One important thing they revealed about the combat was that it could be skipped, allowing players simply to enjoy constructing intricate buildings without the threat of them being destroyed over night. Epic Games wants Fortnite to be about emergent gameplay and a personalized experience, and it wouldn’t be fair to force some players who don’t care for the combat to slog through it when all they want to do is build.
An element that the team appears to have worked out, but isn’t willing to talk about in a larger, are the enemies in Fortnite. They introduced attendees to the Trolls, the small malicious creatures featured in the trailer, and then showed off another enemy called the Husk. Pete Ellis even walked us through the various stages of design the Husk went through, before they finally settled on a creature that uses its own face as a hoodie, that still worked in the game’s Looney Tunes-esque world. The trio gave a hint that something larger is at play — something is causing these creatures to come out at night — but they weren’t at liberty to say what just yet. It was more important for players to get a firm grasp on the design of the game, because it’s going to take some time for fans of Gears of War or Unreal Tournament to acclimate.
Speaking of design, the game looks absolutely gorgeous in Unreal Engine 4, but in a way that is so different from what was shown off in the Elemental demo. It’s an expanded version of the world implied by the trailer, and it looks goofy and exaggerated, and totally works in the context of the game.
A few other important things to note about the game are that, although Cliffy B emphasized the game will first and foremost be a PC experience, he didn’t want to rule out the possibility of a console release. Obviously, since UE 4 is involved that would mean next-gen, but this game seems a ways off anyway.
Epic Games also wanted to stress that much of what players will see at launch will be the first phase of Fortnite‘s gameplay, but Epic Games hopes to keep building off that. Much like Minecraft, a game that Fortnite draws a lot of inspiration from, the first release is merely the platform from which some really great things will grow.
It’s clearly very early on for Epic Games and Fortnite, but what they showed today held a lot of promise. Many of the aspects that gamers had envisioned based on the trailer came to fruition while others were even greater than anyone could have imagined. Fortnite breaks Epic Games’ mold of brutal shooters, and shows they can be just as creative as any developer out there.
What do you think of the first look at Epic Games’ Fortnite? Are you disappointed to learn the game is likely a PC-only title at launch?
Follow me on Twitter @ANTaormina