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[Hands-on] Fortnite for Android, the most frustrating version to play yet

[Hands-on] Fortnite for Android, the most frustrating version to play yet

Alright all you Fortnite fans, it’s time to take an up-close look at the recent Galaxy Apps store release to see what Epic Games has actually delivered for Android. As you all surely know by now, Fortnite will not be listed on the Play Store. Instead, the APK will be published on Epic’s website once the exclusivity deal with Samsung is over. Beta access has just opened up for non-Samsung users, but in order to score an invitation you will have to register on Epic’s Fortnite beta webpage first. So if you are eager to get your hands on the game but have yet to play, let me outline exactly what you can expect in this hands-on with the Android version of Fortnite.

Setup

Right now the only people who can play Fortnite are Samsung users with an S7, S8, S9, Note 8, Note 9, Tab S3, or Tab S4. To get the game installed, simply navigate to the Galaxy Apps store app on your device and click on the giant Fortnite banner at the top. This will initiate the installer download. Once the installer is fully installed the actual game will start to download, and once that is finished, you will be able to jump in and shoot some fools.

 

Graphics

I’d like to start out this hands-on by covering the graphics, and you will see why in a minute. The first thing to keep in mind is that I am playing on a Galaxy S8+. This is a year old device, though its specs are still solid enough to run the game on the highest quality setting called Epic. As a matter of fact, I can’t drop my graphics settings. There are options to do so, but for some reason mine are stuck where they are, and no matter how much I fiddle with them, I can’t change them. My opinion throughout this entire hands-on is based around my experience with Epic quality and a framerate set at 30fps.

The framerate has yet to hold at a solid 30fps for me for any extended period of time. I had numerous stutters and missed frames through every session, and it never once smoothed out. Epic’s servers may be the main culprit here, as this is a brand-spanking new release, but when my Nintendo Switch and iPad perform exponentially better, I see no reason to play on Android just to put up with poor performance.

Oh, and if the horrible framerate was not enough of an issue, expect plenty of jaggies. As far as I can tell there is zero anti-aliasing going on. Everything has a rough edge, which makes this one of the worst looking versions out there. You can’t even make out your character’s face in the main menu.

Just look at all those rough edges.

I’d also like to point out that textures aren’t great. I’m unsure what resolution the game is actually playing at, but it isn’t native on my GS8+. Things are blurry, and environment textures are very low res. Both the jaggy edges and low-quality textures could very well be an issue with the resolution I am stuck playing at, as I would imagine neither would be as much of a problem if the game was rendered at 2960×1440 instead of whatever it currently is.

All in all the biggest disappointment for me with the recent release of Fortnite for Android is the horrible graphics and general laggy performance. I can’t get past these two issues. There is no good reason for the Android version to be the worst of the bunch when playing on solid hardware. I don’t know if this has to do with a lack of optimization or an unrealistic timetable for release, but Epic is usually better than this.

Controls

The first time you boot up Fortnite, you can choose from three separate shooting methods. The first is auto fire, the second is tap anywhere, and the third uses a dedicated button to shoot. You can also change these at any time in the hud layout tool. Why these settings aren’t under the regular control options, I couldn’t tell you, but let me say they weren’t fun to track down.

If auto shooting is your jam, then you will probably be excited to hear that aim assist is also included, and it is on by default. There’s nothing like playing a shooting game designed to play itself for you, am I right? I personally choose to use the dedicated shoot button, even if that puts me at a disadvantage. The touchscreen controls, when manually shooting, work well enough for what they are, but something tactile would be more ideal.

Look at all these control options.

I also tested to see if HID controller support worked over USB OTG, and it does not. Epic claims controller support will come eventually, but the company had also stated the same when iOS users asked for controller support in March, and they still don’t have it. For a game that would be perfect on the Nvidia Shield TV, it sure is odd that controller support is missing.

Gameplay

Playing with the sound off when recording is definitely not conducive to long-term survival.

The gameplay works the same as it does on every other platform, just with a lot more lag and worse controls. Like every other battle royale game out there, your job is to survive for as long as you can while taking out every player you come across. Sure, there are a few other modes where you can team up with friends, but the main mechanics stay the same, take out everyone that isn’t on your team. Just don’t expect to easily communicate with those team members, as voice chat is not supported yet.

Playing with friends can still be a great thing if you happen to know a lot of people who play, but as a solo experience, I find the gameplay to be pretty humdrum. Matches last too long, and much of the game is spent running around instead of actually partaking in some sick shooting action.

It can be challenging to switch back and forth from the building controls to the shooting controls on a touchscreen device, and since you have to play on the touchscreen, you’ll find that your thumbs cover more than a few of your visual cues. If you don’t have your volume up, it can be very difficult to know you are being shot at as your left thumb partially covers the area that displays that cue. There is almost always a downside to ports that implement touchscreen controls, and when all hell breaks loose in a game, the last thing you need is an incomplete view of what’s going on.

At the very least, it’s appreciated that we can now play on the go on an Android device, so if you are big on gaming on your phone in your spare time, the Android version of Fortnite may be a good fit. I can’t say it’s the ideal way to play, but it will do in a pinch.

Features

Since this isn’t a Play Store release, Google Play Games Services are not included. This doesn’t mean you can’t sign in with a Google account. You simply won’t find any GPG services. You can also sign in with an Epic, Facebook, PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch account. So if you have played before on another platform, you can sign in with the account you used, and all of your data should sync up.

You can also expect to find a few helpful tips in the settings menu. There is a control help option if you are unfamiliar with the touchscreen controls, and there is a link to a code of conduct for all of you kids that enjoy swearing at your elders but aren’t too sure what you can get away with. You can even send some feedback to the devs from this section, if you happen to run across any bugs you would like to report.

Plenty of cool little features such as a feedback button and a link to the COC.

Oh, and let me add that if you are playing with a modded APK and have sideloaded the game, it might be a good idea not to use your regular account to sign in, as it is still unknown if Epic will take any steps to squash people playing that shouldn’t yet have access.

Monetization

Ugh, this is where things get murky. Some of you may be a fan of how this is monetized, while others will hate on it endlessly. Fortnite uses a Battle Pass system. It’s a subscription to a single season that earns you extra items as you play. If you are a hardcore player, I can see why this would sound like a good deal, but I honestly don’t see a reason to pay a fee every three months for such a shallow shooter. Alas, this is ultimately your choice, and as we all know, it’s a very lucrative system for Epic.

If you are not down with the Battle Pass, then you can play for free, you simply won’t earn a lot of cool loot. You’ll still have the option to purchase cosmetics in the store, but you will first have to spend your money on an in-game currency called V-Bucks. You can do so through a few different in-app purchases. These IAPs range from $4.99 to $99.99, and there are often bonuses you can snag that are dependent on how much you would like to spend.

A single outfit in the store generally costs around 1200 to 1500 V-Bucks. The problem is that you can’t purchase 1500 V-Bucks. Your closest options are packs of 1000 for $9.99 a piece or 2500 for $24.99. So just like every other free-to-play game out there, the developers are perfectly happy to price purchases at inconvenient rates that force you to spend more than you would like on IAPs.

Try not to get confused by the ridiculous conversion of cash to V-Bucks to outfits.

Conclusion

Fortnite for Android is easily the worst version available thanks to its poor performance, low-quality graphics, and too many auto touchscreen controls. Sure, this is still a beta release, and improvements will undoubtedly come, but after such a long freaking buildup, let’s just say I’m very underwhelmed with how it turned out.

It must be tough holding the number one spot in the battle royale genre, but rushing out a release isn’t something that will ever sell me on a game. What I wouldn’t give for a developer that actually waits until their product is finished before it’s released. Why can’t we go back to that system?

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