Fortnite’s new season shows just how much the game has changed

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This weekend, I experienced something that I hadn’t in quite some time: a queue to play Fortnite. The long-running battle royale hit players with a dose of nostalgia in its latest season — called Fortnite OG — which brings back the game’s original map for the next month. Players have shown up in droves; developer Epic claims that Saturday was the biggest in the game’s history, with more than 44 million players. Amid all of the reminiscing that comes from dropping back into Tilted Towers or drinking an entire Chug Jug, the new season also helped me realize just how far the game has come over the years.

Going back to the original map is a pretty big deal for Fortnite. This is a game that constantly speeds ahead without looking back. When a new island comes into the game, the previous one simply disappears. Sometimes there’s nostalgia in the form of returning characters or weapons, but Fortnite OG is something else entirely. It’s sort of like the battle royale version of World of Warcraft Classic.

What’s especially notable is that this season of Fortnite is bringing players back to a simpler time, when it wasn’t obvious that all of this change was inevitable. No one had any idea that the original island would get sucked into a black hole. We were all just along for the very strange ride of bouncy lakes, erupting volcanoes, rolling cubes, alien runes, and dimension-shattering rockets. All of these weird moments were a chance for Epic to experiment with a new kind of storytelling in the game, and honestly, playing Fortnite OG has made me realize how much I miss the oddball live events, which were their own kind of appointment viewing.

As a longtime player, the new season has also reminded me just how much more tame the game was back then. Prior to the new season, the Fortnite map featured a sprawling cyberpunk city with skyscraper-size holograms, a dense jungle with temples to explore, and vampire strongholds you could loot for top-tier weapons. You could zoom around the island in a race car or motorcycle or get around on the back of a raptor. Fortnite OG, meanwhile, is much simpler and more straightforward. The island is mostly green, with a small patch of desert and another icy locale to break things up. You can ride a golf cart. Aside from the Haunted Hills locale, it’s not very weird at all. Maybe that’s why all the bizarre live events stood out so much when they first happened.

This might also be why Fortnite OG is only going to last for four weeks. It’s enough time to revel in nostalgia before players start aching for something new new. (Epic will be reintroducing classic elements on a weekly basis during that span.) If nothing else, OG has provided a much-needed jolt for Fortnite, which — along with its developer — has been going through a tough time of late, with rising priceslayoffs, key departures, and an increased focus on the non-battle royale parts of the Fortnite experience. Playing the hits from Fortnite’s past doesn’t change any of that. But at a time in games when everything old is new again, it’s nice to look back on what this game used to be — if only for a little bit.

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