Building blocks of a new metaverse: Lego Fortnite is a delight to play

Whoever had the idea to combine three titans of the modern mass entertainment universe – Lego, Fortnite and Minecraft – into one experience is surely feeling rather smug right now. Launched on Thursday, Lego Fortnite is a new mode available within Fortnite, but it’s essentially a whole new game – an open-world crafting survival sim in the unmistakable style of, yes, Minecraft. Players enter a procedurally generated world, unique to them, which somehow combines the aesthetic features of Lego and Fortnite, with its luscious, bright colours and toy-like charm.

Like Minecraft, the main draw is the survival mode, where you can explore the wilderness, build houses, grow crops, tend to animals and combat a range of beasties. You start with a very limited set of building instructions and can only make a simple hut, but as you progress, gathering resources such as wood, granite and wool, you get access to more building materials.

As in Minecraft, there’s a day/night cycle – while the sun shines, you build and explore, but when night comes you hunker down, because out come the spooky skeletons and other monsters. As you wander the rolling hills, deserts and plains, you come across treasure chests, abandoned buildings and other secrets, and you’re sometimes guided to cool stuff by colourful will-o’-the-wisp type beings.

Screenshot ofLego Fortnite video game
‘An unexpectedly emotional experience’ … Lego Fortnite. Photograph: Epic Games/Lego

The world is not quite as malleable as in Minecraft – you can’t dig into the earth and mine for diamonds. But the array of Lego buildings you can create is impressive (Epic and Lego have said they’re looking to add “thousands” of physical Lego blocks and bits to the game), and adding crafting tables, a lumber mill and a spinning wheel opens up even more crafting possibilities – swords, shields and fancy interior decorations all come into your reach. For those who just want to build, there’s a creative mode, which removes the monsters, the day/night element and the survival aspects, so you can potter about in peace.

Whichever mode you go for, you can invite up to seven other players into your world to explore and build together. I played for two hours with my eldest son, who is 18 soon, but the experience took us back to the old days playing Minecraft on the Xbox 360 together – it was an unexpectedly emotional evening.

Yes, it’s clearly a rebranded take on Minecraft (and let’s not forget, Minecraft itself was hugely influenced by the indie game Infiniminer), but it’s also a luscious and wonderfully relaxing spin-off. Players get to customise their minifig avatar and spend time building and snooping about the apparently 95 sq km of landscape, which also includes caverns, though I’ve not found one yet. There is a really gentle atmosphere to the game, everything from the soft visuals to the gorgeous lighting (courtesy of Unreal Engine 5) and sound effects. It’s a very nicely produced tie-in.

It will be fascinating to see how the community grows. When I downloaded Lego Fortnite last night, there were already two million people playing – who knows what they’ll craft? This is obviously a huge act of multimillion dollar corporate synergy and there’s not much originality going on, but then, if major entertainment brands are going to build metaverse-style experiences, let them be like this: free to play, carefully constructed and lots of fun.

Lego Fortnite is available now on PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PlayStation


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