Despite some growing pains, it’s a good time to fall off inflatables
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is free-to-play now, for close to a week. Over the last weekend, I spent hours getting back in; acclimating to the new model, browsing the new rewards, and marveling at all that’s changed since I dropped off. And despite some early wrinkles, I can’t really deny it. It’s a good time to be back into Fall Guys.
It’s almost impossible for me to divorce Fall Guys from the moment when it launched. It was the first summer of the pandemic, and with everyone inside and socially distanced, Fall Guys was a welcome reprieve. Much like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, it became a forum for social interaction. But that’s not to say Fall Guys wasn’t good on its own merits, either.
We all fall down
What Fall Guys really nailed then, and still does so now, is the chaotic game show feel. The moment when you start up a new show and 60 players are standing in a massive block, waiting to hurl themselves face-forward through an obstacle course or race track. Shows like Wipeout and Takeshi’s Castle (MXC, for Spike viewers) are all about this chaos. Getting it in video game form, however, is a little tougher.
It’s not just the multiple players careening down the same course. It’s the physicality of it. The way everyone bumps into each other. How a bean totters and tumbles, then gets flung around the course by a giant mallet. It’s like seeing people run down a hill of trampolines and trapdoors in comically large sumo suits.
Fall Guys stays comedic because you are always acutely aware of the difference between success and failure. You can envision, in your mind’s eye, what a perfect run of the brand-new Track Attack looks like. It should be so simple to cruise along the middle lane, threading the needle and blowing past the competition through speed ring after speed ring.
Yet your own follies, combined with players bumbling and fumbling alongside you, makes it all the messier. And it’s all the more fun for it, too.
It helps that the new courses are spectacular. Track Attack and Speed Circuit are already new favorites of mine, and Blast Ball is a fantastic addition to the final round pool. The mixture of dodgeball with time-delayed bombs and floors that could fall out from beneath you makes for just the right mix of careful planning and surprise swings.
The upside of Fall Guys going free-to-play is the sheer number of new players flooding into the servers. Mediatonic boasted about hitting 20 million players in the first 48 hours, which is a good number in the abstract. In the actual moment-to-moment though, it meant everyone was jumping on. And it was ridiculously easy to get a match.
Anecdotally, I know plenty of people who dove back in due to the free model. Heck, I’m one of them. I fell off a while back, and it’s been a blast to have such a good excuse to revisit why I loved Fall Guys in the first place.
Of course, with the move to free-to-play comes a few growing pains. We took a look at some of those issues the other day, as users have painstakingly detailed ways in which the free-to-play model is not working for them. I agree with some of it too, from my own experience getting back into Fall Guys. Seasonal pass progression could be more emphasized for wins, and the item pricing is a little high for my own taste.
Fall Guys clearly takes after the Fortnite model, which makes some sense. But it also feels like Mediatonic is still figuring out what numbers it needs to tweak to make that model specifically fit Fall Guys. These feel like the type of growth issues that any game has, trying to fine-tune a free-to-play model.
I’m hopeful that Mediatonic can navigate it well, though. This return to Fall Guys has reassured me that, through all this time, the developers behind the game have still been able to nail that particular spark. While winning itself feels a bit different due to Crowns no longer doubling as currency, winning still feels exciting just for the thrill of winning itself.
It’s still a joy to mess with my friends in Squad games. It’s exciting to discover some new strategy or time-saver in the white-knuckle platforming challenge of Slimescraper. And it cracks me up to see Fall Guys highlights pop up on social media, seeing all the hilarious ways people can triumph and fail in this game. It’s still figuring some stuff out, but it’s good to be playing Fall Guys again.