When I watched the final trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom for what I assume will be the first of 37 times, I immediately wanted to do one thing: Free fall above Hyrule endlessly, watching Link’s long new locks blown back by the wind as he sets a collision course for some interesting new mystery. Given that every trailer for the mysterious Breath of the Wild sequel has shown Link doing this, I’m pretty confident that it’ll be a regular part of the game, and I cannot wait. Free falling is one of the best video game mechanics, and I will outline my case why.
It’s better than flight. Flying is for cowards. Real ones know where the action is: Right here, on terra firma. Cool that you’re up there in the sky, bro. I’m headed down here, where the cool swords are.
Gravity is your friend, not your foe. Or maybe a frenemy. The tension between where the world wants you and where you can actually go is The Good Shit when it comes to game design. The most fun game mechanics make you feel like you’re not just breaking a rule, but exploiting it. Hence, the free fall: a beautifully elegant moment where you break one rule (gravity), only to embrace it moments later, and use it to do something incredible.
You can’t ignore the world beneath you. Return to my first point. If the sky is all your looking for, then you’re free to never have to think about all the interesting designed spaces in the actual game world. Falling is a tool that asks you to consider the world and understand it better. It’s why every Battle Royale game starts with you jumping out of a giant flying Roomba or whatever.
It’s pretty great for clout. Screenshots and photo modes were made for posts where you can position your game character and say “kiss my tunic, 30,000 feet.”
They made a whole game about this and it ruled. Remember Gravity Rush? And Gravity Rush 2? Incredible stuff, man.
It’s the best game mechanic since Mario’s Jump. If Mario’s jump was the moment that split the video game atom, than the free fall is cold fusion. I think. I’m still working on this metaphor. Like cold fusion, it might not actually pan out. Just know that it’s sick as hell.