I’m a sucker for a good alien story. No matter the genre, the tone, the setting even, if you give me an alien invasion and an ominous threat in the sky I’m bound to have a good time. So when Fortnite‘s battle royale island getaway was descended upon by a fleet of flying saucers, my interest was definitely peaked.
Thus began Fortnite Chapter 2, Season 7, dubbed “Invasion”. The latest update to the ongoing menagerie of pop culture icons to join the fray, Invasion, brings with it an occupying force of aliens and some very familiar faces. Below we break down what’s new in the Battle Pass and delve into the chaos that has spread across the island in the alien’s wake.
Fortnite Invasion Impressions
So first up, the usual roll call for any new Battle Pass. Invasion is headlined by the hugely popular, yet divisive, Rick Sanchez of Rick and Morty fame, a fitting addition to a pack focused on aliens. Fortnite’s commitment to thematically consistent cameos continues to amuse and delight. The mad scientist is joined by yet another DC comics icon as Superman quite literally flies onto the scene this season, flanked by the arrival of your own fully customisable alien Kymera.
The extraterrestrial themed squad of new characters is supported by a fun assortment of other icons from in and out of the game. Guggimon, a New York-based fashion horror artist, makes a stylish debut in the game with a skin I admittedly thought was just a dope looking rabbit. The designer is hugely popular across social media though, amassing millions of fans for their synthetic presence and iconic aesthetic. Doctor Slone has also finally shown her face on the island after being hinted at for a while now, leading the fight against the invasion with several fantastic skins to chose from.
It’s a solid lineup of new characters and we will undoubtedly have more surprises in store but what’s most interesting about the new Battle Pass is how you’ll go about unlocking its goodies. The progression path through the pass has been altered somewhat, forgoing linearity in favour of player decided order, within reason. Battle Stars, a returning concept to the game, are now used to unlock items on a splash page with the biggest rewards, the new skins, unlocked after everything else has been nabbed.
It’s a neat way of empowering players to have a say in what gets unlocked when while still allowing for a greater goal to focus on during the grind. Along with Battle Stars, you’ll also be combing the island for Alien Artifacts, another currency that can only be used to customise your Kymera buddy. This default alien skin is unlocked automatically with the Battle Pass and can be tweaked in countless ways by unlocking new facial features, colour schemes and armour using the found artifacts. The pricing of some of these options is a little steep, the cooler choices will require some pretty focused scouring, but the concept is fantastic.
With the arrival of the invading force so too are we treated to a bevy of new weaponry and a truly unique mode of transportation. There is a handful of returning fan favourites this season, like the Pump Shotgun that is just truly satisfying to have back, but the highlight of Invasion is the new range of high-tech assault options. The Imagined Order, or IO, have set up shop at a few key locations across the island and are sporting some powerful sci-fi inspired guns, including a Pulse Rifle, the incredibly competent Rail Gun and a grenade launcher that fires off Recon devices giving away everyone’s current location in a small radius.
You’ll be bringing these to bear against the invading forces own lineup of tricks, headlined by the Kymera Ray Gun and the main attraction, flying saucers. The Ray Gun is a pretty standard affair, looking far more exciting than it probably is damage wise, but those UFOs are chaotic glorious game-changers. These vehicles perfectly straddle the line between OP and exposed on the battlefield, granting you access to a powerful charging canon blast and a literal abduction beam that can be used to pick up a surprising amount of stuff on the island.
You can get some pretty great height in the thing too, hovering over the island alone or with your squad as you park yourself in the air and take potshots at the ants below. There’s a rudimentary dodge boost for when you get into a tight spot but again, any power afforded to you by the craft is easily taken away by a joint assault on you from below. Initially, the UFOs are piloted by the invaders who will pick you up with the tractor beam if you’re not careful, and once other players hop in too the resulting chaos is maybe the most outright fun I’ve had with Fortnite in a long time.
That sheer force of a good time is needed with Invasion perhaps more than any other Battle Pass update as the rest of the content is a little thin. When I wrote about Primal, last season’s big thing, I was thrilled to see Fortnite lean heavily into the narrative elements of these seasonal updates. Primal opened with a huge playable, cinematic mission that gave context for the major changes made to the island and the story that was unfolding. Invasion offers no such catharsis, instead of showing you its latest big beats rather than letting you play it first hand. The arrival of surprise UFOs in the lead-up to the launch was nice of course but pales in comparison to Primal’s grandiose opening mission.
There’s also the tweaked crafting system that yields mixed results in its quest for expediency. Primal’s baseline crafting still exists in the game but multiple crafting materials are gone, replaced with a single upgradeable material that makes an easier system but not necessarily an engaging one. Likewise, the use of Gold bars as upgrade bench currency is also a little confusing, making an already lite system all the easier to ignore. The efforts to streamline a lot of the systems introduced with Primal is not without merit or reward but it does feel like it trims a little too much off the top.
Meanwhile, the island itself feels like the greatest victim of this season’s more focused approach with minimal changes made to topography and aesthetic. Those IO bases make for fun little combat gauntlets and the occupied locations are a blast but in between Invasion is lacking in personality. The Autumn bursts that accompanied Primal’s all-encompassing nature aesthetic are gone, replaced with sparse use of admittedly pretty purple alien goop and shrubbery. It’s not bad as such, but it also feels half-baked. Still, there is more content teased for later in the season so perhaps we’ll see some greater changes come to the island but for now, things have been played relatively safe.
Scenic Island Getaway
Under the hood, Fortnite also appears to be changing for the better with the introduction of new physics systems and some truly stunning visual upgrades. PC players can now enjoy the same visual fidelity that next-gen console players have had access to for a while now. I’ve been playing on my PlayStation 5 and the leap from old to new is kind of staggering at times, with postprocessing making for highly detailed new lighting and texture effects. Descending through the clouds onto the island as the sun peaks through them is a surprisingly beautiful moment that I wouldn’t have expected from Fortnite.
The island is now covered with these kinds of improvements, also impacting effects around explosions, liquids and more. On top of the newly improved visuals, those UFOs needed something to toss around and the updated physics engine seems to be doing the job nicely. There is tangible weight to objects, requiring a deft touch to flick them just so to collide with building and player alike. A truck swings differently from a box, for example, another nice touch that goes a long way to make the UFOs feel like a considered addition to the game.
What this all amounts to is a version of Fortnite that looks and feels better than ever before but is found wanting in terms of depth. This isn’t inherently an issue, it is ultimately a very user-friendly game that should prioritise playability over system heavy design. But I still lament the lost design ethos that brought us Primal, making Invasion feel like two steps forward, one step back. It’s still fun, the most fun even, and that goes a long way in a game like Fortnite but when all is said and done and the island is free from the invasion, I hope there’s space for a far more ambitious rebuild.