The Falconeer, made by a one-person team, offers a beautifully-crafted world with stunning graphics. The mechanics, however, could use some refinement.
Riding the back of an enormous falcon while shooting lightning sounds incredible. That is precisely why indie developer Tomas Sala created The Falconeer, with its beautiful ocean world named Ursee.
The Falconeer was announced earlier in 2020. Tomas Sala is the sole developer of this entire game, and he crafted the lore, the graphics, and the mechanics on his own. The Falconeer came out of beta just in time for the Xbox Seris X launch. Since I love aerial combat and flying, and I am a big fan of open-world fantasy, I figured I’d take The Falconeer for a test flight.
Discover the Great Ursee
Although Ursee looks peaceful and surreal from above, a war is raging between the factions that live there. The elite fighters flying over the raging waters of Ursee are the Falconeers. They ride giant falcons and roam the skies while fighting other falcons, airships, and various airborne and naval threats.
The story is where the game shines. Every aspect of the narrative is built around the warring factions. There are no good people and bad people – just different points of view. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the usual heroes that carry the entire world on their shoulders.
In The Falconeer, you explore the conflict from the perspective of each house. The main story is divided into four chapters, each told from a different angle. But as this is an open world, the player can roam the great Ursee and look for adventures, side quests, and shrines that will unlock new parts of the map when they feel like it.
The class system is simple and contains four classes: Falconeer, Mercenary, Imperial Freelancer, and Mancer Seeker. Each class dictates your starting stats, but it’s easy to improve them however you see fit, with equipment and mutagens. The class you choose does not affect the gameplay nor the story, and I wish they had more impact on the game.
Each faction has cities where you can pick quests and get paid. The problem is that side quests sometimes pay more than the main story quest, and the entire compensation system doesn’t push you to keep advancing the story. The quests are pretty repetitive, and most of them require you to go fetch something or destroy something. Missions like escorting a ship can be fun, although it is a fancy way of saying “fetch and destroy.”
Suppose you care for a change of atmosphere. In that case, the game does encourage exploration with items and missions scattered all around Ursee but exploring lacks uniqueness and diversity. The Great Ursee looks pretty much the same, except for whales that pop up once in a while.
Falconeer Goes Pew Pew
Combat is all about shooting at the “general area” of your target. While there is a reticle that helps you aim, there’s also a pretty forgiving aim-assist. I guess the point is to help newer players get their wings, but I wish there was an option for more challenging combat.
Flying the warbirds is pretty straightforward. The Falconeer has two or three degrees of freedom, which means you can go forward, turn left or right (yaw) and move up or down. Since you can’t control your bird’s speed, overshooting a target happens more than I would like, and speed mutagens make it worst. The falcons can dodge cannonballs with a dodge roll when you have enough stamina. The roll is pretty impressive, and I overused it and will overuse it again.
Storms will fill up your ammo, and air streams will fill your stamina. A glide down in a low slope will add energy as well. There is no melee option with the claws that will benefit from a dive, but you can pick up bombs and throw them on land targets.
Weapons are also pretty rudimentary and differ only in damage. Weapons with scatter or burst, or the equivalent of missiles could have been a cool addition that made combat more diverse. I also would’ve loved to see different builds with advantages and disadvantages instead of maximizing all stats.
Having said that, I enjoyed the fast and furious battles – some missions spike in difficulty to offer a much-needed challenge. I will admit that I died more than I thought I would, but deadly combats with the odds stacked against you are all in a day’s work for a hero: you battle warbirds, airships, and naval bombers. You repel swarms of bugs while taking flak from towers, all while a storm rages around you.
A few mechanics like target tracking and sub-target add useful player skill elements and can change a mission’s outcome. Like in the real world, height is crucial, and when you lose sight, you lose the fight. I did get better with time, regardless of my warbird upgrades, which felt very satisfying.
The game’s tutorial is pretty basic and needs a rework. I had to discover many of the game’s features on my own, like landing, mutagens, and shopping in general. I do hope a more comprehensive tutorial will come in time. The creator of the game, Tomas Sala, goes provide a few beginners’ tips to those that begin the journey.
The Great Beyond
The HUD is clean and helpful and doesn’t distract you from the action. More importantly, it lets you see just how stunningly beautiful Ursee is. I usually find it hard to enjoy low polygon graphics, but Tomas Sala did a fantastic job with the graphics design – Falconeer is Instagram material.
How the colors and music change when a battle begins, or how darkness and thunder surround you when you fly into a storm, is just magnificent. Everything looks so good, it compensates for the repetitive scenery of the Ursee ocean.
The Falconeer supports various input options, even a joystick, which is the perfect fit if you’re playing on PC. The keyboard and mouse also have many settings, and controllers are welcome on both PC and console.
I honestly think the game would benefit from multiplayer modes, competitive or cooperative. I think it’s a great game to play with friends and practice avionics as a falcon squadron.
Developer: Tomas Sala
Publisher: Wired Productions
Release Date: Nov. 11, 2020
Our The Falconeer review copy was provided by the publisher.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.