Fortnite OG shows just how much battle royales have evolved

Fortnite OG season is here, and it’s a fascinating insight into just how far battle royale games have come in their short lifespan.

Fortnite OG shows just how much battle royales have evolved: Fortnite character Renegade Lynx slides across a grassy area near Tomato Temple

Fortnite recently did the unthinkable by resurrecting its 2018 Chapter 1 form. Chapter 4: Season OG (nicknamed Fortnite OG by adoring fans) launched a modern version of its 2018 map in early November, taking the weapon meta back with it. While the throwback feels dated, by design of course, it also serves as a sort of museum exhibit that highlights just how far the battle royale genre has come since it rocketed into the mainstream just six years ago.

To understand the potent nostalgia of Fortnite’s ongoing OG gambit, you need to look at what the blockbuster multiplayer game has become over the years. While it may have started from relatively humble beginnings, Fortnite has morphed into a fully-fledged platform, complete with a creative mode, and zero-build which strips away what many had thought to be the game’s defining trait. Players continue to flood in as pop-culture tie-ins come thick and fast. The modern meta is dominated by fast-paced movement, mind-boggling super weapons, and the ability to activate powerful Augments that can turn the tide of a match in an instant. In short, Fortnite Chapter 4 is more of a toy box as of late, making the surprise jump back to 2018 all the more interesting as a concept.

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Jumping into Fortnite OG last week, I was left stunned by how basic it all felt. I’m a Zero Build player primarily, and while Epic Games has tweaked the Fortnite Chapter 1 Season 5 map to accommodate the lack of building, there’s a whole lot of empty space. Not only that, but Fortnite was apparently very flat back in the day, with very few mountains or buildings to give you the advantage. Again, I believe this is alleviated somewhat in build mode, but it’s interesting to see the differences that five years can make as far as map design is concerned.

As I settled in, I started to remember why battle royale games took hold as strongly as it did all those years ago. Matches were exciting, tactical and extremely tense; elements that have certainly fallen by the wayside in recent years. This stripped back approach to game design extends to the loot pool, too, which is decidedly simple, made up of very normal looking guns, and no real movement options. The result is fascinating: Fortnite has gone from a fast-paced shooter to a strategic early BR game almost overnight. If you can’t shoot straight, and if you don’t keep your eye on the storm, well, you’re toast, friend.

Fortnite character Renegade Lynx drinking a large Shield Potion

Fortnite OG harkens back to a time when the game was still experimenting following the success of its spiritual predecessor PUBG. Anyone who played PUBG in 2017/2018 will tell you just how tense and exciting games were. The map was extremely basic, even by 2017 standards, consisting of wide-open spaces and repetitive POIs, but it simply didn’t matter. The sight of a door that had been left open sparked a feeling of dread that even most horror games still struggle to achieve. Six years on, we’ve lost this dynamic somewhat, even in PUBG, which remains popular in its modern and much more action-packed iteration.

The battle royale genre is only six years old at this point (in terms of mainstream appeal, seven years if you want to get technical), and Fortnite OG serves as a wonderful museum exhibit, and a stark example of just how much the genre has changed over the years. While many companies have struggled, and continue to struggle to capitalize on the battle royale craze, Fortnite, Apex Legends and Warzone continue to be the most popular games around. Battle royales are here to stay, but given their ever-evolving nature, what a BR is in 2023 is very different to what it was in 2018.

Weapons scattered on the ground at Tilted Towers

Perhaps cleverly, Epic Games is only running Fortnite OG for a month, and while its first week did feel glacial in comparison to the game we’d all been playing up to that point, Fortnite OG is actually doing something pretty amazing. Every week, Epic Games drops an update, dragging the game forward one season, adding new weapons, vehicles, map POIs, biomes; the works. Already, we’ve seen hoverboards and quad-bikes completely switch up the game’s play-style, as players are able to rotate around faster as a squad. Planes and cannons are arriving soon, with a new frozen biome set to change the terrain once more. If you missed out on the rise of the Battle Royale genre, and Fortnite as a whole, this lightning-round tour is the perfect crash course to bring you up to speed.

A Fortnite player gets eliminated at Tilted Towers

With another major update set to come to Fortnite OG, and as player numbers continue to soar, it’ll be interesting to see what Epic Games takes away from the mini-season. It’s unlikely we’ll suddenly see a much more classic-style map for Chapter 5, nor will we get simplified loot pools and movement options. Hopefully though, Fortnite OG encourages the publisher to take more chances with Fortnite. I’d certainly enjoy more throwback seasons, or even remixes on some of the more underrated maps that have come and gone over the years.

Perhaps Fortnite OG will be back in the future, hopefully as a separate mode, but if not, it’s been an exciting and surprising experiment that really shows just how far battle royales have come over the years. While modern Fortnite is still my game of choice where multiplayer is concerned, I have definitely enjoyed the slower speed of the last week or so. And, as expected, it’s been fun to take a trip back to what many consider to be peak-Fortnite, even if it’s just for a short while.

For more on Fortnite, be sure to check out our look at the 50 best Fortnite skins to use in-game. Elsewhere there’s our guide on the Fortnite OG map and Hotspots. As Fortnite OG continues to update and change, you’ll find more coverage here on PCGamesN.