After zipping through space, swimming under the ocean, and generally gazing up at the goliath-sized crotch of rapper Travis Scott during Fornite’s latest live event, everybody was dropped back into a normal match. Gone were the pyrotechnics, the pause to combat. Guns reappeared in people’s hands, kill totals back on screen. The feeling of excitement and the sense of having shared something unique abruptly ended. It was back to digital murder.
This jarring feeling is a growing pain for Fortnite, as it continues down its ever-fascinating path of evolution. It’s been a long time since it was just another video game about shooting people, but it still feels a long way from where Epic would like it to be. Fortnite uses a recurring butterfly motif to signify elements of change: the end of the Travis Scott concert, for example, or plot moments in its live events, but the game still feels in its chrysalis phase.
On the surface, Fortnite’s addition of a new mode without combat wasn’t all that interesting. Party Royale features a shrunken down map that’s part digital theme park, part tropical island hangout. There’s currently no gameplay incentive to load it up, no XP to find or challenges to unlock. Its arrival in the middle of last week with no prior fanfare was a typically low-key launch for the experimental Fortnite, almost laughably so.