Developer: Tomas Sala
Publisher: Wired Productions
Genre: Action & Adventure, Dogfighting, RPG
Platform: Xbox Series S
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 10/11/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
From the Clouds They Dive…
Launching as a day one title alongside the Xbox Series X|S, The Falconeer has been an anticipated title for many. It’s been on my radar for a while, and I’d frequently seen beautiful shots of soaring birds above the ocean appearing on my Twitter feed. As a game optimized for next-gen, it would be silly not to take the chance to review it.
The Falconeer features dogfights and air combat, while also taking place in a fantastical open world. I was intrigued how these two elements would work together, and how its stylised graphics would look on my Series S! So, was this a title worthy of a day one launch? Let’s find out.
The Battle for The Great Ursee
As the name suggests, you take on the role of a Falconeer aboard a majestic Warbird. However, there are various clans to be found throughout The Great Ursee, this world largely consisting of a vast ocean. You play as a new character in each chapter from a different faction, experiencing an overarching conflict but from a new perspective each time. I think this was a great feature to really delve into the politics between each clan and their mindsets.
You are not bound to your role as a Falconeer though, and can switch to another role in each chapter. They will have different stats however, so choose what you prioritise most. Will you want to be a classic Falconeer, defender of the people with a fast rate of fire weapon? Or, would you like to be a Mercenary, eager to fill their pockets with coin and weilding a more damaging Magnetar rifle? The choice is yours.
The story is told through various characters throughout the game, and the fantastic British voice acting really brings it to life! Before each mission, your path of attack is shown via maps, so you can see what the objectives are. Though I do think this fits in with the theme of battle, I personally found it affected the impact of the story. I’m a big fan of narrative-based games with cinematic cut scenes, so it may be down to preference. But, The Falconeer definitely has more of a focus on gameplay.
Do a Barrel Roll!
You can tell straight away that The Falconeer very much plays like a classic dogfighter. Having recently reviewed Star Wars Squadrons, the similarities were evident in the use of long ranged weapons and targeting systems. However in The Falconeer you really do feel like you’re flying a bird, rather than a somewhat clunky ship.
This feeling is induced by the acrobatic mechanics, being able to twist and dodge out of the way of incoming bullets. Swoop up into the air and dive down to gather some stamina, allowing you to carry out these barrel rolls and boosts of speed. Being able to switch the game up to 120 fps via the menu made movement felt incredibly fluid. Fights were frantic and fast-paced but never faltered to run smoothly.
I did find the missions could be a little repetitive, which is often the risk in a dogfighter. You would be flying from objective to objective, encountering enemies along the way. Escorting an ally or transporting an item cropped up a lot, and I regularly felt like I was hindered from much more. For example, you were told to search for an item but wouldn’t actually get to do so. Instead, a character would tell you it wasn’t there and you would move on. I would like to have a mechanic so you could actively scan an area, to feel a little more involved.
Trial and Error
Now, I don’t pride myself in being amazing at video games. I am more often than not pretty bad, but I play them for fun, so who cares? Well, it became an issue in The Falconeer with my lack of skill combined with a lack of guidance. The prologue teaches you most of the mechanics; left bumper to dodge, left trigger to dive and pick things up from the ocean, and right trigger to shoot for the basics.
However there were many things I had to find out for myself. You were thrown in to choosing a character, but the interface was somewhat confusing and unexplained. I didn’t really understand what I was doing when scrolling through the characters and roles, or whether it had an impact on the game, and the appearance seemed to just switch them between male and female. I also didn’t realise you could dive for fish to increase your health or stamina or travel through jet streams as this wasn’t told in the prologue.
You could argue it’s more about discovering things for yourself, which I am happy to do in some games. But when I’m on a lower difficulty and my health is being eaten up in seconds, with no idea what I’m doing wrong, I would like more guidance. The lack of checkpoints was also frustrating, having to start from the very beginning of a mission if you died. It meant inching forward and progressing at each hurdle only to have to go through the whole process again. I think a few practise battles in the prologue could have been helpful, but maybe I’m just terrible!
A Bird’s Eye View
For a break from the battles and missions, it was great to have the option to explore the open-world. It broke up the repetition and was an absolute treat for the eyeballs. Brights blues of the night sky and brilliant oranges of the sunset were wonderfully eye-catching. I particularly loved how quickly they could change as the weather turns in this dangerous ocean environment. One moment the sea would be calm and there were clear skies, and the next you’d be surrounded by lightning and ferocious waves.
There was a wonderful variety of locations too, not just above the ocean but beneath its depths. Combined with an almost Celtic style soundtrack to pump you up in battle, and ambience for a relaxing ride above the waves, the atmosphere was immense. I love the whole concept of Falconeers riding Warbirds in a torn world anyway, but the atmosphere the visuals and audio created was so immersive.
The stylised, somewhat poly-like design worked so well and is absolute proof that even in next-gen, a game does not need to have ultra-realistic graphics to excel. I really liked the enemy character designs in particular, such as the Mantarays and flying beetles. This brought a hint of steampunk, particularly with the flying airships too.
Smooth Sailing From Here on Out
I experienced next to no issues with The Falconeer on my Series S; as mentioned before, not once did frame rates drop, which is ideal for the acrobatic movement and pace of the dogfights. It enhanced the agility of a Warbird and had me drawn into controlling it, often just swooping and diving for pure enjoyment.
There was an occasion where I died and instead of fading to black, I seemed stuck in a weird first person view, able to look around and see enemies flying above me. I only had to quit to the main menu which wasn’t much difference as I would have lost my progress in the mission anyway, but it’s an issue worth mentioning.
Overall though, I was super impressed with how well it played! It was a bit of a jump going from Assassin’s Creed Valhalla with its focus on realism to this, but I think The Falconeer uses the capability of the Xbox Series X|S just as well.
Back At Sea
Besides the main missions, there’s plenty to do in The Falconeer to have you returning to The Great Ursee. Being able to upgrade your Warbird is an incentive to keep playing, using the currency of Splinters to buy mutagens, armour and weapons. You can earn Splinters through both the main story and the side missions, which involve deliveries, assaults and more.
I liked that doing missions could increase your trust or friendship with factions too. For example, once I’d bought something from a merchant on that island, the side quest giver would give me missions with higher pay. It could also work the other way round, a merchant opening up more items for you to buy once you’d done a mission.
Races are also available to complete, giving you the chance to unlock and then buy a better Warbird. Though not exactly ground-breaking, it added something extra to do. There are plenty of achievements to be unlocked too for some juicy points to your gamerscore.
Day One Worthy?
In my opinion, The Falconeer was a solid day one launch title; it combines dogfighting (something classic and done before) with fluid and acrobatic movement to make the genre its own. Though the story is a little lacklustre, the gameplay is intense and frantic, and the atmosphere immersive. It’s something much different than what usually saturates the market, with a fantastic concept.
Though personally I have found the game a little difficult and think it should provide more guidance, not all of you will feel the same way. Also, it hasn’t put me off playing the game, as I want to improve and continue exploring The Great Ursee. For £24.99, it’s definitely worth giving a go and taking to the skies!
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase The Falconeer for Xbox Series X|S here.