The Falconeer is a game many have had their eyes on since its first announcement at last years XO19. With Next Gen around the corner, The Falconeer is one of the launch titles for the Xbox Series X, while also releasing for the Xbox One and Windows PC. What was seen as XO19 was a strange twist on the aerial combat genre swapping out planes for oversized birds fighting over an endless ocean. How does The Falconeer fare as a first voyage into the next generation of games though?
In the Ursee there are two competing powers, in the north is the Imperium and to the south the Mancer Order. When the empress of the Imperium is assassinated the resulting power vacuum creates tension, upending these nations' power and stirring the beginnings of war. The story, delivered mostly through lore text dumps and map overviews, is a slow build over the 15+ hour campaign, that unfortunately sputters out instead of coming to a big conclusion. Each chapter of the plot gives you a different falconer and perspective to try give players the full picture of the political strife of the Ursee. It’s all extremely front-loaded, while you might make sense of it near the end, you’re going to be lost at the start. The Falconeer subscribes very heavily to the “Tell, Not Show” methodology that hurts it more than anything. The history and lore of the Ursee is quite intriguing, but just like the present-day political theme, doesn’t wrap up with a proper conclusion.
While the story and lore get presented to you through walls of text, the core gameplay of The Falconeer is spreading your wings and setting out across the Ursee. When flying you can dive for speed, ascend to slow yourself down, and use your boost gauge to perform aerial maneuvers like rolling to avoid enemy fire. The care taken in the animation of your falcon flapping as it needs to attain more height, or as you dive into the sea dodging bullets, is incredible. On the back of the falcon, your human character sits with a gun in hand ready to take on all kinds of large and small enemies. You can lock on to oncoming foes and track them as they fly through the sky, you and other falcons will end up majestically twirling through the sky with one another hot on each other's tails. You can use your spins, and quickly break to snap around and get some good hits in.
Large battles, filled with crossfire and chaos, show off The Falconeer at its best. With too many enemies to count you're not just calmly knocking out a few pilots, but have to adapt to the unexpected.
Across the campaigns, you'll encounter all kinds of enemy types. You'll not only face other falconeers, but also sea and airships, bugs, dragons, and even giant underwater mechanical crabs. While the types of encounters you'll have at the beginning of the game can seem somewhat boring, just you and one or two enemies in the open ocean, as tensions rise between factions, you'll find yourself in large scale combat encounters bobbing and weaving through enemy and ally fire alike swapping between prey as you see fit. These large scale fights are easily the highlight of The Falconeer. Large battles, filled with crossfire and chaos, show off The Falconeer at its best. With too many enemies to count you're not just calmly knocking out a few pilots, but have to adapt to the unexpected. These kinds of battles only show up around the midway point of The Falconeer, and could stand to do with a lot more of them.
Each chapter you'll have a new base of operations for your missions as you'll not only be working for a different faction, but you'll also be playing as a different falconeer. You begin working for the Freehouses taking on pirates, helping protect trading vessels, and getting a lay of the land. The missions all boil down to one of three things; simply traveling from point A to B to fight enemies, carrying important cargo to a destination, and escort missions where you accompany a ship to ensure it gets to its destination safely. The regular missions are enjoyable, and having to carry cargo can add a level of tension as you try to avoid doing anything that could harm your delivery, but a lot of the escort missions have an understandable level of frustration, be it the slow speed of the ship you're accompanying or having to swap targets to try to keep their attention elsewhere.
The Ursee is a beautiful place to fly. You'll see the waves shift with weather patterns, and soar by small settlements on bare rocks protruding from the depths. It's in the scarcity of definable landmasses that The Falconeer conveys how almost post-apocalyptic the world feels. The other side of this scarcity though is after the initial impact the world gives you the emptiness does more to highlight lack of variation. Instead of having natural formations that you might be able to weave between or chase down your target nearly every battle is a wide-open arena of sky and water. Even roosting at a settlement brings up a menu interface to interact with the world. The only part of the world you truly get to interact with is the time trial challenges that you'll be able to come across throughout the Ursee. It truly is a gorgeous world to look at, it just feels like you're always just above it instead of being able to interact with the world.
The Falconeer is a beautiful and fun game but I wish it took everything it did that bit further. The world that developer Tomas Salas built is gorgeous, but I wish there was more to it than flying above it. It's the same with the story that Salas has created in The Falconeer. Not only the present-day conflicts between the Imperium and the Mancers, but the origins of the Ursee are explained and expanded upon, but it kept feeling that there was more to be given. What The Falconeer absolutely nails though is aerial combat, your birds feel so good bobbing and weaving chasing down strange enemies. Combat is fun and is what will keep you driving through The Falconeer as you look forward to bigger and better battles.
TechRaptor reviewed The Falconeer on PC vis Steam using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC via Windows Store, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
- Interesting World and Lore...
- Controls Feel Good
- Large Scale Battles
- ...feels Incomplete
- Escort Missions