The Fortnite metaverse is aflutter following a recent leak surfaced by data-miners like HYPEX and others. Teasers for an upcoming LTM codenamed “Saturn” made their way to the internet earlier this week, and, when corroborated with documents revealed in the recent Epic Games v. Apple lawsuit, it sounds like Epic’s popular Battle Royale might soon be getting a sandbox RPG experience.
For current and future players of Battle Royale, this might be exactly what the game’s increasingly bloated meta needs to thrive.
A look at the data
The earliest indications of a Fortnite RPG mode surfaced at the end of April 2021 when HYPEX shared pictures of a large game map called “Sandbox,” which featured larger trees than normal and could generate random objects with a seed. This concept was further elaborated in court documents suggesting “Epic will go beyond Battle Royale [next season] and give us an open-world simulation sandbox.”
While that chatter happened a few months back, the discussion resumed earlier this week when HYPEX posted two data-mined images of something that appears to be tied to the mode. In the screenshot, we see Peely wielding a magical staff, Jonesy clutching a sword, Fishstick holding a spear, and Cuddle Team Leader aiming their bow. Behind the squad is a hail of arrows and a massive gorilla-like foe.
In short, there are lots of indicators to suggest this supposed Saturn LTM could be some kind of sandbox RPG. Between the fantastical beasts and presumed inclusion of magical items, there’s a lot here that doesn’t mesh with Battle Royale as we know it. That being said, for current and future fans of Fortnite, this expansion beyond Battle Royale is ultimately a good thing.
Battle Royale is bloated
As popular as Fortnite Battle Royale continues to be, there’s no denying its core gameplay concepts have evolved into something that feels more bloated and complex than is necessary. While recently introduced mechanics like NPCs, purchasable Exotics, and crafting are well-intentioned wrinkles designed to spice up the static competitive experience, having all these systems layered on top of a framework that was originally billed as a simplified combat experience doesn’t feel very good.
Especially if you first hopped on the Battle Bus back in 2017, Fortnite feels like a completely different game that almost disincentivizes PvP in favor of interesting gimmicks.
The original Fortnite crowd doesn’t want to craft the game’s best guns in pieces. Weapons should always be found as floor loot so that supplies are easier to locate and the shooting part of the Battle Royale match can happen faster. Instead, players are too busy accepting side quests and farming wildlife to consider the allure of the Victory Royale.
It makes sense for Epic to continue bringing this level of creativity to Fortnite in the future, and this supposed RPG mode could function as the ideal outlet for that experimentation. After all, the role-playing genre inherently encourages depth while the best competitive shooters sometimes thrive on their delicate simplicity. If the intent is for Epic to move forward with more involved NPCs, questing, and plotlines, an RPG sandbox is an appropriate place for those ideas to flourish.
There’s a real opportunity here for Epic to create two happy audiences by stripping down Battle Royale to a shoot-first mode while expanding on some of those bloated concepts in this new mode. Now pushing toward its fifth year on the scene, Fortnite could stand to be injected with some new life. A scenario that offers the chance to appeal to nostalgia while growing into something bigger might be exactly what the brand needs to return to its peak glory.
Bringing in new players
RPGs and shooters are two very different genres that appeal to different groups of people as well. In particular, SuperData statistics from as far back as 2014 suggest female gamers tend to prefer RPGs while males prefer shooters. With that evidence in mind, it’s no surprise that a 2018 poll from Statista concluded that the Fortnite audience was 72.4 percent male and 27.6 percent female.
While it’s certainly possible that breakdown has become less lopsided in recent years, in large part thanks to events like the recent in-game Ariana Grande concert, even Epic itself acknowledges a need for greater diversity in its player base.
“We want to continue to grow [a diverse audience], and make sure that inclusion and positivity for everyone around the world are at the core of everything that we do,” Epic Games’ Head of Brand Phil Rampulla told Inverse in August. “Hopefully, by creating more experiences that aren't just the typical Battle Royale modes, we’re going to invite players that we can't even think about right now, that might not even be on our minds. That's the hope, that Fortnite becomes a place where there's something for everyone, rather than just a game.”
That quote offers a strong indicator of what Epic might be attempting to do with its supposed sandbox RPG offering. As noted, the intent is to start extending the brand “by creating more experiences that aren't just the typical Battle Royale.” While these words were more directed toward virtual concerts and the like, it’s possible we might also be getting a broader window into the developer’s mindset at large. Bringing more and different types of players into the Fortnite fold can only be a good thing for the game, and an RPG sandbox offers the perfect venue to expand that mission.
When all is said and done, if this leaked mode functions as data-miners believe it will, it could make Fortnite a less bloated and more diverse platform.