The launch of the Xbox Series X was, as expected, criticised for its lack of exclusive first party titles, but The Falconeer somewhat slipped under the radar. The game was launched alongside the new console, and was possibly one of the first new games to feature 4k 120fps on the new generation of machines. Developed solely by Tomas Sala, The Falconeer is essentially an aerial dogfighting combat game, but underneath the surface there is also a story based RPG to discover and enjoy.
The Falconeer is set in a fantasy ocean world known as the Great Ursee. The Great Ursee is made up of a number of different regions, all split between five warring factions: the Mancers, the Freebooters, the Imperium, the Civilians, and Rogue Pirates. Each of these factions has its own unique goals, strengths and weaknesses. The Falconeer contains a number of different chapters within the story, for example, the starting chapter pits you as a Civilian, and tells the story of how your settlement of Dunkle sides with the Imperium faction in order to survive and prosper. Further chapters then see you representing the other factions with differing enemies, objectives and outcomes. On average it has been quoted that the game can be completed in roughly 10 hours, however I believe that there is a lot more content to be had than that.
One of the main highlights of The Falconeer is just how awesome it feels to fly around the world, the developer has just nailed the flying mechanics. As you can see by the screenshots, the world is also incredibly beautiful and it sometimes really is just a joyous, relaxing experience to fly around and take in the scenery! The art style used for the characters and settlements also looks great, however I wasn’t a fan of the voice acting – it was all a little too “Watch Dogs Legion” in its caricatured Britishness. The Falconeer reminded me of The Outer Wilds in the mystery of the world and the story, especially with the area of the map called The Maw, a scar in the world, where the water flows into. Why is it there? Who put it there? What are the strange stone figurines poking out of it? This a a game that may leave you with more questions than answers due to it’s design.
Gameplay wise, as previously mentioned, The Falconeer is an aerial dogfighting combat game. You will be spending the majority of time flying your falcon around the world, shooting enemy falcons, birds and boats. I must admit, the game mechanics took a while to gel for me, and early on I was getting incredible frustrated following the story path, as I was easily getting defeated in combat. A quick Google search uncovered others who had found the same, and a tip from them was to veer from the story and complete the side missions, which in turn earned your character some extra Splinters (cash), which allowed the upgrade of your weapons and health. Your home settlement will provide an endless stream of these missions, however, different settlements can also provide them, as long as you have a permit to land there, or if you are not at war with that particular faction! Although not signposted in the game, this process was essential to make progress. I can see how some gamers may have been put-off when trying to complete the story missions with such an underpowered character.
The RPG elements are a welcome distraction from the missions. There are various weapons and ammo types to purchase and equip, along with potions that can be purchased from traders to enhance health, speed and agility. A trip to the Seachantress can also allow you to buy a Chant, which are buffs to take before a mission, that will give you abilities such as health boosts when defeating enemies, or to improve your chances of a critical explosion on vessels. Again, my bugbear is that none of this is really explained or signposted within the game. A lot of my knowledge came from reading websites, social media and other reviews. This exterior knowledge really made my experience more enjoyable, but it really should have been in the game somewhere.
And, unfortunately, that isn’t the only problem here. There are a couple of things that really annoyed me. Firstly, dying in a mission puts you right back at the start. So, you have to repeat the whole mission all over again. Returning to a checkpoint would have been much more user-friendly. Secondly, the mission variety isn’t that varied. Combat, fetch-quests, escort missions all really involve flying to a checkpoint, defeat enemies, and rinse and repeat until you have enough Splinters to upgrade your bird and weaponry, and then finish the story missions until you hit a difficulty curve, and then rinse and repeat again. The story is good, and the world is beautiful, but I am not convinced that it’s good enough for this constant grind. I have my concerns about the combat as well, it just doesn’t feel satisfactory enough to shoot down an enemy. The addition of more varied weapons (missiles) would have made a huge impact. Certainly, this isn’t a game that can be played for long periods at a time, however, short sharp bursts (a quick mission before bed) would be an ideal way to play.
However, despite these flaws I really wanted to continue playing and to find out more about this world. You have to also remember that The Falconeer is the work of one person, which is really quite remarkable. It’s also not a £60 AAA title, instead launching at £25. So, taking those things into account I would have to say that it is well worth a purchase, you will definitely be getting a decent game and a technical showcase for the new console.
The Falconeer is a great technical showcase for the Xbox Series X, and is well worth checking out, especially due to its low cost. It has its faults and may cause some frustration, but just flying around is a peaceful, zen experience.
- Perfect flying mechanics and is awesome just flying around the beautiful landscapes
- Intriguing story which wants you to invest more time
- Developed by one person - and is only £25
- Frustrating at times - needs more tutorial for side missions/races/etc
- Not much variety to the gameplay