Here’s a Llama There’s a Llama…..
Llamas are Fortnite’s version of the ever-present loot box mechanic that has been popping up in AAA games with more frequency as of the past year or so. I’m going to cut to the chase and outright state what some more talented writers have pointed out:
- Loot boxes inherently exploit the psychology of addiction & gambling, providing players with a rush of excitement complete with colorful graphics/sounds that appeal to the senses.
- Like almost every other AAA game released in North America the item drop rates in llamas have not been stated anywhere within the game itself and the loot found within llamas’ content are completely random.
- Llamas are not purchased directly with real-world dollars. Instead, they are purchased with “V-Bucks”. To Epic’s credit the exchange rate between the basic llama and V-Bucks is 1: 100, so at least you won’t be left with an odd number of currency that can be spent on nothing.
- Purchasing llamas can rightfully be seen as “buying power”, especially when most items can be recycled into XP that can be fed into your favorite hero/weapon/survivor.
- Yes, llamas can be purchased with freely earned “V-Bucks” provided that you can complete a # of daily quests. Typically in my experience, a single llama required at least two daily quests with a total of 6 or 7 matches to complete my dailies.
In dozens upon dozen of hours of play, I’ve certainly felt the “pull” to purchase a set of 10 llamas (the minimum purchase allowed), especially when I was JUST under the power cap for interesting missions needed to enter a brand new zone. It is especially tempting given that the “Store” logo is front and center at the top of your screen during the entire stats management phase of gameplay. I also feel like it takes just a bit too long to earn the daily quest llamas. For five or six in-game cards of varying rarity two hours or so of gameplay is well above the hour required (my personal average) required for Overwatch’s or Heroes of the Storm’s loot boxes.
How is the actual experience of opening the llamas themselves? Well, they’re basically sentient piñatas with a whole bunch of attitude that you whack using a variety of melee weapons. As you “kill” a llama it will spout a silly catchphrase like “what up, Death?” Or “Well… that’s me!” And this sarcastic tone gives Fortnite’s loot boxes a lot more personality and intractability when compared with other games. Opening a llama is fun, and even knowing the predatory psychological nature of such “gacha” systems, I did find whacking them open enjoyable.
Microtransaction Disclaimer: Epic Games PR provided the base version (“Standard”) of Fortnite for our consideration. This base version included a limited number of “Founder’s Llamas” that boosted our progression during the review, especially when compared with eventual Free to Play players who will not have such advantages. As a reviewer I made the decision to part with $50 USD (total) of my own money for an upgrade to the Super Deluxe Edition so that I could gift an extra copy to a friend and two sets of $10 normal llamas because I accidentally recycled all of my low-level schematics and needed them for horde mode.
Fortnite’s core gameplay loop and solid base building mechanics are satisfying and simple enough to appeal to a lot of people. Folks who enjoyed building things in Minecraft or Terraria will most likely absolutely love the possibilities that the many fort component blueprints and base building materials can provide. Fans of action games will receive an adrenaline rush of ten minutes or more of mindless zombie slaying during the latter half of basic missions. From a gameplay standpoint, Fortnite is beyond solid and can be a fulfilling experience with three other likeminded survivors. The core gameplay is so solid that it didn’t detract at all from my enjoyment when I had to repeat missions for experience or other drops.
All of the statistics management, card recycled and leveling up has the potential to confuse new players and it certainly felt overwhelming when I started playing. After a few hours, as Fortnite’s management depth began to become clear I actually felt more compelled to play. As someone who has spent hundreds of hours managing units in Disgaea and other RPGs, numbers raising as power increases is something of a pass time of mine. It could be viewed as pointless busy work, or a boring aside to the action-packed fort defense gameplay loop but I felt right at home.
If you’ve read this far into my review you’re probably asking if I feel Fortnite is worth picking up? If a fusion of RPG management, Minecraft fort building and a dash of Gears of War’s Horde mode excites you… Absolutely go for it! Just know that Fortnite is in early access and major gameplay/stat changes have already occurred over the last three months. Also worth keeping in mind is that Fortnite will eventually be Free to Play sometime in 2018, don’t expect the game’s ever-present microtransactions to go away anytime soon.
With this nearly 2,000 word review coming to a close – I’m going to go slay some more husks and hunker down in the nearest fort because Fortnite has earned its place in my daily gaming rotation.