Lack of variety holds back Fortune Island from truly shining.
Fortune Island’s opening promises a lot: you crash ashore in a Dodge RAM, conquering roads and trails while your annoying “friends” chatter in your ear about the upcoming Island Conqueror races as rain pours down around you and lightning crashes in the distance. Like most openings in the Forza Horizon series, it is a lot of fun. You get a cool car and a fun area to drive an there are impressive weather effects. The rain pounds through the trees, lightning crashes down around you, and at the end you nail a huge jump as the Northern Lights dance in the sky. It’s easy to be convinced, playing that opening, that Fortune Island will be something special. It has that Forza Horizon feel, the one that invites you to experience the utter joy of driving great cars to good music in cool locations. It feels right.
It’s a two-part con, that opening mission. Fortune Island’s initial beauty dissipates when the sun comes up, and the feeling of a good environment to drive cars in goes shortly afterwards. This isn’t to say Fortune Island is a bad expansion or that it has no value; it’s not and it does, but the opening sequence rights a check that the island itself can’t cash, which is a bit ironic considering cashing in is the name of the game.
"Completing a challenge goes like this: you solve riddles, which will unlock a photo of a chest somewhere on the map. Once you find the chest, all you have to do is crash into it and boom: seven figure payday."
You see, the big new wrinkle in Fortune Island are Island Challenges, which reward 1 million credits apiece. There’s ten scattered across Fortune Island, and the cash prize, plus the novelty, make them the most popular thing on the island. Completing a challenge goes like this: you solve riddles, which will unlock a photo of a chest somewhere on the map. The game will provide you with a general location, but nailing down the search is up to you. Once you find the chest, all you have to do is crash into it and boom: seven figure payday. The riddles are pretty simple, often giving you a car to drive, a place to go, and a challenge to complete, delivered in slightly vague terms. Here’s an example: “A sixty-five wild horse blazed across the USA, follow its trail at Viking Bay.”
Well, Viking Bay’s a place on the map. And anyone who knows anything about cars knows that a sixty-five wild horse that “blazed across the USA” could only be one car: the inimitable Ford Mustang. I checked the Horizon autoshow and bingo: a ’65 Mustang, like it was waiting there just for me. From there, I floored it to Viking Bay, where I had to blaze a trail across the map within a certain amount of time. It took me a few tries to learn the best route, and I ended up dropping a high-powered V12 into the Mustang to shave off a few more seconds – work smarter, not harder, kids – but I did it, which earned me a snapshot of a chest atop a mountain overlooking a winding road.
Because I’m lazy and didn’t want to drive all the way back to the festival to change cars, I tried to take the Mustang up the mountain. That… didn’t work out so hot. So after falling off the mountain a few times and driving down to the festival, grabbing the Dodge RAM that I was behind the wheel when we first made landfall on the island, and making my way back, I went treasure hunting. I fell off the mountain a few more times – it was a steep climb, even with the RAM’s superior off-road handling – and it took me a while to find the right angle, but eventually, I grabbed my chest, and a cool million.
"Hunting for treasure is fun and, like most things in most Forza Horizon titles, feels like a community event. If you see a bunch of players driving around in the same place, in an area you know has treasure, they’re probably on to something."
That’s the way island challenges tend to go on Fortune Island, and they are a lot of fun. Yeah, solving the riddles is pretty simple – another asked me to drift the Needle Climb (a curvy road up in the hills) with “an Italian 456,” an obvious reference to the Ferrari 458 Speciale – and the challenges, themselves are straightforward (unless, like me, you suck at drifting), but hunting for treasure is fun and, like most things in most Forza Horizon titles, feels like a community event. If you see a bunch of players driving around in the same place, in an area you know has treasure, they’re probably on to something.
The rest of what Fotune Island has to offer is pretty standard stuff. You’ll compete in a variety of events, from road races to cross-country tours to dirt racing. Some are limited time events, while others force you to use a certain class of vehicle. Almost all are fun. The real problem here isn’t the events available or the treasure hunt gimmick. The issue is the island itself. It just doesn’t offer much variety. Because it’s an island with a mountain in the center, the courses almost universally favor off-roading, mud, and dirt. That’s great if you just want to goof around in a truck, SUV, or buggy, but racing anything else is often absurdly unfun, especially when it rains, which seems to be all the time. Of course, there are some races if you’re looking to try out an expensive new toy (I found one particularly good race that I used to put my new Aston-Martin through its paces), but you wouldn’t be wrong to think that the quickest way to complete the island would be to stay in that RAM any time you weren’t solving a treasure hunt riddle or completing a race that requires specific cars.
It doesn’t help that the environment doesn’t feel consistent, either. You can plough over most rocks, walls, and guardrails, which feel as though they’re made of particularly cheap paper mâché, but other rocks and the fences guarding the Horizon Festival will stop you dead in your tracks. This can add uncertainty to any given driving route and almost immediately breaks the game’s sense of environmental immersion. On top of all that, Fortune Island feels small and there’s no real driving force behind doing anything other than completing enough challenges to unlock the riddle for the next chest.
"Fortune Island feels… a bit dull. There’s fun to be had here: the challenges themselves are compelling and there are a few genuinely interesting areas to race through, but I would be surprised to see anyone other than the most dedicated Forza fans stick around long enough to see everything it has to offer."
Throw in your annoying “friends,” who are incapable of ever shutting up, a lack of variety in the available races, and samey environments, and Fortune Island feels… a bit dull. There’s fun to be had here: the challenges themselves are compelling and there are a few genuinely interesting areas to race through, but I would be surprised to see anyone other than the most dedicated Forza fans stick around long enough to see everything it has to offer.
Maybe things will change when Horizon 4’s seasons change – I imagine this place will be fun every season, but particularly in winter and summer – but I’ve seen enough of Fortune Island and come away a little wealthier in the process. Now, though, it’s time to take my fortunes elsewhere – at least until the seasons change.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox One.
Lots of fun new cars. Dynamic weather effects, including lightning. Fortune Island is gorgeous at night. The treasure hunts are a lot of fun. Some genuinely interesting places to race.
Fortune Island is small and lacks variety. There's only ten treasure hunt challenges. The island is not nearly as pretty during the day. Environmental inconsistencies can pull you out of the game.
Fortune Island is a decent expansion to Forza Horizon 4 with fun new cars and challenges and some good places to race, but a lack of variety, limited new content, and a samey environment prevent it from being anything more than that.