The Falconeer is the brainchild of solo developer Tomas Sala, and is a game that more than holds its own next to the new AAA releases it’s in the company of. Releasing next to titles in established series such as Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs may be daunting, but Tomas has managed to almost single-handedly create a game more than deserving to take its place alongside them. Besides, who doesn’t want to be a passenger on a bird with guns on its back?
After a short prologue, The Falconeer throws you straight into the game, and it does initially feel like there’s a lot going on with not a lot of guidance. This prologue does not really serve well enough as in introduction to the story or the controls completely, and you’ll find yourself simply learning as you go on both counts. The story revolves around a number of different factions at war with one another, and you serve as a Falconeer, completing different tasks for various people. Each chapter sees you beginning at a different location, with a set number of main missions to complete before progressing to the next part of the story. It does feel a little bit disjointed at parts, as the story doesn’t always seem to flow, especially between the chapters, and besides the different factions being at war with one another, there isn’t much else going on in terms of the story.
The main missions generally consist of either fetch or fight quests, and although this sounds like it could get repetitive, it surprisingly doesn’t. You’ll have different locations to visit, as well as encountering different enemies or targets, plus the hefty and unique rewards you receive at the end make finishing them even more worthwhile. The difficulty of these quests seems to vary greatly, with some of the supposedly easier ones being quite more difficult than expected, and you may find yourself coming face to face with stronger enemies than the mission suggested. The lack of checkpoints mid-mission is frustrating, especially for the longer ones with a lot of travelling about, and the fact that you lose a fair chunk of money when you die makes things even more frustrating still. On the other hand, finally completing one of these missions feels like a great success, and any feeling you may have had of giving up is soon turned into wanting to complete the next and the next and so on.
If you do need a change of pace from the main missions, you have a choice of other tasks to do to keep you entertained, from side missions to races or simply boosting the stats of your bird. Completing the side missions from your home location, as well as any visiting locations, are well worth doing in order to save up money. These missions differ slightly from the main ones, and can include things such as scouting and clearing jobs. Considerably shorter and generally easier than the main missions, they’re perfect to restock your funds after a string of deaths. These earnings can go towards a number of things, but you’ll probably want to be improving your mount initially, as the one you begin with is fairly weak.
While a lot of your animal’s upgrades can be purchased, such as mutagens to increase agility and regen, as well as temporary and permanent boosts to health and weapons, you have to work a little harder to earn the upgraded mounts themselves. Races exist scattered across the world, and you must find and complete them in a set time limit in order to unlock the new bird for purchasing. The Falconeer never seems to hand things to you on a plate or make it too easy, so most of these races will require numerous efforts and probably some prior upgrading in order to beat them (the majority I did with maybe a second or two to spare at most). Upgrading to the better mounts is well worth the money, as the increased stats make the fighting and flying a lot easier.
While The Falconeer is a decent sized game, it isn’t huge, and for one where you spend a lot of time flying about in between locations, there’s not a lot to look at besides water for a lot of it. The locations for the most part are not particularly unique, and just look like collections of buildings clumped together in different spots across the water, and the fact that you only ever perch on the corner of these and get no chance to explore them any more than that also feels like a missed opportunity. It does feel overall like the world could have been a little bit more populated, and the open bodies of water especially could have been filled with a few more things.
While you spend a lot of time flying across vast emptiness, the rest of the time the world is quite beautiful. Complemented by a photo mode that you’re sure to make use of, there’s something amazing about flying around a jumping whale or through a lightning storm (which consequently also refills your ammo). You will unfortunately spend a lot of time opening up your world map, as the compass and mini map don’t feel substantial enough to help guide you around. Couple this with the inability to drop your own waypoint, and sadly the serene atmosphere the game creates is constantly broken. However, it is always worth exploring every corner of the map though, as you are rewarded with friends, enemies, shrines and traders.
The game never pushes you into any missions, so you can simply fly around to your heart’s content, and chances are that you will need these times of relaxation because the fighting is anything but. The combat in The Falconeer is fast paced and chaotic, and will take more than a few attempts to get your head around. It seems simple enough at first glance, and is literally just a case of aiming, shooting and dodging, but the fact you are constantly flying and on the move makes these three tasks considerably harder. The controls themselves are fairly simplistic with minimal button usage, but when you’re in the air with often 5 plus enemies, it’s hard to focus and attack individual enemies, nevermind avoiding the incoming attacks yourself.
Getting above and behind enemies is obviously the key, but these maneuvers are easier said than done, and even being able to lock on targets and focus on the opponent’s guns doesn’t quite feel enough. You’ll often find yourself facing the wrong way or at the wrong angle, as the enemies seem to be able to avoid things quicker and smoother than you. This is definitely something you have to sink time into to get to grips with, and one which I often found myself fighting with more than the actual enemies themselves. This is made harder still by the fact enemies have a habit of glitching through rocks and walls, which I encountered on more than one occasion.
Aside from the enemy glitching, the game runs well and, as previously mentioned, is quite beautiful to look at. The ever changing sky covers a rainbow of colours during your playtime, with plenty of screenshot-worth moments. The soundtrack is also a delight to listen to, and a perfect accompaniment to soaring through the skies, changing from light and operatic to dramatic and intense when entering into a fight.
Whether you’re a fan of aerial combat or not, The Falconeer is recommendable. It isn’t perfect and does feel a little rough around the edges in some parts, but that doesn’t stop the game being an enjoyable ride, for both the eyes and the ears. While it may take some getting used to, especially for those unfamiliar with the genre, The Falconeer is impressive, and has pushed its beak in amongst the more established series it has released alongside. While it may not soar sky high, it’s definitely up there.
Review code supplied by PR.
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The Falconeer is an impressive game and a joy for the senses. Though not without its flaws, you won’t be disappointed — it’ll grab you by the talons and take you for quite the ride.
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