Fortnite’s highly anticipated Chapter 3 finale was underwhelming. I jumped into the highly anticipated Chapter 3 finale alongside fellow Fortnite lover and colleague George Foster, ready to have our socks blown off by an epic set piece to rival the Ariana Grande concert. Instead, we spent 40 minutes in a cumbersome scavenger hunt hoping that whatever we were doing was enough to trigger the next cutscene. It was certainly ambitious, and I have to applaud Epic Games for involving dozens of players in a single cohesive puzzle, but the end result was all over the shop and ultimately underwhelming.
If you’ve been following along with the Fortnite lore – no worries if not – you’ll know that this chapter concludes with The Herald and her chrome goo overwhelming the island, covering all it touches until the landmass itself implodes into nothingness. I’ll admit I’m not tuned in enough to know the name of specific factions and characters, but it all ends with Brie Larson sacrificing herself so a new island can be formed despite their defeat, saving all the IP from a meaningless life amongst the stars. It makes no sense, yet I was still hooked.
Once the island is destroyed we’re left floating in the nothingness of space. All seems lost, until the camera pulls in to focus on my John Cena avatar as a stray piece of island comes into view. A voice comes to life over the intercom, and all of a sudden we have a mission. The objective is to gather orbs of light scattered across the environment, all feeding into a central orb that will bring more and more disparate parts of the destroyed map together to form something new. Familiar locales are pulled into a new layout before our eyes, other players hopping about the place trying to figure out what on earth is even happening.
More complicated puzzles appear as the new island grows in size, some requiring us to pick up specific objects in the environment and stand on switches with other players, or take part in quick races across random obstacles to earn several orbs at once. There was a unified design to all of this when performed in a certain way, but given we are seeing this event for the first time and showed up primarily for the spectacle, there is little incentive to learn the ins and outs because we’ll never see it again once things come to a close. Instead, we all just ran around confused, waiting impatiently for the next trigger to unfold so things would get a move on.
The whole thing was a mess in spite of the huge production values, which is a shame because I can totally see where the developer was coming from here. Fortnite is the finest example of a metaverse we have, far outweighing the mediocrity of social media platforms trying desperately to catch up. Creating seasonal experiences that go beyond the battle royale formula that ask us to co-operate in the service of storytelling is a great idea, but by connecting it to a huge finale without any prior experience of the puzzles meant it was always going to fall apart. You could argue this confusion was deliberate, but it wasn’t one that soon resulted in worthwhile discovery, merely frustration and tedium.
I was relieved when the cutscene started playing, and audibly groaned when another piece of land came into view with more puzzles to solve. The pacing, mechanics, and communal aspect of it all felt underbaked, or not quite thought through enough given everything we came in expecting. I didn’t leave this event with my jaw on the floor, but confused whether it was over because the game didn’t let me pause it. I even checked with a few friends who also shared stories of the event breaking in the midst of things or being too abstract in its execution.
Chapter 4 looks incredible, and having us witness the formation of its new island in real-time is a compelling idea, but doing this through random puzzles and unclear objectives meant that spectacle was replaced by impatience, and that’s the last thing you want from Fortnite when it normally moves a million miles a minute. Even if this big event underwhelmed, it still managed to set the stage for more exciting possibilities moving forward. Set pieces where an entire lobby of players can work towards a common cause is more than possible, so what is stopping us from fighting an army of enemies or even a giant kaiju, working to pilot a mech or defend the island from certain destruction. We might be shaking our heads at the first sign of failure, but perhaps that is necessary in order for future successes to shine all the more.
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