If you’ve been on the internet at all in the last day or so you should now be somewhat aware of Mediatonic’s Fall Guys. In addition to trending on social media and video game streaming sites, over 1.5 million players downloaded and played the game on its day of release, quickly cementing it as one of the most popular indie releases of the year.
It’s essentially the video game equivalent of game shows such as Wipeout and Takeshi’s Castle, but its concept is also precedented by the battle royale genre that has become extremely popular with shooters in the last few years. In Fall Guys, sixty players compete in a series of obstacle courses and challenge arenas, slowly being eliminated one-by-one until a winner is eventually crowned. If that sounds chaotic, that might be because it is. The madness of watching you and 59 others pile up on a tight race course while avoiding disruptive hazards from knocking you back is intense, but it feels so fun to play in ways that other battle royale games have failed me lately.
Perhaps this is just me being boring, but the trend of including a shrinking ring mode in every popular battle royale lately irritates me. These games, such as Fortnite, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Apex Legends, feature enormous maps that slowly funnel everyone together into a tiny space, and they often require a high level of skill and communication in order to get a victory. It’s perfectly normal for competitive games to have this as a pre-requisite, of course, but my main problem with them extends to how slow each round feels.
If you’re a less skilled player like me who tends to stay away from the hot zones, you can often see upwards of 10-15 minutes without ever running into another person. Instead, you may choose to sit quietly inside a room near the centre of the circle and let them come to you. It’s pretty boring, and not quite the experience you were hoping for. But everyone gets a single life, right? So why be reckless when you could be taken out in a single shot by a sniper located a hundred metres away? It knocks you out of the game and back into the long arduous process of matchmaking for another hundred players to do that to you again. I can’t play battle royales for more than a handful of rounds, because I inevitably get so bored of them.
Fall Guys is the antithesis of this mood though. It scraps the shrinking ring and large open map structure completely, and instead centres each round around a different silly mode. For example; See Saw has you race across rotating boards where you must maintain your balance, Jump Club features a spinning beam that you must continue jumping over to avoid being knocked off the platform, and then there’s Slime Climb, an absolutely chaotic game where you have to climb a hill to escape a deadly rising sea of slime. There’s so much variety here that it never gets repetitive, and even matchmaking is much faster (despite the launch day server hiccups), so there are very few moments when you’re not actively engaging with the game.
Now we need to talk about story. With many battle royales of today, developers are finding new complicated ways to try to justify why their game exists in-universe. Call of Duty: Warzone’s plot takes place after the story of 2019’s Modern Warfare in which a terrorist group has used a chemical weapon to cut off the fictional city of Verdansk from the rest of the world, with operator groups going rogue and fighting each other in a bid to escape the deadly gas. The way it’s framed in conjunction with the lore established in Modern Warfare is a little odd, and it ultimately feels like Infinity Ward bungling in a storyline to rationalise why Warzone occurs. Can’t it just exist because it does?
In Fall Guys, the story is literally just that you’re a bunch of jelly bean fellas who compete against each other to win a crown. It’s simple and it’s fun. There doesn’t need to be a reason for it to be this way, it just is. Mediatonic could have established an entire backstory for what exactly Fall Guys is. Maybe it’s a fictional game show set in a universe where these bean creatures have lives similar to ours, or perhaps it’s a dystopian survival contest akin to The Hunger Games. The opportunity to include this kind of lore was right there, but instead it was deemed unnecessary. I think it works much better to just let the gameplay speak for itself.
Then there are the cosmetics. You can dress up your character with a plethora of different costumes, patterns and colours. Racking up more playtime means you can unlock more appearance options from levelling up or spending currency in the store. It sounds too simplistic to work, but you’d be surprised at just how many players love customisation like this. You persist at playing because you really want that adorable chicken outfit for your guy, or maybe the colour selections you already have is a bit lacking but there’s a shade of green for sale that’s just right for you. This is a bit of a relief as opposed to unlocking a new armour skin for Angry Soldier Man #23 in PUBG. I almost always ignored the skins in those types of games, but every single thing I’ve seen in the Fall Guys store I immediately need to own.
Fall Guys currently has a high player count and has dominated the social media conversation in the last few days. It’s safe to say the momentum of launch has been amazing, and it will only get better as new levels, cosmetics and features arrive post-release. I was excited to play this right from the moment it was announced, and now that it’s here I can confirm it lives up to that hype. Most importantly, it means I can now say there is finally a good battle royale game. Cheers, Mediatonic!