The Falconeer Review – Fly, fight, flee, repeat

Reviewed on November 18, 2020

Platforms:

Xbox One, PC, Xbox Series X

Released:

November 10, 2020

Publisher:

Wired Productions

Developer:

Tomas Sala

There is something magnificent about flying that us humans get all caught up in. This fascination probably comes from the fact that we can’t naturally obtain flight ourselves and we do love things we can’t have! That’s why we flock to games like The Falconeer to get our flying fix. To soar, twirl, and feel like we’re freefalling with the grace that only a bird has.

The Falconeer is an open world flight game that mixes elements of adventure, air combat, and dogfighting mechanics. It was also an Xbox Series X/S launch title and has become a bit of a hit with those looking for exclusive titles to play on their new Xbox systems.

Its development story is also touching. Its dev, Tomas Sala, came up with the idea when he gave up on another project that he realised was too dark and was being too influenced by his state of mind during a personal/relationship breakdown. From the ashes of the previous game, he built The Falconeer, a game that he says incorporates some of those dark qualities (the depths of the ocean and not knowing what lies beneath) but also elements of hope and light (exploration that brings forth a ‘zen’ like feeling). With all these cool things going for it, I really wanted to love this game.

The Falconeer is set in the mystical world of Ursee that is made up of different ports that are scattered around the ocean. As a Falconeer you and your falcon complete jobs and tasks for the people of Ursee. This world is filled with unrest and lots and lots of pirates in the shape of other Falconeers, who try their best to kill you whenever you are on a job. The interesting thing about Falconeers is that you can barely see them. They are just a speck on the back of their bird, even though it is them you are controlling who are in turn controlling the falcon. Yeah, it’s a total Russian Dolls situation.

“Combat is ok when you only have a few enemies at your tail, but when there are more, the dogfight gameplay is a bit of a dog’s breakfast.”

Your main port is Dunkel, where you are given a number of missions to complete. Before accepting the mission, you get an insight into the number of pirates (based on the number of skulls) and the award you will be given. The currency in the game is called “splinters” and you can be awarded between 300-1,000 splinters based on the severity of the mission. These missions can range from picking up cargo, dropping off a package, escorting ships through the troubled waters of Ursee, or straight out battles to rid parts of Ursee from pirates.

These missions are my biggest gripe with The Falconeer. They are super repetitive. You get a mission, fly to the marker, the battle music starts, and the fight begins. Sure, the dialogue before each sets the scene for that particular mission, but everything else seems to be very copy paste.

When controlling your falcon, you can fly up, down, and dash/roll to the side. The movements of the falcon are graceful when making your way around the open world, but when you’re in combat, it’s another story. Combat is ok when you only have a few enemies on your tail, but when there are more, the dogfight gameplay is a bit of a dog’s breakfast. I found myself not knowing where enemies were coming from or being unable to shoot my weapon.

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Your weapons are powered by thin electrical looking tubes that are strapped to your falcon’s back. To charge these tubes you must make your way to the “thunderstorm” areas of the map. The electricity here will charge the tubes up, but be careful, they may become too electrified and burn out. You can actually physically see this burn out occurring, but I’m not too sure what this does in regards to firepower.

Dying, which I did quite a bit on the pirate heavy missions, sends you to a cut scene where a woman in a bird suit (who I’m guessing is a symbol of The Falconeer and his falcon – half bird, half human) waxes lyrical about trade, or death, or war. I’m really not sure where this bird suit woman fits in. I’ve seen the game referred to as being part of the “fantasy” genre but only this character seems to fit that bill.

At the beginning of your first playthrough, you can select an appearance for your Falconeer. It was nice to see a selection of different skin tones to choose from but it was unfortunate to see that every single character was male. Out of about fifteen skins, not one was a woman. In the hours that I played, I only came across, other than the bird suit lady, one other female character. Very disappointing for a game made by a dude in 2020.

What isn’t disappointing however is the gorgeous graphics and feel of the world. The sound of the lapping of the ocean beneath you as you fly is hypnotic. The characters, when shown, are interesting and the voice acting captures the essence of the industrial mysterious islands of Ursee.

Another fun addition is the upgrades. These come in forms of “mutagens” that can be bought for splinters from traders. Mutagens are injected into your falcon and improve their speed, agility, and the time it takes to heal. However, even these were repetitive and when I got myself thousands of splinters from completing lots of jobs, I didn’t really know what to spend them on…

Though the game was bloody gorgeous to look at, I just couldn’t get past how a number of its elements were highly repetitive.

5

Average

Positive:

  • Flying around is calming
  • Graphics are gorgeous

Negative:

  • Repetitive gameplay
  • World can seem empty
  • Battle mechanics are frustrating

The Falconeer is a gorgeous game with some meditative elements to its gameplay. But with the good comes the bad, and repetitive and frustrating elements removed any zen the game had conjured. Its combat mechanics need to be smoother, its missions more varied, and a bit more cohesion is needed to connect the random bird suit lady in the death cut-scenes to the rest of the world. There were moments where I enjoyed soaring around and exploring, but overall, it was the sameness of the game that made me become bored very easily with The Falconeer.