Game: “The Falconeer”
The Falconeer originally launched on Xbox Series X|S & PC in November; published by Wired Productions and developed by Tomas Sala, the game is an aerial shooter in the same vein as Panzer Dragoon and Star Fox, where riding a giant bird with a laser attached to their back is the order of the day. And instead of being on rails, the bird has been unleashed to explore a fully open world known as Ursee. The Warrior Edition comes with all current DLC and the new content, The Edge of the World baked into the game; we’re not about that spoiler life so we won’t be going into the finer details of the DLC story in this review. The oceanic world presented is full of mysteries and secrets to unlock, as well as action-packed battles against pirates who have taken to the skies as well as the seas to destroy anything that, well, isn’t a pirate. Throughout the game’s four chapters numerous clans are encountered; each similar to the last, their only desire is simply to survive against ruthless regimes and privateers, and as the titular Falconeer, your services are often called upon to help trade relations, explore new vistas or escort and protect salvage operations in an effort to create a world of peace.
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Huge world full of secrets to find|
|+ Casual approach to the story|
|+ Graphically stunning|
|Negatives||– Combat is finickity|
|– Story is too back and forth|
|– A little grindy in places|
|Our Playtime||18 hours|
|Available On||PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One, PS4|
For the first ten hours of The Falconeer, I accomplished barely any of the main story; perhaps a couple of missions in the first chapter, but nothing more. Instead, I decided to explore the world that the one man developer, Tomas Sala, had created. This is a video game that begs to be explored from the get go and the moment the cross button is pushed to start the adventure, is when The Falconeer: Warrior edition encourages exploration.
Starting with the main story, these are presented as missions and are found on your ‘Home perch’, an area that is in essence your base of operations, and changes with each chapter as you travel the world. Each step in the story is conducted in bite sized missions, perfectly balanced in a way that provides a challenge, especially in later levels, but not so bad that if you failed a mission, twenty minutes of progression wasn’t lost because there are no mid-mission checkpoints. It is a simple set up and the annoying downside to have a base of operations is that this creates a lot of back and forth, as the person dishing out the orders tells you head to point A, then point B, then back to base, which, coupled with the limited pool of mission-types that the game throws out, could easily have led to The Falconeer becoming a little repetitive in nature.
As it happens, this repetition has been thought about and the ability to fast travel to the objective and back home again has been baked into the game from the off, and by utilising the PlayStation 5s SSD, it becomes an instantaneous jump which significantly cuts down mission times to such a manageable level that they don’t feel like a slog or become too repetitive. One thing that certainly never got old was the novelty of having mission orders shouted at you through the DualSense controller – it legitimately never got old.
Side missions are conducted in a far looser way, and have to be sought out and discovered, in the complete opposite to Ubisoft’s ‘everything is on the map and you have to clean it up’ approach. While they are optional, the side missions are encouraged from the off as part way through the first chapter, the difficulty suddenly jumps. There are two options to consider progressing, either keep trying and inevitably fail, or exploring the world to unlock some lovely upgrades to help you on the way. This is more of a laissez faire attitude to progression as The Falconeer unlocks handsome rewards for taking the time out of the main story, including various upgrades to weapons and even the war bird itself – a pro-tip – a bigger gun and a faster bird is always better than trying to learn enemy flight patterns.
Speaking of which, the combat in The Falconeer can be frustrating and sometimes unfair, particularly in later chapters when swarms of enemies are taking their shots at you and health seems to disappear quickly. These issues aren’t due to unfair AI, but can be pinned directly on the control scheme, with barrel rolling locked to ‘L1’ and was very inconsistent, appearing to work when it wanted to. Pressing the button varied between a slight turn to a full 180, with no real rhyme or reason. A suggestion would be to map it to ‘L2’ where a half press could bank the bird and a full press would result in a swooping dodge. Other implementations such as the fast travel and short missions, meant the experience wasn’t hindered to the point of putting the controller down, but it is an annoyance that cropped up more than once.
This relaxed approach to The Falconeer’s story is combined with an amazing art style that is hard to describe and do it justice. Characters appear to be if claymation met cel-shading in a tavern and had a drunken trist. It sounds like it shouldn’t go, but by golly do they make a beautiful baby, and the visual style isn’t even the game’s main selling point. Tomas Sala has said that gameplay is the most important part of The Falconeer, and it is a silky smooth experience that never stutters during even the most intense battles. While frame-rate aficionados will point out that the 120fps mode present in the Xbox Series X version is missing from the PS5 at the time of publishing, it was patched in after it’s release on the Microsoft console and could well make an appearance down the line for the Sony machine too.
The Falconeer does what similar games wish they could; presenting a huge open world that is full of wonders to discover with a story that doesn’t overstay its welcome. It has an easy going air about the proceedings and doesn’t pressure players to progress to the end of the game. In fact, taking the time to explore the world and discover the various storylines offered more value than the journey to the credits. It helps that getting sidetracked offers lovely unlockables so that when it comes time to take part in the main story, the giant bird is equipped to do so. Combat can be tricky and the lack of variations in missions can be a chore, they are two small blemishes on an otherwise well rounded package.
In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher provided VGamingNews with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.
Fans of Thomas Sala’s The Falconeer, can rejoice as The Edge of the World DLC is coming to Xbox Series X|S and PC on 5th August. The expansion provides a wealth of new missions to undertake on your ‘big ass bird’ as well as new locations in The Great Ursee.Read On
Wired Productions have announced that their BAFTA nominated aerial extravaganza- The Falconeer: Warrior Edition is seeing a release on PlayStation 5, PS4 & Nintendo Switch on 5th August. This package will include all previous DLC from the Steam and Xbox releases as well as the up and coming expansion Edge of the World. It is a game that will certainly fill the Panzer Dragoon / Star Fox shaped hole in your gaming library.Read On