Review: Fortnite on the Switch – A Slightly Shaky Foundation

Fortnite Switch

While Fortnite: Battle Royale has been available for quite some time on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and even mobile phones, Epic Games decided to finally port the game to Nintendo Switch — in an announcement that surprised nobody, with a release date that did. With over 2 million downloads in 24 hours, Fortnite has already proven to be a huge hit for Nintendo.

How Well Does it Port Over?

Fortnite runs surprisingly well on the Switch. The game menu is identical to versions of Fortnite on other platforms, and controls are intuitive and easy to get used to. The only difficulty some might experience is if they are coming from an Xbox controller and find the control scheme of the main four buttons to be confusing. Other than that, actually playing the game is easy and seamlessly translates over to the Switch.

With some ports, developers sometimes like to use older versions of the game and patch it over time, usually leaving a delay of fixes and special items between consoles. However, Epic Games has impressively made Fortnite on the Switch as up to date as possible, and even released a patch to help some initial matchmaking issues. Personally, I haven’t experiended any such issues since playing on Day 1.

While the title on the eShop is Fortnite, it’s worth pointing out that the version on the Switch does not include the Save the World mode, which is the original PvE mode that is included in other versions of the game. While this may have been done just to make it more identifiable (how many people really say Fortnite: Battle Royale instead of just Fortnite?), it does seem like Epic Games is slowly distancing themselves from the Save the World campaign. That isn’t to say they’re abandoning the mode, but it’s easy to see where the main focus will be for the foreseeable future.

So How Does it Play?

Fortnite simply works. The controls are snappy and react just as you’d expect from a competitive game. The use of the directional buttons implement emotes and help you check your inventory specs, while the main four letter buttons consist of interacting with items, jumping, using your pick-axe, and switching to Fortnite’s excellent building system. Trigger buttons shoot, aim, build, and change materials. While using the directional buttons can feel awkward at first, they’re rarely used in comparison to the main letter buttons.

The sensitivity of aiming feels similar to other consoles so it shouldn’t cause any concern when switching platforms. Just like other ports, you’re able change your right stick sensitivity settings if the standard settings aren’t up to snuff.

What I was most concerned about when starting to play was the matchmaking. Considering the plethora of issues I faced when playing the Mario Tennis: Aces demo and how objectively awful the lag and connections were, I was relieved and impressed at how well Fortnite ran. Granted, a lot of this has to do with Epic Games and their servers rather than Nintendo, but seeing as Nintendo is going to start charging for an online subscription soon, it’s good to know that their infrastructure for online games is getting better as well. You’ll also be able to play with every other platform that runs Fortnite (except the PlayStation 4). Playing around 20 hours of matches, I found little to no lagging whatsoever during the rounds, which is notable only because of the Switch’s checkered past.

Ok, But How’s it Run?

Fortnite’s graphical assets have been significantly stripped down. Compared to the consoles, or even a mid-level PC, the graphics on the Switch are nothing to be excited about. That’s not to say that the graphics look bad, but comparing the game to it’s console counterparts really shows how much weaker the graphical capability of the Switch really is.

Playing the game in handheld might seem like the best use of playing Fortnite on the switch, but that comes with a few sacrifices. Graphics on handheld mode appear to be a bit fuzzier and much more jagged. It’s pretty much immediately noticeable, but it is definitely not something that will ruin the gameplay experience for you. However, one aspect that might is audio; the sound coming out of the Switch speaker feels very compressed, which is to be expected. For most other games that might not be a huge issue, but for a game that relies on being aware of your surroundings, having sub-par audio can make a noticeable difference.

While the audio from the Switch’s speaker is hollow, the sound when playing with headphones isn’t much better. There are definite improvements, but any invested gamer would be able to tell that the sounds are not as full or sharp as they should be. Even the sound projected when firing the shotgun sounds like it’s missing a bit of depth. The same issue seems to be apparent when docked as well. This was most likely done in order to help bring the size of the game down, but nevertheless, it’s still a caveat for players who want to make the Switch version their Fortnite of choice.

Sounds Fine, But What About Voice Chat?

Nintendo appeared to have touted an app that allowed you to use voice chat with your Switch games, which was/still is about as awful as it sounds. However, with Fortnite it appears that in-game chat is available. As of June 14th, voice chat was functional and is a welcome addition to dropping with the boys.

Unfortunately, there’s a glaring issue that Epic Games couldn’t have foreseen. With PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, you can plug your headset into your controller in order to play on a TV screen. With the Switch, you simply can’t. Even with the Pro controller. There just aren’t any headphone jacks, save for on the console itself. That means that if you wanted to use voice chat with your squad, you’d have to play on handheld, which can be seen as inconvenient for some. There are ways to use Bluetooth headphones on the Switch, but that consists of buying a Bluetooth receiver, which can usually have a delay in transmitting to and from your headset.

So Should I Get It?

The answer to that question is relatively easy: Yes, it’s free. Coming in at about 2GB, downloading the game, even on a whim, is a no-brainer. If you’ve never really given the game thought before, now is as good a time as any to head to the eShop and grab a copy of the game. Especially since Nintendo Online is free until September 2018.

However, if you’re an avid fan of Fortnite and want the definitive experience, I would suggest sticking to other platforms. Except Mobile.

Score: 7

News writer. Giver of opinions even when people don’t want them. Occasional video game player. Sometimes I like to do all three at the same time. Eat my dust, Elon Musk.