Friday 'Nite is a weekly Fortnite column in which GameSpot editor Mark Delaney takes a closer look at current events in the wide world of Fortnite, with a special emphasis on the game's plot, characters, and lore.
A few weeks ago, before the launch of Fortnite Chapter 3, Season 2, I laid out my hopes for the new season, saying that I was interested in playing a more story-driven Season 2 after the debut of Chapter 3 was a bit light in that regard. After two full weeks of story missions and other on-island events, it's safe to say I got my wish; Fortnite Season 2 is packed with new characters critical to the lore and seems intent on including a bundle of new story missions every week. It's just too bad the story being told this season is far too similar to that of previous chapters.
In Chapter 2, Season 7, aliens attacked. The emergence of an intimidating mothership the width of the entire Fortnite island meant doom for all those living on Apollo, or so we thought. Loopers found themselves ideologically divided between those who welcomed the alien invaders, such as Sunny, the ska-dancing host of the welcoming committee, and those who vehemently sought to drive back the extraterrestrial threat, like Doctor Slone and the Imagined Order.
As the players, we were cast into the side of the resistance, even as it meant working with the IO, a shadowy organization that, to date, seemed to be playing the bad guys. Through our uneasy alliance, we got to work alongside Slone every single week, running recon missions, surveillance ops, and daring sabotages, the collective goal of which was to learn about--and eventually undermine--The Last Reality, the alien race that had touched down on the Fortnite island.
It worked too. In time, we toppled the mothership and destroyed the alien spacecraft that had invaded the all-important island. But rather than be cast as heroes, Slone threw us out like the trash. Our final sabotage mission, Operation: Sky Fire, was a suicide mission--we just didn't know it until it was too late. Surviving merely by coincidence thanks to an intervening sentient cube (of the Cube Legion, the aliens' parents, basically), we crash-landed back on the island, only to turn our attention to a greater threat, one that would demand a full season's worth (Season 8) of funding a war effort via in-game gold bar donations that would see new weapons and mechs come to the game.
Flash forward to today. Currently, it's the IO, not an alien threat, that seeks to take over the island. Slone and company believe it's their rightful place in the omniverse, but The Seven are diametrically opposed to the IO's ways of violently taking power, so players now find themselves in the middle of yet another resistance movement, with an all-too-familiar gameplay cycle at the center of this storytelling-gameplay bridge.
In these opening weeks of the season, players have been cast as do-it-all resistance grunts, once more running recon and executing sabotages. Rather than study aliens and their spacecraft for the IO and Slone, we're aiding The Seven, led by new face (okay, new mask), The Origin. While some of the specifics of the war effort donations are giving way to new weapons, others are exactly the same--mounted turrets and the return of some of the game's best weapons were funded just a few months ago in Chapter 2, Season 8, and now they're here once again for Chapter 3, Season 2.
It's a bit disappointing to see Epic return to this well, one of the powerful invaders and the scrappy guerrillas (and sometimes gorillas) who must dismantle the system of power one skirmish at a time. Of course, this is a well video games as a whole can't resist drinking from. Ubisoft has centered its last 15 years around making essentially the same game in different settings--always with a tyrant at the top and a growing resistance hellbent on freeing the citizenry.
Still, it feels especially odd for Epic to rehash the Season 7/8 plot so soon given that story hasn't been the focus all that long in Fortnite. It almost makes me wonder if some of these similar ideas were thrown together last-minute as the studio grappled with how to present its war story amid real-life war dominating the headlines. Ultimately, I think that amount of work wasn't actually done in the few weeks Epic had to work with, suggesting this was always going to be how the season played out, even as the parallels to older seasons are quite glaring for players who participate in the game's ongoing story.
I'm reserving final judgment for this season's narrative efforts until I see its finale, though. Oddly enough, I think a rehash of the Season 7 finale would actually work wonders for the ongoing season. Whereas Season 7 ended with Slone's betrayal--that, in hindsight, we should've seen coming--I think a similar twist is exactly what the Fortnite story needs.
The Rahul Kohli-voiced Origin is demanding we prove ourselves to the cause, making it very clear in these first few weeks that he doesn't trust us as supposed fighters of the good fight. But the feeling is mutual. I've written before about how I'm not sure I can trust The Foundation, and I get a similar vibe from The Origin. He's so far demanded unwavering support, to the extent that it feels like he's setting us up to follow the wrong orders down the line. Much like I think about The Foundation, I also wonder if The Origin's intentions are true and good-natured, but also ill-advised. As it's the stated goal of The Seven to break The Loop, I wonder what happens if they do.
A twist that reveals everything we thought we knew about the omniverse is wrong would feel like an exciting next chapter for the Fortnite story, one where we can finally meet Geno, and perhaps reveal powers that are greater than either the Imagined Order or The Seven. But unless or until that happens, Season 2's story is all "been there, funded that."
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