I’ll admit that I didn’t really understand the Fortnite craze when I played the game on PlayStation 4. My experiences were always pretty sour — I’d either follow my squad around and die, hide and die, try to shoot enemies and die, or pick up some ammo and get called obscenities over voice chat… And then die. I had never gotten a kill in more than ten matches. Thankfully, my experience with Fortnite on Nintendo Switch has been far more enjoyable; Nintendo’s system has revitalized the game for me.
For those not familiar, Fortnite is a 100-player battle royale where players are split up into squads of four and drop onto an island from a flying bus, called the Battle Bus. The only thing you’re armed with upon landing is a pick-axe to gather materials — all of your weapons, bandages, and shield potions are found on the map by way of random spawn locations. You have one life with no respawn – die, and you can either watch the rest of the match or find a new one.
The Battle Bus flies across the map from a different start and end point each time, so your options on where to drop in any given map vary. Of course, there’s only a single map in Fortnite, but it has plenty of recognizable landmarks. There’s the Tilted Towers, a small city with plenty of skyscrapers that rare items usually spawn at; Junk Junction is at the edge of the map and has plenty of metal to gather; then there’s the Dusty Divot, a crater at the center of the map that houses what seems to be a research facility. There are plenty more, and the map is quite large… To start. Every few minutes, a storm will come in and shrink the playable zone, forcing teams to move from their precious hideouts and and duke it out in smaller and smaller battlefields. It becomes a race against the clock to gather enough powerful weaponry – and avoid ambush – before you’re forced into a little area.
As I hinted at earlier, Fortnite can take a while to get the hang of, and playing in the default squad mode isn’t necessarily the best way. There are also side modes – just a week ago it was two teams of 50 fighting it out as the storm shrinks to one pre-determined area. As of writing this review, the side mode is five teams of 20 players that drop out of five different Battle Buses. These side modes are more action-packed and give new players more opportunity to learn the mechanics of jumping, shooting, and building your way to victory.
Gathering materials and building structures is an important part of staying alive in Fortnite. You’re able to place walls, floors, and ramps that are made out of wood, stone, or metal. These materials can be mined from virtually any structure: houses can be broken down for wood, rocks or brick buildings for stone, and vehicles and freights for metal. Once the storm shrinks to its smallest zone, teams typically build huge forts to give themselves cover and provide a height advantage over other teams. To even get to that point, though, players must be proficient in quickly building walls and ramps in the midst of close-quarter battles. Someone shooting at you from the distance? Quickly build walls to shield yourself. Someone running at you with a shotgun? Quickly build ramps to get over and behind them. Luckily, the Nintendo Switch version of Fortnite has quick-building controls so all players have to do is hit the A button to enter building and then press the trigger that’s tied to the piece they want. It’s much easier than having to toggle through building options.
Teaming up with friends online is a breeze. It’s kind of shocking that it works so well on a Nintendo system. An Epic account is tied to your Nintendo Network ID, and you’re able to party up with any of your friends that play Fortnite on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, or PC. All you need to do is press “Join” or “Invite.” No silly hoops to jump through, no hoping that your friends will be on your team instead of the enemy team. Why Nintendo doesn’t do this for Splatoon 2 beyond me. You can even voice chat with friends or strangers right in the game by plugging in a headset – the only Nintendo Switch game to do that. Chatting through the game didn’t cause any network stress in my experience, and I’ve never encountered any lag in over ten hours of play time. For what it’s worth, I use an Ethernet adapter to connect online.
This is purely anecdotal, but the Nintendo Switch community in Fortnite doesn’t seem to be nearly as insufferable as it was on PlayStation 4. I’ve had one kid yelling into the mic asking people to emote if we could hear him (who I promptly muted) but nobody going on an obscenity-fueled tirade for having the audacity to open an ammo box.
If there’s one issue with Fortnite on Nintendo Switch, it’s that the game isn’t as pretty as its PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or PC counterparts. Sometimes textures are slow to load when dropping into the map, and trees will look like they were taken from Super Mario 64. Animations for enemies that are far off in the distance are a little shaky, and they’re hard to see while playing in handheld mode. Fortnite does run at a stable framerate, though, and the colorful art style hides many of the Nintendo Switch’s technical shortcomings.
Fortnite is free to play, so there really isn’t any reason not to give it a try. There’s an optional Battle Pass for about $10 available to buy each season that unlocks a myriad of combat and exploration challenges, as well as new player skins, emotes, and loading screens that are awarded in a tier-based leveling system.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: Fortnite is a free download on the Nintendo eShop.