Between Fortnite’s propensity for big-name concerts and Epic’s purchase of Harmonix two years ago, the inclusion of some kind of music-making feature in the game was inevitable. What Epic is releasing today is actually far grander: an entirely new mode called Fortnite Festival, a social space where players can team up to perform their favorite songs or jam together on new mixes.
There are two options, or stages, for users to play in the new mode. The main stage, or championship stage, is basically the Rock Band experience recreated inside Fortnite. You’ll form a band with friends and choose a song to perform. Then you play the song using the standard music game format where notes slide down vertical bars, hitting the correct button when the note reaches the bottom. Players can, of course, hear the song as they play it, which can be embarrassing if you’re not that good. Each performer earns points, which in turn leads to XP and character progression in the greater Fortnite ecosystem.
While the main stage may be old-hat to anyone present during the zenith of music games in the 2000s, the jam stage draws from Harmonix’s more recent (and less popular) mixing titles, Dropmix and Fuser. While both of those games had competitive modes, they were a lot more fun as music-making toys, where players could just throw different parts of popular songs together and see what comes out. Jamming in Fortnite Festival is pretty much that, but collaborative.
When you first drop into a jam, your avatar will be standing in a virtual world full of stages, clubs and green spaces. It has an amusement park-like feel, similar to Disney World’s long-gone Pleasure Island. Despite the world’s appearance, you don’t have to climb on stage to play music, you can start jamming wherever you want by pulling up the emote wheel. The actions here have been replaced with song options. Just pick a song and instrument, and your character will start playing. It’s not the entire song, but rather one particular piece of it. To assemble something more complete, you need to collaborate with other players.
Jamming with other players is incredibly easy. All you need to do is walk up to someone who’s already playing (helpfully indicated by a wavy circle) and activate your own emote wheel. The system will automatically mix the two songs together no matter the genre or style. You want to add the vocals from The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” to the synth from “Gangnam Style?” Go right ahead, and don’t be surprised when someone else drops in the beat from The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights.”
Instruments can be swapped out on the fly, and the key and tempo can also be tweaked to make a slow song fast or vice versa. There’s a lot of room for creativity here, as well as cacophony as the levels fill up.
While Fortnite Festival draws heavily on Dropmix and Fuser it has one key advantage over those two titles, one that could lead to success where its predecessors failed: it’s free. All three of the new Fortnite modes will be free, but Festival is a standout since it relies so heavily on licensed music. One huge barrier to entry for music games has always been the additional costs, especially the song packs. $2 for your favorite Nirvana or Bad Bunny tracks might not seem like much at first, but it adds up, and any online cost can be insurmountable to a kid without a credit card. The fact that this is a music game that anyone can download for free on their computer, console or mobile device without being bombarded with ads means it has the potential to make music games popular again.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/fortnite-festival-tries-to-bring-back-the-heyday-of-music-gaming-153624729.html?src=rss