Waterworld… With Birds?

HIGH It looks gorgeous.

LOW The combat is not good.

WTF The Maw.

The Falconeer is a third-person aerial dogfighting game set in a beautifully rendered world full of intriguing lore and sky pirates riding on the backs of giant falcons. Diving deep into the setting is what pushed me forward, but the combat and missions are tedious at best.

At the start of The Falconeer, players choose a randomized character and a falcon. There are only two different types of bird to start with, one that focuses on more health, and one that focuses on being faster. The opportunity to buy new birds presents itself later.

The story begins with a prologue that acts as the tutorial level. This is where I got a glimpse of what the world — called The Great Ursee — is. It was flooded long ago, so the remaining population learned to survive on island cities, either working together or competing for resources, information, and power. Sky pirates are also a faction and a constant nuisance for everyone.

There are four different factions within The Great Ursee: The Northern Imperium, The Mancer Order, The Civilian Freehouses, and The Freebooter Rebellion. Each faction has its own history and leaders that are vying for more power. This adds drama, and also some doubt throughout the story. 

Flying in The Falconeer is peaceful while gliding across the sky, over the expansive ocean, and taking in the cities scattered below — it’s a sight to behold.

My favorite area is The Maw. It’s a giant chasm in the middle of the endless ocean that splits across a portion of the map and goes all the way down to the ocean floor, revealing what used to be. Flying through The Maw was awesome, and lent a sense of wonder to the world. If The Falconeer was only about exploring on the back of a giant bird, I would have been quite content. Unfortunately, the game relies heavily on aerial combat, and this is where it falters.

The dogfights in The Falconeer are… not good. Everything relies on flying a falcon quickly, making rolling maneuvers, and locking onto enemies to shoot them down. Unfortunately, poor camera controls made it frustrating to try and line up shots against enemies and my falcon-mounted laser gun felt useless. Even after upgrading, I didn’t see much change.

After being so enamored with the world, it was disappointing to discover that the central gameplay wasn’t great — it felt like it was taking away from the experience, rather than adding anything to it.

Another issue is that The Falconeer has a few different mission structures, but after doing them several times, they got repetitive. I was able to predict exactly when an enemy was going to attack while escorting ships, and I always knew when a carrier mission would turn into a dogfight. Simply being in the world and exploring was more enjoyable, and I opted for that every chance I got.

The Falconeer is a beautiful game with an intriguing setting that engaged me throughout my playtime, but the dogfighting disappoints and there’s just not much to it otherwise. It was created by a one-man studio so this is quite an accomplishment, but the fact remains that the final experience falls short of greatness.

Rating: 7 out of 10

— Cody Bolster

Disclosures: This game is developed by Tomas Sala and published by Wired Productions. It is currently available on XBX, XBO, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the XBX. Approximately 15 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood and Fantasy Violence. There is frequent gunfire and shooting down other enemies riding on birds or on boats. When the player’s falcon gets hot, small droplets of blood may appear.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options, but there is the ability to change the UI colors.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Subtitles are automatically included in the game and are used whenever anyone is talking. The subtitles cannot be resized. When entering a dogfight, the minimap will turn an area red and enemy icons will pop up, showing they’re attacking. There don’t seem to be any audio cues without some sort of visual alongside.

Remappable Controls: This game’s controls are remappable

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