After Fortnite’s UFO-themed season finished with explosive results for the alien mothership Sunday (Sept. 12), players for the new Season 8 have a cosmonaut chimp skin to strive for.
One of the featured skins in this season’s Battle Pass is J.B. Chimpanski, and that’s just one of the space references you’ll find. (A Battle Pass is 950 V-bucks, or Fortnite’s in-game currency; you can purchase 1,000 V-bucks for $7.99 USD.)
Chimpanski appears to reference the Cold War around the 1960s and 1970s, when the Soviet Union and the United States were trying to engage public support through competitive space shots. This effort is popularly called “The Space Race”, although it did include moments of collaboration such as the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975.
Related: Fortnite’s ‘Operation: Sky Fire’ event just crashed a massive UFO mothership
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One of the new loading screens for Fortnite, for example, shows Chimpanski heroically posing in front of two Soyuz rockets blasting off into the sky. In Russian, the text reads something like, “To the Soyuz! To the stars!” The word “Zvezda” or “star” also was used to name one of the Russian International Space Station modules, which launched in 2000 and provides life support and living quarters for the orbiting complex.
Chimps were one of a series of animals used to test spaceflight for humans, back when little was known about the effects of radiation and gravity for short-term excursions of a few hours or days. However, the Soviet Union didn’t use them.
The first hominin in space was Ham, a chimpanzee launched Jan. 31, 1961 on a Mercury-Redstone 2 mission from Florida’s Cape Canaveral. The Soviet Union, by contrast, focused on flying dogs; the most famous was Laika, who died during her 1957 orbital mission due to overheating.
Another nod to history comes in a Fortnite spray emote, which says “Chimpanski wants you” and shows the primate pointing playfully towards the screen. That art references First World War-era posters made in the United States.
The posters showed Uncle Sam (a symbol of America) pointing a finger towards the viewer along with the text, “I want you for U.S. Army: Nearest recruiting station.” First produced in 1916, these posters were meant to invoke moral responsibility among young men (as other genders were largely not included) to volunteer for army responsibilities, Time said in a story exploring the history of the trope.
Related: Here’s how Fortnite’s UFO-themed Chapter 2, Season 7 worked
You can check out more of this season’s space rewards in this story’s slideshow, but briefly speaking you can expect to see such things such as a mini-rocket glider, an adorable moon rover emote, a “solar slicer” harvesting tool and a few other items related to the Astronaut P-14 set. And we’re not nearly done with space references in Season 8 yet.
The new season will see you battling sentient cubes scattered on the island, which references a three-year-old Fortnite trope. The Cube, also known as Kevin, was first seen on the Fortnite island in August 2018 near Paradise Palms, according to the Fortnite fan wiki.
Related: Fortnite flashback: Just how accurate was the black hole that launched Chapter 2?
There’s a bit of lore surrounding these cubes, such as how they got corrupted and received those strange characters on their surfaces (fans believe an antagonist called The Storm was involved.) Sunday’s mothership-exploding event revealed that the alien spaceship had a whole bunch of these cubes inside a single room. The cubes fell from high above the island when the mothership exploded, populating the Fortnite island.
“You should have known we’d return,” the trailer for Season 8 states, referring to the cubes. “You thought you saved your little reality. All you did is save it for us.”
In between fighting cubes on the Fortnite island itself, players can jump into portals called “The Sideways.” These are areas where lower gravities exist, making a somewhat moon-like experience where you’re jumping higher than usual. Anecdotal evidence from media reports indicates it may be a little harder to build defense structures in these environments, but you’ll have to test for yourself.
Fortnite continues to lean hard into space content as it moves into the new season. Past seasons have included plenty of space allusions as well, such as a chase to find an ancient astronaut in 2020’s Season 2, Chapter 3, regularly dropping “Star Wars” content on the franchise’s May 4 Star Wars Day holiday (although Fortnite skipped the opportunity in 2021), and ending an October 2019 season with a black hole that devoured the entire map.
Fortnite also saw a big off-screen development last week. Creator Epic Games received a U.S. District court ruling in its favor Friday (Sept. 12), according to Space.com sister website TechRadar, regarding a lawsuit targeted at Apple direct payments for mobile apps.
The future of Fortnite mobile payments still needs to be worked out, however. The ruling did not stipulate Apple needs to let Fortnite back in the App Store (Apple kicked Fortnite out when the dispute arose in 2020). Nor did the ruling agree with Epic’s allegation “that Apple is an antitrust monopolist in the submarket for mobile gaming transactions,” according to the ruling statement. A mobile app payment lawsuit against Google has not been resolved yet, either.
To see what else is new in Season 8, check out the full list of changes on Epic’s blog to learn more about the battle pass, shared team quests and new weapons.
Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
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Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for Space.com who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is the author or co-author of several books on space exploration. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota in Space Studies, and an M.Sc. from the same department. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University in Canada, where she began her space-writing career in 2004. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level, and for government training schools. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @howellspace.