'Fortnite' Season 7: A Civilian's Guide to How We Got Here

A Civilian's Guide to Fortnite , Just in Time for Season 7

The Epic Games juggernaut has established itself not just through gameplay, but through subtle world-building—and now the world’s most popular game is getting ready to change all over again.
Epic Games

Fortnite: Battle Royale is a surprisingly complex game. New players have to reckon not only with the challenging free-for-all gameplay featuring 100 players, but an ever-changing landscape steeped in a surprising amount of history. Epic Games has turned Fortnite into one of the oddest, most intriguing collective experiences in games, one that at times feels more of a piece with the lore-riddled storytelling of traditional MMOs than a constantly resetting third-person shooter.

That lore is the product of two traits, primarily. One is the implicit nature of the game's narrative. Fortnite hides its story in environmental cues and rare in-world events—events which, given the always-on nature of the game, you can only experience if you happen to be playing at that moment. Second is the game's nod to television structure by dividing its temporality into "seasons": Periodically, Fortnite developer Epic Games releases a major patch that introduces a host of new challenges and collectible items, along with aesthetic motifs, all of which contribute to the larger backdrop. And with Season 7 arriving tomorrow, you'd be forgiven for having lost the thread along the way (or just wanting to know what your friends and/or relatives are talking about already).

The Gameplay

Fortnite: Battle Royale is a free-to-play game set on a large, varied island, seemingly abandoned except for the players fighting on it. Whether you're playing in Solo mode or in teams of two or four, the goal is to be the last side standing. Fighting is a matter of both weapon and construction, as players build forts of various size and materials (hence the name) to create defenses and ultimately out-maneuver their foes. That's the play, anyway.

The Story

At the beginning, Fortnite didn't really have a story. What people refer to as Fortnite is simply the free battle-royale spinoff of a cooperative survival game with tower-defense elements (now known as Fortnite: Save the World ), in which players band together to, essentially, fight off invading alien-zombies. The map updated with new obstacles and items each season, but there wasn't any perceptible rhyme or reason to it. One season was medieval-themed; the next had space stuff. Eventually, though, things began appearing in the sky. First were shooting stars, then a meteor that grew larger, seemingly headed straight for the game world. At the beginning of the game's fourth season, meteorites finally began to strike , demolishing part of the map and ushering in a new era of Fortnite . In Season 5, an in-game rocket ultimately launched following a days-long countdown, creating interdimensional cracks in the sky.

These cracks created warps in time where various objects from disparate time periods poured out onto the map. Slowly, the cracks coalesced, catalyzing a Season 6 event in which they bequeathed to Fortnite a large purple cube, with glowing glyphs on it. Players liked it, so they gave it a name: Kevin. Kevin hung out for quite a while, warping the shape of the island around him, until breaking apart, which summoned interdimensional alien cube monsters for players to fight. Finally, Kevin exploded entirely, taking players playing at the time into a void with, uh, magic butterflies? No, seriously.

And now, Season 7 approaches.

What's Next

What awaits us? Well, there are bunkers beneath the map's woods that are now open, revealing laboratories seemingly set to study the rifts. Fans say they can see some strange distortion through these experimental portals which looks, maybe, like a castle. And the air is getting colder—at certain places on the map, players can see their own breath, and the game's official Twitter account has teased snowboarding . Perhaps winter is coming. Or perhaps reality's about to explode again. With Fortnite , it's hard to tell, and harder still to piece together what it means. But something is happening. So if you're going to start playing this week, keep your eyes open. You might see something wild.

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