The battle royale genre isn’t one I typically find myself gravitating to. Initially it was due to the slow pace and winner takes all aspects of it, something I wasn’t particularly interested in when I was playing a FPS or 3rd person shooter. To be sure I’ve enjoyed some of the more modern variants (Apex Legends comes to mind) but for the most part I’ve left them alone unless I get pestered by a bunch of mates to give it a whirl. I was destined to sleep on Fall Guys as well, for much the same reasons, however after being convinced to give it a go I’m pleased to say it’s probably the most enjoyable battle royale variant I’ve played. There’s definitely room for improvement here of course, but that’s really nothing but good news for the developers who weren’t expecting this level of success.
Fall Guys bills itself as a “party royale” game, combining elements of the party game and battle royale genres. This means that most levels are pretty simple mechanically, enabling pretty much anyone to pick it up quickly and feel like they’ve got a fighting chance of making it through to the finish line. The battle royale part comes from the successive rounds whereby a percentage of the players are eliminated, with a final round deciding the ultimate victor. The point of all of this? Well to get points so you can spend them on a wide variety of cosmetics, some of which require a good number of first place finishes in order to unlock. You can, of course, spend some cash to unlock some cosmetics but for the most part you’re going to earn them by playing. The secret sauce here is that the store only has a limited selection that rotates every 24 hours, tempting you back in regularly if you’re chasing a particular costume, pattern or colour.
After the initial teething issues with matchmaking finding a game has been a pretty consistent experience with most matches filling up quickly and usually with a close to maximum number of players. There was a significant drop off after the first couple weeks though and the matches have been a little bit less full on average as a result. Still even with only 40 players in a match you’re still able to have the full Fall Guys experience of bumping into other players, getting slung off the map by an obstacle or getting trolled by much higher skilled players than yourself on particular sections of certain maps.
The maps where you’re playing by yourself are pretty much all platform puzzles, save for a few which are platform puzzles with an additional mechanic (like playing a variant of OZTag). Most levels are a mix of skill and luck, meaning that even the most apt player can be knocked out if RNGesus doesn’t decide to shine his love on them that day. Of course this can be a source of frustration for some but once you’ve played through each level a couple times you’ll be able to avoid the worst parts of the RNG. Part of the problem is the tutorial isn’t particularly sufficient in teaching you the nuances of how certain mechanics interact, leaving you to figure them out in the middle of a dense pack of other…actually what the hell are the player objects in this game? Rounded tube people?
The team game levels are probably the least favourite of most players, especially the three way type or when you end up with unbalanced teams due to having an odd number of players. The former always devolves into picking on the weakest team, whether they’re the ones short a player or the ones having the hardest time with the level’s mechanics. To be sure it’s a source of good laughs with your mates when you decide to ruin one team in particular but having been on the other side of it numerous times I can attest it’s not exactly fun. The 2 sided ones are usually a bit more balanced but I had been placed into unbalanced teams more than once. I’m not sure why that’s a thing honestly as there’s a number of solutions I think would work pretty well (like say giving a player a bye or swapping the extra player in and out).
One improvement I’d like to see (and it seems may be on the horizon) is local co-op. This is definitely the kind of game where playing it with multiple people in the same room would be an absolute blast and it’s a bit disappointing that it wasn’t a launch feature. I can kind of understand why, it’s not exactly an easy thing to put in and this looks like Mediatonic’s first big release of this nature, but still I can’t imagine that a request for it didn’t come up in play testing. I guess we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed for future patches.
There’s also a raft of smaller issues that will likely be addressed sometime soon, given that most of the work so far has centred on them ensuring the game is, you know, actually playable rather than smoothing out its rough edges. Simple things like not being able to see your friends easily (which is exacerbated by the devs turning off custom names for now), the lacklustre grouping up experience which seems to randomly fail for any number of reasons and other minor issues that aren’t game breaking but would go a long way to making Fall Guys a much more polished experience.
As an overall experience it’s pretty great. The chaotic nature of the first few rounds means that skill isn’t as big a part of it as you might think and this makes it way more approachable for your typical non-gamer type. Skill plays a much bigger role the more rounds you qualify for though, especially in the last 2 rounds where you’ll only be facing a handful of other players. Still it’s not like you’re exactly punished hard for not winning games all the time, you just can’t buy the top tier cosmetics. In a game where everyone is some random mishmash of whatever collectibles they have and is usually in the middle of a throng of other players it’s not like they stand out much anyway.
This is however one of those games that I don’t think I’ll ever bother playing by myself. The real fun of this game comes from having a laugh with your mates as you all struggle along and inevitably end up getting eliminated for the stupidest reasons imaginable. Of course I think that’s largely how the game is intended to be played anyway, save for the few people who really want to get those top tier cosmetics and so play the game obsessively, with or without a crew.
Fall Guys is a great blend of two genres I didn’t ever think I’d see come together, let alone find myself enjoying. The mix of chaos and skill makes it feel like the playing field is a lot more level and certainly takes the sting out of being eliminated, well most of the time anyway. I’m sure the next few months (along with the new medieval themed season) will see a lot of the more glaring issues with the game ironed out. If I can convince more of my friends to give it a crack I’ll be sure to come back as it really is great for those session games where you get together, have a laugh and generally muck about for a couple hours together.
Fall Guys is available on PC and PlayStation 4 right now for $28.95. Game was played on the PC with a total of 3.7 hours play time and 29% of the achievements unlocked.