What in the WORLD is happening to Fortnite?
Back when Season 2 launched, it might have seemed laughable to suggest that Fortnite: Battle Royale had any lore but, come the end of Season 3, a certain meteor strike left fans with no choice but to acknowledge that there was a deeper underlying narrative woven by EPIC Games that was affecting the world around us. Even in a pre-Season 3 era, it would be a mistake to forget that Fortnite: Battle Royale is invariably linked to the main game Fortnite: Save the World. With even bigger set pieces, item shop tie-ins and changes to the landscape, EPIC clearly has a bigger story to tell and has been dropping many clues, building smaller subplots and leading us to suspect that we haven’t even seen the half of it yet. So, what should we expect as Season 4 comes to an end?
In this article, I’ll take you on a little walk through my understanding of the current situation, give you a summary of what we know and do a little speculating of my own. It’s not the longest or most complicated journey a developer has put us through, it’s no Hideo Kojima style ruse, but it is certainly an exciting ride. Fair warning, however, a lot of the content of this feature is purely speculation whether it be the wider community’s or my own.
Save the World
It’s always important when theorizing about Fortnite to consider its PvE component if only just to remember that the battle royale mode shares the same setting. Mat Pat (Matthew Patrick) of GAME THEORY fame produced an episode about Fortnite’s lore, in which he theorized that Fortnite takes place on Venus, not Earth. He did so by analyzing the day-night cycles, looking at the storm and its acidic rain and by considering how the game’s promotional material never mentions ‘Earth’, only “the world”.
I did some further research to see if that much was still viable but found that the Wikipedia article about Fortnite makes many references to “Earth” and the original line from the synopsis cited by Mat Pat read as follows on Wikipedia: “98% of Earth’s human population suddenly disappeared”. Furthermore, I couldn’t find the page on the website that he read from in his video. However, I investigated a little further and found a physical copy of the base game that read, as I had hoped: “98% of the world’s population vanished”. So, I still subscribe to Mat Pat’s initial theory. Even if “the world” isn’t Venus, it’s safe to say it’s probably not Earth or is at least fictional. It may seem far-fetched, but Fortnite is already quite an artistic game, so to speak, in which realism is not necessary and, at the very least, what Mat Pat’s theory does is cement the notion that both components of Fortnite take place in the same world and thus share a lore.
Now, at least, we know that there has been a story behind Fortnite: Battle Royale’s island ever since it first launched. It’s obvious, too, that this lore is ever-growing as every new patch brings something new to the plot, often through little map changes. Trucks, construction crews, evil lairs, EPIC have slowly been littering the map with minor changes that show a constant progression of the plot as time goes on. All we know for certain about the island’s lore is that there seems to be some greater force or agency watching over it, perhaps a government or higher power keeping things in shape from a safer location. Whatever and wherever Fortnite’s world is, I believe it’s safe to assume that this island is one of the (if not the only) safe locations on the world. Obviously, there’s the threat of the frequent storms that affect it but there is a glaring inconsistency between the two components. Where are all the monsters in the battle royale mode?
From a gameplay standpoint, it is clear that the monsters aren’t included as they would over complicate the game too much as it is designed to be a compact, relatively fast-paced battle royale experience not a large, multi-faceted DayZ style game. However, in terms of the story, this raises the point that the island is likely one of the few safe places and thus I’d like to infer that the Battle Bus is actually an evacuation service that can only fit up to 100 people and that flies at a safe distance over the island in between the dangerous storms allowing those seeking refuge from the monsters to try and survive out on the island. Of course, the presence of the “higher power” and the pre-existing towns and cities suggest that the island was in fact once populated by people and, in fact, later evidence in this article suggests that it still is.
Fortnite: A Game in Pictures
One further piece of evidence that the two components of Fortnite are inextricably linked is this season’s Blockbuster Challenges, which seemed to tie the Season 4 Battle Pass to Save the World’s Blockbuster Event. But what was most interesting about these challenges was the eight Blockbuster loading screens made available, as well as the map changes and the mystery skin. To accompany the Blockbuster theme, EPIC began to introduce some considerable changes to locations all across the island, including the introduction of Risky Reels and the complete makeover of Moisty Mire. The advent of cameras and green screens casts a slight shadow of doubt over how much we can take to be fiction within fiction and how much is genuinely relevant to the game’s lore. Whichever way you swing, however, it’s safe to say that if the film crews are filming something, there’s something worth filming. I don’t think the Blockbuster loading screens are frames from the creation of a typical film, I think they’re more likely documentaries. It’s also possible that what began as a film slowly became a reality through unforeseen events.
EPIC used this film motif to slowly reveal more of the story frame by frame, acting as directors choosing how narrow the scope should be and how much they should reveal to the audience. To me, the film seems to have been a response to the new landscape. It seems that the crew behind it saw the effects of the meteor strike and decided to make a film using the destroyed island as a backdrop for a new film. Much like how World War II changed cinema, this event seems to have had an effect on the world of Fortnite and the film crew seem to respond by creating an Infinity War style film about Carbide, Omega, Valor and some of the other Season 4 skins. What we see in the loading screens is likely the story of this film. However, the line between what is known and what is fabricated seems to blur even further with the seventh frame and the accompanying skin, The Visitor. The official description of the skin reads “Intentions unknown” and he was seen exiting a pod that was hidden inside the big meteor that hit Dusty Depot and created Dusty Divot. This obscurity makes it almost impossible to know if The Visitor is a real threat or a part of the film if his visit was intentional or accidental/coincidental and whether or not it was this “higher power” that uncovered him as they studied the meteor in the divot.
Ultimately, it’s hard to tell how much of what we’ve seen is the product of the film crew seen in the first Blockbuster loading screen and how much is the actual plot of the game. No matter how you interpret it, however, it all culminated in the very real rocket launch seen on Saturday and has left a devastating effect: a giant rift in the sky. It’s unclear what this means but fans are pretty certain that this, like the meteor, is the build-up to another big map change with the start of Season 5. Many are expecting something to come out of the crack in the dimension and, while I still believe that’s possible, its constant expansion could suggest anything and two smaller rifts that have opened up at Lonely Lodge and the motel are beginning to suck things up. The sign at the motel, for example, that was previously damaged by a small meteor is now under threat by this small crack in reality.
The Retail Row Detective Agency
A few days ago, I came across a post about the last patch that included datamined information such as the upcoming Drum Gun as well as the new set of detective skins. This morning, I then logged on to find that these skins, known as the Hardboiled Set, had just been released. It is difficult to tell whether or not they were intended for the end of Season 4 or the start of Season 5, as EPIC might have released them early after they got leaked, but they do tell us something quite significant. Clearly, EPIC is continuing to build the plot of the game by taking a narrow, nuanced perspective and building up a small but significant subplot revolving around the three detectives: Gumshoe, Sleuth and Noir. Sleuth and Noir are similar in design, but it would be wrong to view them as carbon copies of each other. Their distinct design differences tell all about who they are and what their relationship is. Meanwhile, Gumshoe, the only female detective, is rather more elusive.
EPIC tweeted out, upon the new set’s release, “Have some foul play that needs to be investigated? Stop by the Retail Row Detective Agency for all of your detective needs”. Sleuth, with his beige trench coat and rugged features, seems to be the epitome of a PI, as opposed to Noir, all dressed in black with sunglasses and a neat, authoritative mustache. I reckon that Sleuth is the PI that works at “Retail Row Detective Agency”, while Noir is a government agent. This makes sense because of their different appearances but there’s more to it that seems to suggest that the two are clear rivals and that Noir is doing some work for the aforementioned “higher power”. Both characters carry WANTED posters of the other in the pockets of their trench coats, suggesting that they are rivals at each other’s throats. What’s more interesting is how Noir’s character description reads “Infiltrating the seedy underbelly of Tilted Towers”. This seems like a clue as to Noir’s mission and employer to me.
This reference to “the seedy underbelly of Tilted Towers” also raises a lot more in terms of plot-related questions. It seems to promise more activity in this great metropolis in Season 5. As does EPIC’s tweet about “Retail Row Detective Agency”. I hope that they will at least update the town to include the agency itself at the start of Season 5 so that players can not only see this agency become a part of the lore but also allow us to search for clues within the agency building itself. At the very least, Sleuth’s character description reads “The detective is on the case”. Plain and simpler than Noir’s, but it suggests that “the case” will unravel over the course of the next few weeks and revolve around Tilted. It also begs the question of whether or not Noir’s employer is to be trusted or not. While he seems to be a government agent looking to bust crime in the big city, it is also possible that he is wrapped up in a wider conspiracy, hence why Sleuth is “on the case”. The biggest enigma to me is Gumshoe, simply because it could be argued both ways that she works with either Sleuth or Noir. Her name and description (“The kid’s got gumption”) perhaps suggest that she works with Sleuth, however, her design tends more towards Noir’s. It’s also possible that she is a third party. I, however, reckon she works for “the Retail Row Detective Agency”.
Overall, EPIC has been using distracting and obscure new elements such as the meteor strike, the rocket launch and the added layer of the film in order to hide the growing underlying plot of a government in high control and a secret agency manipulating events from behind the scene.