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LEGO Fortnite First Impressions

Fortnite is launching several new game modes with the advent of Chapter 5. The impression I’ve gotten is that these are supposed to be more or less permanent fixtures like Battle Royale and Save the World. The first of which to drop was LEGO Fortnite. This one kind of feels like the largest one because it includes LEGO Mini figure versions of many many skins and completely new gameplay in large worlds. Not all of the skins have LEGO versions, but they seem to plan to add them all over time. If you already own a particular skin, then you get the LEGO version of that skin, usable in the LEGO mode.

LEGO Fortnite isn’t just “Battle Royale with LEGO skins”. I’ve seen it described as being “Minecraft but it’s LEGO”. From what I’ve played, it seems more like a LEGO version of the popular Viking survival game Valheim. Honestly, aside from the occasional sound effects, nothing much about it even feels like Fortnite at all, which is kind of weird. Even the landscaping and trees, which use a non-LEGO style don’t really feel like Fortnite exactly. I would really love to know some of the juicy business details behind whatever made this happen because it really feels like LEGO could have just made a stand-alone game. I get why EPIC wanted this added, they are trying to make Fortnite into their Metaverse play, and much more than just “Battle Royale”.

So, I know there are quite a few of these “survival sandbox” sort of games, but most of my experience is with Minecraft and Valheim, so those are what I have to compare things to here. Like Minecraft, you can create a world that is either creative or survival. Like Minecraft, in Creative you get access to all the parts and just get to build as free as you want, in Survival, you have to forage for everything. The survival part feels a lot more like Valheim. The resources are much more limited than Minecraft, and it’s more about actual foraging than digging up every block on the map. Which is why it feels like Valheim, with its central village base that you explore out of, and it’s more realistic gathering methods.

Everything centers around upgrading your village, which lets you gather more and more villagers, which are just NPC LEGO versions of popular Fortnite characters. The whole gimmick is a little hazy. To get a villager to stay, they seem to require you give them a bed, which is simple enough, but also that your village be a certain level. They will show up and gather around your central square statue until you officially recruit them. Even when not recruited, they pretty much just act like every other NPC though, defending the village and hanging around the area not doing much.

You can give them jobs to gather resources, but that doesn’t seem to actually DO anything from what I can tell. I have no idea where the resources go, if anywhere, and when you “ask about their job”, they just answer that they just started and have not done anything yet. However, when you assign it, they say they will be done in one day cycle.

It’s also clear and not clear how to upgrade your base. There are clear-cut needs, like a certain number of stones or wood, but also a vague, “Improve your village”. Which I think it related to how much you have built within the little circle area around the central post.

Like many of these games, there is a day/night cycle. Mobs are not limited to only nighttime, but there are MORE mobs at night. And this kind of brings up my first gripe with this game mode. You are REDICULOUSLY WEAK. There does seem to be a way to craft more health, I have yet to unlock a way to craft armor or better weapons, if there even is one. You have three health hearts, which can tick away in quarter increments, but for things like Wolves, they hit very hard for almost half your health, and for the skeletons at night, it’s easy to rapidly become overwhelmed, as they move much faster than you do. The balance here just feels, way off.

The skeletons also have a pretty huge aggro range, which means they will start swarming your village regularly. Thankfully, they don’t seem to really damage anything and the NPCs seem to be indestructible so they can kill the skeletons easily. Also, when you die, you will just respawn in your village, so you can quickly recover your lost loot. I have tried spreading campfires all over to light the area, but it doesn’t seem to really help. Also, campfires seem to be the only real way to make light. You can toss down torches, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to place them like in Minecraft. I crafted some candles around but they don’t really seem to DO anything.

Since we are on Campfires, it’s probably worth mentioning the weird temperature mechanic of the game. I’m sure there is a way to become too hot, but when it rains, you can become cold, which is bad. The game tells you this, it’s basically, “Get to shelter.” Standing next to a campfire does not work. You would think it would, but it does not keep you warm in the rain. It also does not heal you like in Fortnite BR either, it just provides light. You also can’t build or interact with anything in the rain. This all is a bit annoying because the best solution is to build a giant roof over your entire village, which feels a bit, not very village-like.

Between the coldness and the mobs being overpowered, you will often spend many nights just standing around waiting. Which is boring. In theory, you could use that time crafting things, but the game is very resource-stingy. You could build, but that also requires resources. And going out to the dark edges of the village to build, means probably aggroing in 10 skeletons.

The lack of resources also really adds to the tediousness of it all. I mean, sure, the idea is to get you out into the world, but then you run into another issue. Inventory management is absolutely atrocious. Your 24-slot backpack fills very quickly with things of dubious usefulness. Ok, sure, you can just dump stuff. Maybe you want to keep things, well, there are chests for this. Small chests with 8 slots in them. So you’re probably going to need a room full of chests. Chests themselves are kind of costly to build though, since resources are hard to get, making chests can feel costly. Also working against you, tools break very quickly, so you will be burning resources making fresh axes and picks and swords.

But it’s a survival game, those are more just complaints about the game having gameplay, so I can accept them. But managing all of this is even worse. items don’t automatically group and stack, for example. They stack to stacks of 30 or so. Say your chest has 4 of an item, you “deposit all” on a stack of 5. It now takes up two slots. You can manually stack them, but the entire point of quick keyboard shortcuts here is not to have to hassle with manual sorting. That 5 stack should drop into that 4 stack and make a 9 pile on its own. This feels nitpicky, but when you constantly have to do it, it gets old, very fast.

Exploring itself doesn’t feel very rewarding either. The main driver is gathering wood or rock, which is a constant need. But sometimes there are special encounters. you might find a ruined building or a small pack of bandits, or these little glowing butterflies that lead you to a chest. The rewards are almost never good though. Often just berries you can find anywhere.

I should probably mention the game servers/worlds themselves. Like most of these games, the map is procedurally generated. I have not explored out to the edges, but they may be infinite, I am not sure on that one yet. You can invite other players to join you as well, which is a popular aspect of these sorts of games. According to the game, you can hand out keys to a limited number of people to allow them to play without your presence, otherwise, the world ends when you leave. There also isn’t any additional cost to running a world/server, which is a bit surprising considering Minecraft has things like Realms that you can pay for, and even running a game outside of that means a host of some kind and a cost. Then again, they also host all of those creative mode maps as well. “Free Hosting” is kind of Fortnite’s gimmick I guess.

I feel like a lot of my complaints are about how this survival game expects me to survive. And to some extent they are, but the real underlying complaint is balance. The game world is all cutesy and LEGO, but also it’s hard and restrictive on what it gives you. The harsh survival part of these games is supposed to be at the higher-end areas, or when you explore out deep into the world, not, literally while you are in your own home base.

The game just sort of, feels at odds with itself. It’s stingy on resources to encourage exploring, but the enemies are very tough so you never feel confident enough to go on a long trip anywhere. There are bonuses and special chests around, but they never give worthwhile loot. I mentioned Valheim, this is all part of why I could never really get into Valheim, it all just felt so egregiously annoying for the sake of annoyingness.