The new Fortnite Impostors mode is the gaming equivalent of those knock-off action figure sets you see in discount stores. Sure, at first glance it’s the Avengers, but then you notice Batman’s been shoved in there, the painting’s so poor it looks like Captain America’s helmet is merging with his flesh, and going by their agonized expressions, every other one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is begging for the sweet release of death.
Epic Games has previously been accused of “borrowing” other people’s work, from dance moves to an entire game. But no one was really expecting it to so blatantly copy Among Us, least of all developer Innersloth, whose co-founder, Marcus Bromander, stated:
“We didn’t patent the Among Us mechanics. I don’t think that leads to a healthy game industry. Is it really that hard to put 10% more effort into putting your own spin on it though?”
Yes, Among Us’s find-the-traitor concept is shared by several other card, board, and party games, but Innersloth used it as a foundation for something special. Epic, on the other hand, has literally named its new mode after Among Us’s antagonists, and it only gets more blatant from there on in.
Hidden killers? Check. Defenseless crewmates, er, “agents”? Check. Emergency meetings? Check. Long and short tasks? Check. Sabotage? Check. Voting people to their deaths? Check. Dead players roaming around as specters? Check. Even the map’s layout is, as Innersloth’s Gary Porter has pointed out, insultingly similar to Among Us’s The Skeld. Impostors does tie into Fortnite’s lore, but that isn’t remotely enough to justify its existence.
And like those shoddy superhero toys, Fortnite Impostors doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Sure, most of Among Us’s constituent parts are there, but they’re so haphazardly assembled that Impostors can barely stand on its own two feet. It may not be in danger of choking a toddler, but playtesting should have at least revealed how loose its legs are.
Even before you can tackle a single task, you’re confronted with Fortnite’s mess of player models, which might be fun in the main game but just falls flat here. As murder-centric as Among Us is, it’s charming with it. Yes, you can wear a silly hat and coat, but it has a singular, adorable aesthetic; it feels like you’ve all got a reason to be roaming whatever arena the game has presented you with. And when the killing starts it helps dial up the tension, since you’re all cut from the same cloth.
Jump into Fortnite Impostors and there’s every chance you’ll find yourself sharing a level with not one but two Supermen, a man with a banana for a head, Ariana Grande, and more. They’re so mismatched in terms of appearance that it’s just distracting. It’s like turning on John Carpenter’s The Thing and discovering Wilford Brimley’s been replaced by Macho Man Randy Savage; it might be funny at first, but in the long term it’s just terrible.
Then the emotes start; you can count on a good two minutes of people spamming “Get Schwiffy” before they start tackling their tasks. Do I begrudge people for messing around like this? Not really, as Fortnite’s whole economy is based on player purchases, and I know if I’d spent real money on an emote or skin I’d be sorely tempted to show it off. But Epic doesn’t seem to have given any thought to the way Impostors would (or wouldn’t) gel with Fortnite’s culture and player base.
The actual in-game mechanics are inferior to those of Among Us in nearly every respect. Take Among Us’s security room, which lets you observe other players, potentially catching the impostor in the act. Sounds pretty handy, right? But it’s also a bit of a gamble because, with the screens obscuring your vision, you could get a knife to the back, or if you spend too long in there, you could get accused of being the impostor because no one’s seen you tackling any tasks.
Impostors’ security room, on the other hand, is just a room where a task may sometimes appear. Yes, there are monitors, but you can’t use them. It’s almost certainly been shoved in there because Among Us has one, but wandering in there doesn’t put you on edge. The same is true of the maintenance room; Fortnite Impostors may have all but cloned Among Us’s map layout, but no one’s thought about why that layout exists or how it elevates Innersloth’s title.
Then there are the emergency meetings. In Among Us they can end with your being fired out of the airlock, but especially when playing with friends, playing detective or (if you were the impostor) trying to talk your way out of being caught is a hell of a lot of fun, even if you fail. But Impostors limits you to using quick chat, so you’re stitching together very basic sentences. You can say that you trust a player, but you can’t say why or why you find another player “suss.”
Even on PC, there’s absolutely no nuance, no chance to catch someone out or use the gift of the gab to redirect a well-placed accusation. Fortnite Impostors gives you a handful of emotes — nod, point, shake your head, and so forth — but they’re next to useless when it comes to conveying information. The verbal sparring that makes Among Us’s meetings so great (once you kick the player who keeps asking people if they’ve got a Snapchat) has been flushed down the toilet.
Impostors does have a couple of new features that are absent from Among Us, and one of them is actually pretty decent. The ability for Impostors to randomly teleport players around the map is a good way of bypassing the bunching that sometimes occurs past Among Us’s halfway point, when players start crowding together in fear of their lives. But the other feature, the ability to turn everyone into bananas, feels like it’s been dreamt up by a Red Bull-fueled five-year-old. Yes, it sows chaos and it’s entertaining the first time it happens, but it seriously risks unbalancing the game.
Fortnite has a lot going for it; just the fact that it has the pull (financial and otherwise) to get major stars performing concerts inside the game is mind-blowing. Some have even labeled it the “most important video game currently in existence.” A significant chunk of Fortnite’s success certainly comes from Epic’s ability to identify trends and properties that will appeal to their core audience, either licensing or just plain duplicating them.
While Fortnite may have been heavily, heavily inspired by Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, Epic did at least add its own distinctive spin. But Impostors is an exercise in missing the point. Of course, there are other Among Us knock-offs on Steam, but Impostors is from a company with more money than God. Epic saw how popular Among Us was and decided it wanted in on the action.
Without any real understanding of what makes Among Us so appealing, Epic Games has delivered a superficial, charmless, and ethically questionable imitation of a much better game. Fortnite’s Impostors mode couldn’t be more sus if it tried.