You’d be forgiven for assuming that “battle royale” is an inherently violent genre. Hell, the word battle is right there, staring you in the face. Certainly the most prominent examples of the category, like Fornite and PUBG, represent a particular strand of gun-toting mayhem. Mediatonic’s Fall Guys, on the other hand, presents an interesting example of a warmer, fuzzier direction for the category.
I ventured across the street at E3 earlier today, to the series of trailers where Devolver set up shop this week, in staunch defiance of the conference’s over-the-top show floor. Inside one (mercifully air conditioned), Mediatonic set up shop with a gaming demo with a kind of nursery school rumpus room aesthetic — a fitting choice for the subject matter.
I sat down in one of the bean bag chairs and demoed a trio of short “qualifying” games. The game will support 100 players when it launches on PS4 and Steam. For the sake of the demo, it was me and a handful of human players pitted against a whole bunch of less-sophisticated bots.
The first level involved racing through a series of walls. Some crumbled with contact and others were solid as concrete. You can either follow behind and let the few couple of waves of players test out their density or lead the way and risk losing precious time by slamming headlong into one.
The second level was a version of tag that revolved around snatching a tail from one of your oblong compatriots. They’ll almost immediately steal it back. The only rule is that you have the tail in your possession when the clock runs out.
The third level is a kind of catchall uphill obstacle course requiring you to avoid obstacles, like swinging hammers. I was awesome on the first two and utterly sucked at the third. There’s plenty of room for self-improvement is my point. Ultimately there will be around 30 levels in all.
It’s a fun time, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was playing a casual, mobile-style game on the PS4. Certainly there’s no hardware demands that require such hardware. It seems like an easy thing to port to iOS or Android — particularly in the age of cross-platform battle royal like Fornite. Mediatonic senior developer Stephen Taylor says the company opted for the most advanced platform for control/interface reasons, though the company’s exploring the possibility.
I suspect Devolver’s involvement played a role in this as well. The publisher’s been far more interested in console and PC gaming, along a premium charge up front, rather than the free to play Fortnite model. Fall Guys will follow this model — though the pricing has yet to be announced. Ultimately, of course, paying upfront is generally cheaper for many gamers than the death by a million cuts that is in-game purchases.