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'Fortnite Battle Royale' is the game that's taking over the world

There’s a new gaming craze taking over consoles and PCs across the globe: Epic Games’ “Fortnite.” At some point over the past few months, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the game through friends, family members, rapper Drake’s recent live stream of it or the seemingly endless stream of memes that it’s spawned across social media.

So what is “Fortnite,” and should you give in and check it out yourself? I mean, 45 million people can’t be wrong, right?

‘Fortnite’ 101

“Fortnite” is a game developed by Epic Games, the same company behind such blockbuster franchises as “Gears of War.” The title has been in development since about 2011 and didn’t exactly start out as the experience that millions of people are playing today.

In fact, “Fortnite” was originally meant to be a kind of tower defense-style game, in which you and three other players scrounge for resources and build a structure where you fend off swarms of zombie husks trying to kill you. Think of it as a bizarre mix of “Minecraft” and the zombie mode in “Call of Duty” or “Left for Dead.”

That version of the game is still available, but it’s not what everyone is talking about. That would be the standalone game mode called “Fortnite Battle Royale.”

“Fortnite Battle Royale” debuted in September 2017 and was originally available as an early access game for a small fee, but shortly thereafter was offered as a free-to-play title.

‘Fortnite’ sees you square off against 99 other players to see who can outlast them all.

It’s important to note that “Fortnite Battle Royale” hit a short time after “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” (PUBG) was released. “PUBG” helped set the standard for the kind of 1 vs. 99 gameplay that “Fortnite Battle Royale” uses.” In fact, “Fortnite Battle Royale” uses the same basic mechanic, players land on a deserted island en mass and search for weapons and armor, that “PUBG” uses.

“Fortnite Battle Royale,” however, has a much goofier, more cartoonish art style than “PUBG,” which goes for a more realistic look.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t call out the Japanese cult classic movie “Battle Royale” that helped inspire these games. In it a class of students are tasked with hunting down their classmates using any means necessary until only one services. So, not exactly a family-friendly affair.

Of course, a similar concept was used as the backdrop for the hit “Hunger Games” franchise.

“PUBG” saw huge success during its own early access period, at one point selling 20 million copies for about $30 and later held the title of the game with most concurrent players online at once — 3 million users.

One of the chief reasons “PUBG” saw its popularity skyrocket so quickly was because of the way its publisher, PUBG Corporation, seeded the game to streamers on services like Twitch to help expose it to a wide audience.

‘Fortnite’ features a cartoonish style that makes its violence less realistic and intense.

But “PUBG” has also run into issues with instability and hackers, and streamers slowly began moving over to “Fortnite Battle Royale.”

Playing the game

“Fortnite” is an easy game to understand, and a difficult one to master. You start out inside of a floating party bus attached to a hot air balloon traveling over a massive island. As the bus crosses the island you can choose when to jump and where to land. Picking the right landing spot is paramount, as less populated areas give you a better chance of surviving later into the round, while more populated areas mean you’ll run into other players who can quickly off you.

As the game progresses a ring sets the initial play area that all players must head to. Stay outside of the play area too long, and you’ll see your health drop and eventually die. Moving players into the circle helps keep the game from turning into an endless standoff.

Since you go into each game without any weapons, save for a pickaxe, you need to find weapons, armor and build resources as soon as you hit the ground. Not getting a weapon quick enough means you’re a sitting duck for better-equipped players who will wipe you out in an instant.

Building is a major part of ‘Fortnite.’

The building aspect of “Battle Royale” sees you breaking down everything from trees to entire buildings to collect construction resources. You can then build structures to defend against incoming attackers. But your buildings aren’t indestructible, and can be knocked down by your enemies.

If you can manage to take out the other players and are the last one standing, you’ll win the round. But doing that is much easier said than done. The vast majority of the time, you’ll fail to come out on top. In fact, you probably won’t last very long into the game at all. But that’s all part of the fun. The thrill of it all. You spend so much time collecting weapons, hiding, building structures and avoiding your competitors that when you do eventually see another player, it’s a huge adrenaline rush.

The cost of playing

“Fortnite Battle Royal” is free to download and play. There’s no hidden fees, and Epic won’t charge you in the future. So how does the game make any money? Instead of using things like loot boxes, which players can purchase in the hopes of winning randomized prizes similar to a lottery, “Fortnite Battle Royale” uses a system it calls Battle Pass .

Every player gets access to the basic Battle Pass level, which allows you to complete challenges for cosmetic upgrades to your character and the glider you use to drop from the launch bus.

The $10 premium Battle Pass, though, gives players a regularly updated list of challenges they can complete to unlock premium upgrades for their characters and gliders. None of the upgrades will give you an advantage over other players, which means this isn’t a pay-to-win scenario. It’s all about whether you want a certain look for your character or not. It’s not necessary to enjoy the game, but it certainly helps strengthen your investment in it.

If you haven’t tried “Fortnite Battle Royale” yet, it’s absolutely worth checking out. You can download it now for PC, Sony’s (SNE) PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s (MSFT) Xbox One.

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Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.
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