It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Super—wait—nevermind, it’s definitely a bird. Soar through the skies with your very own warbird for a mount in The Falconeer. You can explore the vast ocean landscape of The Great Ursee right now on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC and Google Stadia.
The Falconeer Details
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC and Stadia
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
Developer: Tomas Sala
Publisher: Wired Productions
Genre: Flight combat
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Highway to ye olde danger zone
The Falconeer is a game of open air dogfighting and exploration of a broad oceanic environment, known to its people as The Great Ursee. However, in contrast to most games of this ilk, it takes on a fantasy motif. There are no metal speedsters or fuel burning engines here.
Instead you’ll be piloting massive birds of prey across the broad seas of The Great Ursee. The overall vibe actually reminds me somewhat of Waterworld, that infamous big-budget Hollywood bust starring Kevin Costner. Sadly for Kevin, he did not get to climb on the back of a giant munitions-clad Warbird and scream through the air toward guns blazing.
Other elements are similar though. A sprawling blue maps broken up by small dots of people inhabiting water-bound outposts and colonies. Cloth and leather-clad pirates, raiders, and scavengers fighting for scarce resources and generally causing trouble for the moral segment of the population. The only difference is that The Great Ursee is often perpetually cloaking its waves with long stretches of stormy weather.
Navigating the storms, political or otherwise
From an overarching perspective, The Falconeer‘s narrative is actually quite good, if not a bit safe. Essentially there are four individual factions that populate The Great Ursee. You’ll develop relationships with each one as you navigate their tales and watch their true motives unfold.
Each seems to embody a certain trope for stoking ideological conflict. There is the mercantile-driven Civilian Freehouses and the struggling Freebooter Rebellion for example. Conversely the Northern Imperium control most of the wealth and influence, while the stoic Mance Order roots itself in science and technology.
From here multiple playable storylines unfold to tell the stories of this unique oceanic, sky-faring culture. In a sense, The Falconeer attempts to (and regularly succeeds in) blurring the lines between what’s morally obvious.
On the surface you might see a noble Robin Hood-like tale of the poor liberating wealth from the vile noble elite. Dig a little deeper though and the mechanics of class struggle begins to reveal the potential for ugliness or virtue on either side.
Explore a gorgeous seascape where ocean meets sky
I think what I love most about The Falconeer is simply letting loose and exploring on a whim. It reminds me somewhat of the same freedom that makes a game like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales so appealing right now. There’s something about swinging care-free through NYC that’s simply relaxing in otherwise tumultuous times.
The Falconeer scratches that itch much in the same way. The Great Ursee is a beautiful backdrop with a somewhat novel artistic design. This is due in part to the efforts of what appears to be a primarily one-person development team of Tomas Sala.
Sala’s strategy limits pre-generated textures. As a result, the visual style of The Falconeer relies heavily on Sala’s geometrical design and custom shaders. The result may not be on par with what a huge team at a wealthy development studio could produce. However, it’s consistent and endearing, with its creator’s intrinsic vision coming through in every sunrise and lightning storm.
Practice and repetition
Game play on the other hand is where The Falconeer may require a bit more dedication to warm up to. I love that it’s an open-world game. However, it ultimately succumbs to the greatest pitfall that plagues every game in the genre—repetitive, occasionally uninspiring missions and quests.
Unfortunately there’s a limit to the variety of tasks you’ll perform when accepting jobs from various factions. There’s so much bouncing around from point A to B to C, either simply confirming that all is quiet, or in stark contrast expressing shock every time pirates just happen to show up. This is just one example, but other variations of missions regularly repeat themselves.
Of course if you find the other elements of the game immersive, it mitigates the need to have unique reasons to launch your Falconeer into combat and exploration. Combat is fun but challenging, with fewer assists for those just learning the ropes than other dogfighting games like Star Wars: Squadrons. It takes a bit of time to gain confidence.
Upgrades and customization
In between the action there’s enough to do to satisfy those who enjoy the RPG side of character and equipment management. For starters, you can choose an appearance that suits your liking, and then pilot a range of different Warbirds with varying strengths and attributes.
Beyond this there is a system for purchasing upgrades, weapons, ammo, buffs (in the form of mutagens), and more. The ability to make certain purchases is locked to different factions, and you regularly need to purchase the appropriate permits to have access to better stuff. It makes for a satisfying loop of grinding for currency, favour, and better gear.
The Falconeer is a relaxing open-world full of exploration and aerial combat
I enjoy The Falconeer best when I’m not necessarily concerning myself with its admittedly repetitive missions. Winds currents actually influence the path you soar upon, so simply gliding on the air feels natural enough to inspire some genuine freedom as you coast around The Great Ursee. The narrative adds some intrigue as well, although prepare yourself for some wordy monologues with occasionally over-the-top delivery.
Combat is a bit tricky at first and lacks the polish of huge development resources to back it. Nevertheless there’s a modestly interesting system of upgrades and buffs that will scratch the itch enough to compel some to continue pressing onward.
+ Unique aesthetic and artistic style
+ The freedom of an open world to explore
+ Intriguing storylines
– Repetitive mission objectives
– Combat lacks some polish
– Performances are occasionally a bit too zealous
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF THE FALCONEER
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 3.5/5
Overall Rating 3.8/5 (75%)
Buy The Falconeer for Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One
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