Of Pillow Forts and Play: Epic Games' 'Fortnite'

Everybody loves building a fort.


Platforms: PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, Macintosh
Developer: Epic Games
US Release date: 2017-07-25

Building a fort is a classic form of play. Be your material cardboard, wood, or just the sofa cushions, as a kid there's something compelling about holing up while imagining battling the forces of evil and also something compelling about building a structure to serve as your home base for a little while.

Some of this pleasure, perhaps, speaks to the appeal of crafting and base building games. From Minecraft to Conan: Exiles to Rust, there's clearly something bringing gamers back to the idea of spending some time gathering resources, erecting walls, and building a little oasis for themselves in the sometimes difficult environs of these games.

For some of these games, of course, your “fort” is the main focus of the game. Minecraft players can spend hours developing a home in that world, often that is the sole occupation of a play session. In Conan: Exiles, the “fort” is more like a home base. While you'll take time building it, your fort becomes a place to stop by to store and retrieve supplies and weapons or to cook before heading forth to adventure once again.

Epic's current game under development, with the option to buy in and play now, Fortnite shares elements of both games to a degree. It's a game that wants to speak to the imagination of the fort builder, building both a home base and more transient forts to play in and around throughout its campaign. It's also a game about fort defense, with the player most often tasked on each mission with exploring a small area in the world, building a fort there (usually to protect an important piece of technology), and then defending that fort from waves of zombie-like enemies called husks.

The game allows you to largely determine when the waves of monsters will begin coming at you, so this gives you and up to three other players to determine the simplicity or complexity of your fort based on how much time you want to take building it. Fortnite allows for even more freedom and time for construction when it comes to building up your home base, a place to defend your personal fort from the storms that bring the husks to your doorway on occasion.

All of which returns me to my initial observation, Fortnite lives up to its name in its desire to scratch the itch of players who like base building and especially the concept of building a fort to ward off the forces of evil.

While I'm not much of a Minecraft player, I've routed the forces of Cobra, as my brother and I pretended to be G.I. Joes, while defending one of those aforementioned couch pillow forts. So, some of Fortnite's premise holds some allure for me.

I really enjoyed all of the elements of the game from crafting to base building to fighting off the husks for a week or two. There's also some deep management of various elements of playing the role of survivor in the game that's also engaging. As I said, though, I had fun with it, playing off and on for the last couple of weeks, but now the sameness of the core gameplay -- fighting waves of monsters -- has set in and I'm not sure I will hang with it a lot longer.

Now, this may be because this genre only sometimes appeals to me, but it may also simply be that after you build your fort, that game gets old after awhile. You put the couch back together at some point and figure out something else to do. I'm not sure that I have quite reached that point yet, and I might be back for more eventually. However, taking a break from the fort for a time could be coming soon for me personally. Sometimes you just need to find something else to play for a little while.

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