When Epic Games first pitched Fortnite back in 2012, it envisioned a cooperative sandbox game of crafting, building, and survival. Players would scavenge for supplies during the day, build shelters and weapons, then fend off creatures of the night when the sun set, à la Minecraft.
Fortnite was a modest success when it was a survival game; it didn’t become the global phenomenon as we know it until Epic added the now-dominant battle royale mode.
Lego Fortnite, out now and included for free as part of Fortnite, takes the game back to its roots. Lego Fortnite is a game of crafting, building, and survival in an open-world sandbox aimed at all ages.
As a Lego game, it’s both more diminutive and bigger than ever. Epic Games said at a recent press preview event that Lego Fortnite’s procedurally generated maps are nearly 20 times the size of the Fortnite battle royale maps with which players are familiar. It’s also overflowing with Lego pieces; more than 10,000 types of bricks and other Lego elements are stuffed into Lego Fortnite for players to build bases, villages, and, well, just about anything they can imagine with real-world Lego bricks.
In Lego Fortnite, you play as cute Lego minifig versions of Fortnite’s beloved original characters (Fishstick, Brite Bomber, Beef Boss, Raven, Peely, et al.). Epic says some 1,200 existing Fortnite skins will be available in Lego-fied form in its new survival sandbox game.
Lego Fortnite plays much like other survival sandbox games, such as Minecraft or a much more kid-friendly Rust. Players enter a world that’s procedurally generated, choosing either to freely build or fight for survival in a variety of biomes. They start out mostly helpless, receiving aid from a Fortnite nonplayer character who can help them sort out the basics of gathering materials like wood and stone, as well as searching for sustenance from corn, pumpkins, or chickens. Even the animal actions are kid-friendly; you can simply pet a chicken to get an egg to eat, or get your milk cruelty-free from roaming cows.
The early moments will be familiar to anyone who’s played a survival game like Minecraft. You gather materials, build tools, build shelter, build better tools, build better shelter, and so on and so on. You’ll attract Lego villagers to your growing community, and you can even put them to work, hunting and gathering for resources. Eventually, you’ll run a thriving commonwealth. You can unlock farming for increased sustainability options, and you can venture deep into the world’s underground to seek rare resources and better upgrades.
Better still, you can enlist your real-world friends to join you in Lego Fortnite. Up to eight players can explore and build out a world together in multiplayer; these created worlds don’t even require the original creator to be present in order for others to play in them.
It’s not all cheery fun, however. There are threats in Lego Fortnite. At nighttime, wolves, skeletons, and other terrors will roam in the dark, and they’ll actively seek out players. Early on, they’re easily dispatched with an ax; you can even dodge-roll, Dark Souls-style, to avoid getting hit. (Yes, there are invincibility frames in Lego Fortnite.) But the further you progress, the bigger and meaner the monsters will become. Plasticky swords and crossbows will eventually replace your lowly ax.
Lego Fortnite doesn’t radically reinvent the survival game genre. It’s a lot like Minecraft, but with the hulking weight of Lego’s ubiquitous bricks and years of Fortnite content built into it. It’s slick and pretty, powered by Epic’s Unreal Engine 5 to render nearly photorealistic Lego toys in real time. Plus, your experience in Lego Fortnite carries over to the core Fortnite battle pass, so you’re not missing out on unlocking a bunch of in-game goodies if you’re playing something that’s not Fortnite battle royale.
What’s more, it’s rated E10+, meaning its content is appropriate for kids who may be a little too young for the shoot-’em-up violence of other Fortnite experiences. Even better? Adults who aren’t really into Fortnite might find it pretty compelling; even in its relatively early state, Lego Fortnite plays like a polished, robust, and deep survival game. It feels like the biggest threat yet to Minecraft’s dominance in the kid-focused survival space, and only partly because it’s completely free.
Lego Fortnite arrives in Fortnite on Dec. 7, on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.