Battle for Battle Royale

Recently, I streamed both Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) and Fortnite, two of Twitch’s most watched games, for a couple friends so that they could get a sense of what both were like. I played a solid hour or so of each, and of course, I was terrible at both games. I’m not exactly known for my stellar gameplay, more my reactions to moments of astounding ineptitude. After the stream, I sat down in my chair, looked at the wall, and thought about both games. I thought about how both were essentially the same game styled after the film Battle Royale with different approaches. While I found both to be fun, they also have glaring problems attached to them that need to be solved in order to become greater than what they are at present.

I can’t quite remember how I ended up buying PUBG; it is not my normal go-to for a game, which is usually RPGs or Action/Adventure titles. The only shooters I do typically enjoy have been the fast paced kind: Overwatch, Doom, and Halo. In my 174 hours of PUBG game time, I can tell you that I have seen some crazy things…things that would make me sound like a half starved cultist you found in the deserts of Miramar. Most recently I had an experience where I drove through a field in Erangel, in the middle of a red zone, and there were no obstacles in front of me, just a small furrow of dirt. I hit that dirt mound harder than I’ve hit any concrete wall in the game, stalling me enough that no more than a second later I exploded from one of the many bombs raining from the sky. I was dumbfounded. I wondered if I had hit a rock that spawned a few seconds after, as that had been a recurring problem with previous vehicular excursions I’ve done with my squadmates; however, upon further inspection, this had not been the case. Eight inches of raised dirt was what ended the game for me! This is just an example of one of the hundred inconsistencies in PUBG. You’d be hard pressed in finding one person out of the 1.5 million players who hasn’t experienced a single bug while playing.

I have heard defenders of PUBG cite that it is ok for it to be a buggy mess of a game because Bethesda also releases full titles that are rife with glitches. As an avid Bethesda fan, I am aware of this as in every game of theirs I played there has been at least one bug. However, the difference here is that a bug in a Bethesda single player game creates an experience you can tell friends about, whereas, in PUBG, it can cost you the game. This becomes especially dire for those among us who have esports aspiration in the PUBG league. It would also be unfair to ask for a bugless experience from the Bluehole developers, as that is not possible. Still, I hope they’d address these issues before going ahead with new content which will inevitably create more complications.

To their credit, they did patch the game to help with the horrific rubberbanding issues experienced when Miramar released, marking the game’s status as a full release title. However, that was a necessary fix to make the game playable, which is the bare minimum of being a game. Since then, PUBG has had five updates, all of which have dealt with a number of gameplay issues that have plagued players. Until changes are implemented to improve performance, I do not think I’ll be returning to PUBG in the near future. However, like any adrenaline junky, I wanted the tense excitement from battle royale gameplay, which lead me back to Fortnite.

I got into Fortnite before it had a battle royale mode. In their campaign mode, I was busy collecting resources, crafting weapons, and leveling heroes. I eventually uninstalled it because I got addicted to the grind of making the numbers for my heroes and weapons go up, but more on that in another article. After reinstallation, I boarded the battle bus and prepared for my first jump into the alliterative areas below and I have to say, it was fun. All the elements of PUBG are in the game with some minor changes; the blue zone is called the Storm, weapon rarity replaces weapon mods, pulling your chute multiple times instead of once. The major difference is that there’s a fort building mechanic which comes from Fortnite’s main campaign mode and premise of being a castle defender with guns. At the end of each round, there’s an inevitable battle of the building gods, creating fantastic fortresses from which to fire a hail of bullets and rockets. It is a cool mechanic, but that isn’t enough to pull it from being compared to PUBG.

Therein lies Fornite’s main issue: its uniqueness. Fortnite jumped on the battle royale bandwagon at the height of PUBG fever. Ever since, it has been deemed a copycat, and I can not blame players for making that observation. There was a moment when a buddy and I both picked up rifles and realized that they were a SCAR and an M16, both being rifles found found in most realistic shooters including PUBG. But Fortnite isn’t realistic, or rather it doesn’t have to be. Fortnite is like that kid who brags about watching military specials on History when, in reality, they binge G.I. Joe.

If Fortnite wants to become a better battle royale game, it needs to become the Saints Row to PUBG’s Grand Theft Auto. It’s certainly zany enough. With dance emotes and wacky costumes, it already has the seeds of ridiculousness planted, but Epic Games needs to let it grow. The campaign mode of Fortnite has an armory full of weird weaponry, from vacuum tube laser rifles to pneumatic powered greatswords. It’s bonkers that none of this made it into at least the crate drops in battle royale. In addition, the Storm should be changed to differentiate itself from the Blue Zone in PUBG by having husks spawn near players like in the campaign. This adds additional danger to those who fight and scavenge in the Storm, while also giving a chance at cool player-made experiences for teams fighting through it.

PUBG and Fortnite are both delicious cakes being served to the gaming community, but each have their own flaws. For PUBG’s cake there are eggshells in the cake. For Fortnite they copied PUBG’s recipe, removed the shells, and frosted it with cartoonish colors. For cake conservatives, PUBG is the purest form of the game and what they want, despite the egg shells.  On the other hand, for us casual fans, who like any cake so long as there aren’t shells in it, Fortnite is the way to go. I hope both games succeed in their endeavors and find their niche, but I firmly believe that won’t come without focusing on their respective problems. Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds is $29.99 USD on Windows and Xbox and Fortnite Battle Royale is free on Windows, Mac, Xbox, and PS4.


Update 14Feb2018: At the time of upload, Fortnite has begun their Valentines day event in Battle Royale mode, introducing Cupid’s Crossbow to the weapon roster. This definitely adds to the zany flavor that was being discussed earlier in the article. It’s also worth noting in this update that you can use cosmetics and dance emotes to be as silly and wonky as you want in Fortnite Battle Royale.