The Falconeer Review – Killing Many Birds With One Bird
I don’t have much experience with air combat games. The three I’ve played the most are Ace Combat 7, Elite: Dangerous (I know it’s technically not air combat, shut up), and Jetlancer, which is one I already gave my review on. What’s fun about these three is they each take place in their own world, away from our own. They could do whatever they want, and they use the technology within their games to explain the backstory without needing to dump exposition onto you. I eat that up. There’s just something fascinating about the world of air combat games that make them enticing. Same is the case with The Falconeer.
The Falconeer is an open world air combat game developed solely by Tomas Sala and published by Wired Productions. One thing to keep in mind as you read this review is that Tomas Sala made this entire game, sans the music, by himself.
Take To The Skies
The story of The Falconeer is a complex conundrum of politics and mythology. On a world mostly taken by water known as the Great Ursee, several factions and groups are beginning to collide. Throughout the game, you take on the role of multiple Falconeers on different sides of this conflict, usually as privateers, and thus get to see differing angles on it. Each chapter comes with its own secrets to unearth, and its own revelation at the end.
The Falconeer’s story was okay up to a point. It seemed like basic political war, except people are using gigantic falcons and robotic crabs to fight. Maybe it’s themes would go into using living things for the needs of the very few, I thought. However, at about the halfway mark, the game goes in an unexpected direction (at least for me). After that, I became rather interested in not just the story, but the world itself, as I began to pay attention to it.
The Falconeer has quite the well-built and deep world, and I’m not talking about its infrastructure and ocean. On the surface, environment design is top notch. Every town has its own look, and from time to time you’ll just see a random interesting sight that catches the eye. One of these is “The Maw,” a literal split in the ocean as if Moses himself parted them, going a mile long. Then you get deeper, finding perches that, once landed upon, will have a statue emerge from the water while a narrator explains the mythology of the world. Things begin to connect and make sense.
Not only that, but as you explore the world at your own leisure, or at the leisure of the story, you’ll get to listen to the fantastic soundtrack done by Benedict Nichols. There’s a wide range of noises you hear, from subtle Mongolian throat singing floating on the wind, to the chants of many that welcome you home. It makes exploration all the better.
Soaring Through The Winds
So how does it feel to explore this world? Well, I would say flying a gigantic falcon has never felt better. Every movement is smooth, and makes sense within the limitations of the creature. There are ways to increase your speed and handling, which we will discuss later, but default felt just fine. There aren’t many maneuvers you can do, like loop-de-loops or twists, but you can dodge to get out of sight or to turn back on an enemy you passed. Basically, this is a good feeling air combat game.
Combat itself is rather simple. Most points, it’s just aim at dude and shoot, then try not to be shot so you can regain some health before going back to shooting again. From time to time, you will find mines you can pick up and drop on opponents. In addition, there’s sub-targeting, which will take off specific parts of a ship to make things easier, there’s the ability to command a wingman that tags along on your journeys (though it’s only two options), and there’s differing ammo types that have different effects.
To get ammo at all, you have to either purchase it or absorb. There are multiple places to absorb ammo, but the most common way is flying through storms. Most storms will give you the default blue ammo. The only other ammo types I found were red, which has a chance to set targets on fire, or green, which can slow enemies down. Make sure not to collect too much ammo, or you will lose some from overcharging.
You’ll come across a fairly decent variety of foes, from boats to airships, to giant bugs to dragons. They did well to at least attempt at giving you different things to fight, but it doesn’t make the combat much more fun. It’s just fun to see what the next enemy they’ll pull out will be.
The Wide Open Sea
Now, The Falconeer is an open world game, so there’s more to do than just going from point A to point B, shooting every sky pirate along the way, though that is what most of the story missions are. You see, The Falconeer has several settlements and other kinds of buildings scattered across the world. At settlements, you can take a random side mission for extra currency, browse their rather limited stock in the store, or sometimes be able to purchase a new falcon. I was only able to get a new one once in the second chapter, which required me to beat a time trial.
Though buying a new falcon isn’t the only thing you can do to upgrade. At some stores you’ll be able to purchase new weapons and mutagens. With weapons, there isn’t variety in quantity, but quality. You’ll start with a rather shoddy rifle, but will be able to acquire a better quality one with money, or just get a different weapon altogether. Mutagens are ways you can upgrade your falcon’s stats. They are similar to weapons in that they grow in quality as well, though you can only equip six at a time, so you’ll have to consider what’s most important. What stats are you going to put more into, health regen, speed, agility? These are the kind of decisions that mean life or death.
Preparing For Combat
At least, for the most part it’s an important decision. Getting into battles has been a sort of stressful moment for me. Every time I enter one, I wonder if my luck will get me through it, because sometimes I will enter a fight and instantly be bombarded by fire, killing me with no chance to fly behind cover or fight back. If this were Ace Combat, I could maneuver well enough to dodge, but the enemies in The Falconeer have amazing aim, almost never missing a shot. The fact that I might’ve been poorly equipped doesn’t mean much in those situations, since I died almost instantly. However, being poorly equipped has also been the reason I died in many a battle, though being properly equipped is a problem for me.
So, this game, on even Normal difficulty, requires you to grind a lot to get the proper equipment to survive some tough encounters. This would be fine normally, if the grind wasn’t so… uninteresting. There may have been more ways to earn money, but the only ones I knew of were missions, collecting it off dead enemies, or helping ships you happen across by escorting them to their destination. The sub-missions that you can do get rather dull after a while, and I really just wanted to get on with the story. And if you die during any of this, you lose money, which means more money you need to earn through dull activities.
End Of The Flight
Though that’s the only actual problem with the game’s structure. Sure, there were bugs. One that really got to me was when I just couldn’t pick up mission delivery items. This happened multiple times, and every time I had to reload a save just to get things working again. Other than that, I was enthralled with the game once I got to the halfway point.
So, overall, while the gameplay loop between story missions really wore me down, I would say The Falconeer is worth it just to get to explore this beautifully crafted world. It does so much right with everything else, the world, the visuals, the music, the feel, the story, that the poor gameplay loop meant almost nothing. By the time I reached the credits, I knew I played a good game. At thirty dollars, I would say that’s worth it enough. If it’s on sale for three-quarters of that or half? I’d say get it.
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Reviewed by Freelance7 on PC. Game provided by Wired Productions.