Here’s why a Fortnite RTS game makes perfect sense

Following the successes of Lego Fortnite, Fortnite Festival, and Rocket Racing, Epic's genre-hopping is unmatched, so now it's time for a Fortnite RTS game.

Fortnite RTS Christmas 2023: Peely and Fishsticks reimagined as feudal generals

Fortnite’s recent expansions into new genres have, so far, been a roaring success. Fortnite is now a racing game, thanks to its Rocket League collaboration. It’s a survival game, thanks to its incredible Lego crossover mode. And it’s a metaversal Guitar Hero clone with Fortnite Festival. Sure, they aren’t as sophisticated or complete as the leaders of their respective fields. But Fortnite proves it can be an enjoyable, approachable gateway for players to different and more niche genres. So, where next? For me, if there’s one realm that I’d love Epic to explore next – especially for those on PS5 and Xbox – it’s a Fortnite RTS game.

Having grown up glued to the likes of Age of Empires 2 and Command and Conquer Generals, real-time strategy games hold a very special place in my gaming life. According to a recent report from Newzoo, strategy games are the fifth highest-grossing genre of 2023 on PC, though they struggle to make the grade on console. Granted, RTS is just one subset of the best strategy games, but it’s clear that the opportunity’s there for Epic to produce a modern Fortnite RTS that packs the same kind of approachability as Halo Wars – the best-selling console RTS to date, despite being on the list of Xbox exclusives. But what could it look like?

Starting from the top, let’s talk modes. From the off, I’d expect a Fortnite RTS to launch with a standard conquest mode that facilitates up to 3v3 gameplay – destroy enemy base(s), win game – and a brief tutorial. This can eventually be fleshed out to introduce special modes, seasonal or otherwise, including a fast-paced storm rush that starts players at the edge of the map with a pool of resources, requiring them to battle and build inwards as the storm closes in. Such a mode would require excellent resource management as your base slowly crumbles away behind you.

Fortnite RTS Christmas 2023: a monk carrying a llama pinata

Map-wise, Epic’s showcased its ability to produce diverse POIs across multiple biome types over the years, and making maps based on POIs from throughout the game’s lifecycle would make for a great homage to them. Granted, I can’t imagine we’ll be seeing naval combat on Loot Lake, but making a grave for your enemies in Haunted Hills, or building a booming economy in Tomato Town – at least RTS-friendly versions of them – sounds great.

Now, for the meat of the gameplay. With approachability being a core tenet of the experience – especially for console players – mechanic complexity needs to be carefully balanced. Resources can be constrained to Fortnite’s Wood, Stone, and Metal – it’s giving AoE, but makes sense – with different maps offering varying quantities of each. For the most part, Wood will be the most ubiquitous, while you’ll have to be careful with how you spend your Metal – be it on premium units or upgrades.

Alternatively, it would be easier for players to utilize a resource system like Generals or Halo Wars’ where you build stations within your base that generate them over time – this is my preference. Thematically the former option makes the most sense considering scavenging is a major part of one of the best battle royale games, but this could be offset by neutral resource structures on the map that can be pilfered from. Epic could even deploy relic-like Llamas that, when captured and brought back to your base, can produce a trickle of Metal and other goodies.

As a final Fortnite-y spin, ground units sieging a building don’t shoot at it, instead opting to get their pickaxes out to chip at it and – you guessed it – steal materials away for your stockpiles. The other consideration to be made is unit resource requirement. If Epic was to opt for Generation Stations(™) then a fourth resource, Slurp, could be incorporated as a basic requirement for organic units – Slurp is the lifeblood of Fortnite, after all.

Fortnite RTS Christmas 2023: a colorful stealth bomber dropping a boogie bomb onto a group of tanks

When it comes to construction, there are several types of buildings I’d be inclined to include – Generation Station aside. Every base needs a central command center (Crafty Command Center) that acts as its central nucleus that buildings can stem from. We’ll also need a few different types of battle unit buildings for ground units, vehicles (and mechs), and aerial units respectively – Ratatat Range, Fiery Factory, and Hefty Hanger will suffice for now.

Maintaining a clear combat triangle is crucial, so there’ll be plenty of RPGs to sling at planes from ground units and vehicles alike. This is also something to be factored into base defense, with Mounted Turrets and Quad Launchers available to keep things secure while your army is out doing its thing. Oh, I haven’t forgotten about tech upgrades, by the way. Keeping it simple, each battle building will handle unit upgrades. Likewise, economy upgrades can be made from Generation Stations, and tech upgrades from the Crafty Command Center.

Finally, let’s talk units. Fortnite has a multitude of factions across the battle royale and Save The World that could serve as bases. I certainly wouldn’t expect to see a huge variety of them – definitely not on the scale of AoE’s civilizations – so let’s condense things down to the biggest players in the narrative: The Seven, Imagined Order, and Last Reality (Epic could build a story mode in this way, but let’s not overcook it for now). Within the ranks of each faction is a mixture of characters both named and generic that could easily fulfill the roles of everything from low-tier ground troops to unique faction-exclusive units.

To add a tactical layer, there’d also be faction-exclusive bonuses that bolster economy, military, and technology, as well as universal powers that can be deployed. Tonally, Fortnite’s seldom taken itself seriously, which is where we can inject a little bit more harmful fun. If you need extra numbers in a pinch, call forth a Peely Zerg, or send a Boogie Bomber into a group of enemy combatants to neutralize the threat. In the absence of dedicated mechanic units, you can always call upon a Battle Bus that’ll drop some in to quickly fix up ground and aerial vehicles for you. And, if you want to get some extra value out of your ground troops, then spawn in a Port-A-Fort that they can turn into a manned turret to help lock down neutral objectives.

Fortnite RTS Christmas 2023: legions of Fishsticks fighting in Starcraft 2

While there are boundless ways a Fortnite RTS could materialize, this is simply my surface-level vision of how it could pan out after spending the afternoon taking a trip down memory lane. Making all the constituent parts work together seamlessly in a balanced way would undoubtedly be a major undertaking, despite the majority of the visual assets already being there.

This leads me to the major elephant in the room which is, simply, who would co-develop it? After all, all of the biggest classic RTS players are already owned by rival firms. Relic Entertainment (Age of Empires 4) and Creative Assembly (Total War) are owned by Sega. Meanwhile, EA is in charge of Command & Conquer and we can forget about Blizzard (Starcraft 2).

Considering that Rocket Racing was only possible because Psyonix is a subsidiary of Epic, and Lego is an entity unto itself, it appears Epic would have to go into this bold new venture alone. However, there is one other studio that comes to mind that would be a perfect match – an independent studio that in 2016 produced one of the best RTS games of the modern era in Northgard. I am of course talking about Shiro Games, which more recently dropped Dune Spice Wars, showcasing its willingness to work with third-party source material.

If there’s a dev that can bring the joys of RTS to a new generation, adding to the list of new PS5 games and new Xbox games that I’d genuinely be excited for, right now it’s Epic. The subgenre is often seen as a difficult, intimidating one to get into, and it is in real need of some fresh blood on consoles especially – I believe Fortnite could very well be the perfect vehicle to make both those things happen.