After a long wait, Fortnite has finally arrived for Android — albeit currently as a beta soft-launched as an exclusive for Samsung Galaxy device. It's also unique in being one of the biggest titles to find release on Android outside the Google Play Store, making it a rather bold experiment for developers Epic Games who are surely looking to cash in on the Android user base with its massive gaming cash cow.
I've been playing it almost non-stop from the moment it was made available in the Samsung Galaxy App Store, and this is my early review of the game having played it on a Samsung Galaxy S8.
Fortnite is fun, but not on Android
Fortnite is a great concept for a game and has proven itself to be wildly popular amongst gamers of all ages. I'll admit to being among the millions of people who will watch Fortnite streamers on Twitch because there's just something fascinating about the level of creativity that the open world and building mechanics allow.
It's just a damn shame how Epic Games has gone about releasing the game on Android.
When the news began to trickle out that the game was to be unveiled at Samsung's Note 9 event it was easy to assume that meant the game was ready for a hyped primetime release. Instead, what we got was the official start of the Fortnite Beta testing for Android, with Samsung Galaxy users getting the first crack at the game.
Having spent a good chunk of my weekend playtesting the game I can definitively say that Fortnite for Android, in its current state, is simply not a fun experience. Considering the iOS beta launched came out five months ago, I would have hoped that the game would have at least run as smoothly at launch for Android but it's simply not the case.
It's forgivable for a game released in beta to be a bit buggy, but for Epic Games to release the game on Samsung's big stage and deliver a product that's so underwhelming is almost an insult —especially so when compared to PUBG Mobile, a similar battle royale title released with significantly less fanfare.
Graphics are far from "epic"
One of the first red flags I ran into when testing Fortnite was the inability to adjust the graphics settings. By default, they are set to "epic", but even in the main menu things seem pretty janky right out of the gate with bad anti-aliasing leading to a really out-dated look. Nothing happens if I apply new graphics settings, and when I go back to check I find them set right back at epic again. I'll chalk it up to the early release status of the game, but then you also see help notes that suggest you "find the right preferences for your computer" and it all starts to feel like a rush job.
Graphical performance might be better on a larger screened device, but it's still absolutely disappointing when compared to other high-performance games I've played recently. This is not typically something that sticks out to me, but the in-game draw distance and rendering of trees and structures is laughable at times. Because the map is so big and there's so much stuff to render it's somewhat understandable, but you'll often see stuff just pop up on the horizon as blocks of color, only becoming a recognizable thing as you get closer or zoom in with a rifle.
A constant source of frustration
There's been widespread reporting from our own readers and from around the internet that Fortnite for Android is a laggy mess with abysmal frame rates. This has been my experience, too, and has completely ruined at least half of the games I've attempted to play.
The frame rate seems to particularly take a hit in the early moments of a game after just touching ground or when engaging in tight quarters firefights. Both of these situations are crucial moments in a game such as Fortnite — you're either desperately searching for weapons and collecting supplies or battling in do-or-die combat. It will drive you up the walls when you die again because your opponent was able to finish you off you while your game freezes up.
There's been a number of times where I can other players are struggling with the game just as much as I am, which I guess could sort of even out the playing field but certainly not in the way you would want. Instead, it becomes a matter of overcoming lag first and then hopefully hitting your opponent with a kill shot.
These controls are the death of me
Mobile gaming as a whole gets a bad name because touch controls suck. They don't always suck, but when they suck they really suck. Such is the case with Fortnite, a game that requires you to switch between shooting at moving targets and building structures at a moments notice. It's a complicated set up and it's frankly bad. Releasing the game exclusively for Samsung Galaxy devices also unintentionally illustrated just how crappy the trend of shrinking bezels can be for gaming.
Games sure look great on a bright, bezel-less display, but I feel like Epic Games has yet to take into account how shrinking bezels affect button placement. Because Samsung's screens go as near to the edge of the device as possible, the decision to place the default fire button in the very right corner is downright foolish — spare for probably a child hand.
Because the fire button wasn't in a natural spot for my thumb I would have to go searching for the fire button after lining up my shot which often meant missing the shot and giving away my location. Fortunately, there is the option to completely customize the heads up display and controls in the settings — and that's absolutely one of the first things any gamer should do after downloading the game — but then I found the game tends to revert controls back to default after updating.
Epic Games has said that they intend to add Bluetooth controls somewhere down the line, but why not give Android gamers a crucial feature like that right out of the gate? It would have helped to mitigate some of the other points of frustration that is bogging this game down. Instead, the game feels rushed with frustrating gameplay that doesn't exactly have you eager to keep playing
Cross-platform where it counts
This might sound crass, but the best parts of the game are the menus and the ease at which you're able to log in to play the game. If you've previously created a Fortnite account with Epic, or have played the game on Xbox One or PlayStation 4 you can log in with your preferred credentials and load up your character along with any in-app purchases and gear you've collected on other platforms. The on-screen control customization was another crucial
While your account follows you from PC to mobile there is no cross play between platforms. The game only pits you against other mobile players so there's no concern to be had about getting schooled by a PC or console player — although some players are so good you might think they've hacked the game or something.
The other feature I'll give a nod to is the Battle Pass system. There's a free Battle Pass that lets you complete challenges and work your way up the tiers to unlock new stuff, but you also have the option to buy into the premium Battle Pass which includes many more challenges to complete and apparently over 25,000 V-Bucks worth of stuff to unlock. Whether you play for free or with a premium Battle Pass, you're given in-game objectives to complete to progress up the tiers to unlock new emotes, axes, and even V-bucks — the in-game currency — but the game is designed to entice you to spend your hard-earned cash early and often.
In-app purchases are exclusively tied to cosmetic character upgrades and the premium Battle Pass so at least it's not a game where you can pay-to-win, but I still find the V-Bucks pricing to be quite steep for what you get in return. You can buy 1000 V-Bucks for around $10 USD, or 2,800 V-Bucks for $25 USD. A Battle Pass season costs 950 V-Bucks, while cosmetic upgrades start at around 500 V-Bucks and can go as high as 2,000 V-bucks.
To that end, it does make that Note 9 preorder deal that comes with 15,000 V-Bucks pretty enticing— especially if you've discovered Fortnite to be virtually unplayable on your current Galaxy phone and intend to spend them on 15 seasons worth of Battle Passes.
Fortnite is supposed to be a game that pits players against one another, but Fortnite for Android instead pits players against the game itself. Instead of being a test of player ability the game is more so a test of your patience as you constantly struggle against laggy frame rates and sub-par controls.
This game offers you all the content found on other platforms but without the polish or attention to detail that makes it worth your time. At this point in time, Fortnite for Android is not a game I would recommend playing — it's simply not worth the stress it will induce.
- All the fun of Fortnite on your phone.
- Cross-platform support for account purchases.
- Gameplay is laggy and lacks settings optimization.
- Controls are weak with no Bluetooth support.
- Perfect storm of frustration and stress.
2 out of 5
Fortnite is free to play with in-app purchases available