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‘Fortnite’ on Switch: Looks, Feels like a Good Port

I’ve had a couple hours to play through Epic Games’ latest port of Fortnite: Battle Royale released on Nintendo Switch shortly after Nintendo’s E3 Direct earlier today. For those interested in a quick verdict, don’t despair, Fortnite: Battle Royale is just as fun, fast-paced, and frenzied on Switch as it is anywhere else. On the surface, it’s a perfectly serviceable port that serves to bring one the world’s most popular games to Nintendo’s hit console, it’s only when observed very closely that the visual compromises that Epic Games had to make in order to port the game to Switch become evident. 

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Presentation

Fortnite’s malleable, cartoon art style allows it to make the transition to Switch almost effortlessly. While it’s clear that, from the login screen, Fortnite is running at something less than 1080p in docked mode, this comes as little of a surprise given the game’s penchant for HD, or even sub-HD performance on the Xbox One and Ps4. Draw distance is noticeably reduced and there’s quite a bit of pop-in when running between separate areas. This doesn’t impact the gameplay too much, but it can make maps feel notably empty and void of life. Similarly, the game looks like it has been hit with a heavy dose of FXAA-style anti-aliasing to reduced jagged edges while in docked mode. While it could be something other than the eponymous anti-aliasing technique, FXAA fits the bill and makes sense given how much it helps to hide the game’s sub-HD resolution on 1080p or 4K TVs. The game’s docked mode looks fine, if not spectacular, and plays like Fortnite ought to.

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In portable mode, however, the Switch port of Fortnite begins to show its seams. A poorly-scaled UI and ludicrously small font on the console’s 720p screen makes activities such as checking the map and choosing which weapon to pick up notably more difficult. Heavy pixelation, courtesy of the game’s sub-native resolution while in portable mode, is evident. Everything from trees to UI elements is full of hard edges that are far from visually pleasing. While it doesn’t impact gameplay too much, the pixelation and the game’s UI issues, coupled with the Switch’s tiny screen, can make it a bit of a pain to play in portable mode.   

Performance

Disappointingly, Fortnite seems to run at 30 fps whether or not the system is docked. While it’s fine for casual players or those just looking to have some fun while on break from work, it will be a dealbreaker for those looking to use the Switch version to play competitively. Given the Switch’s power envelope, the lack of a 60fps mode is understandable but no less disappointing. In combat, the lack of 60fps proves not to be too much of an issue. Given, most of my deaths in Fortnite were due to own poor understanding of the game’s console controls and difficulty adjusting from the PC platform, but, regardless, it feels fine. Additionally, a heavy dose of motion blur helps to smooth over the games’ low framerate and lessens its impact on the game.  

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Similarly, the game’s load times are fine, if not spectacular. While not as fast as other Switch games, such as Mario Kart 8: DeluxeFortnite on Switch loads up almost as fast as it does on PS4 and on PC (with an HDD). It’s far from quick, but it’s just fast enough to ensure that the experience does not drag and that, before too long, the player is loaded up for a match. 

Conclusions

Overall, Fortnite on Switch is perfectly playable. While it’s not going to blow away Fortnite aficionados used to higher-end systems such as the PS4 or PC, it’s still an enjoyable means for casual fans to play one of the planet’s most popular games. More importantly, it bodes well for Nintendo’s chances of landing other popular third-party games in the future and is a perfect fit for the Switch’s portability. 

After all, in 2018, what console doesn’t have Fortnite?

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