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The Falconeer

The Falconeer

Written by Jon Krebs on 2/3/2021 for PC   XBO  
More On: The Falconer

Come fly with me, lets fly, lets fly away. I’m not a huge Frank Sinatra fan by any means, or Billy May fan, who I just found out originally wrote that song, but the point stands. Flying is awesome. Flight in video games can also be very entertaining, as exemplified by the countless GTA V plane clips I’ve watched since being locked down. Expanding on that thrill of flying with some nice dogfights and gorgeous artistry was my latest play, The Falconeer.

The Falconeer throws players into an interesting world where the Great Ursee, a vast never-ending body of water, restricts the inhabitants to small cities and outposts built on rocky outcroppings throughout. Within this vast ocean there are several different factions that you can work to gain their favor, and some different rewards that come with that, from access to different trading vendors to new falcons you can buy.

That’s right, as the title suggests this open-world dogfighter won’t put you in a plane, but rather on the back of a true bird of prey as you mercilessly track and takedown enemies. This nice little change up does add some uniqueness to the gameplay. You eat fish to regain health, fly in circles without ever worrying about fuel, and dive into the Ursee to retrieve packages and treasures. There are a few different things we need to discuss though, so let’s take after our falcon and dive into what I think.

The good

I have to start with the visuals. This game can be finished pretty quickly, which I’ll get to, but I found myself flying around pointlessly for several hours just so that I could look at all the scenery and utilize the games photo mode to snap some new desktop backgrounds. Like the look of the Imperial capital, but think it’s a little too gray? Just fly around for a while until a thunderstorm pops up and lights it up. Even in the midst of some of the more intense dogfights, I continually found myself getting giddy about how fantastical some of the views were.

Look ma, i look like the statue

The detail goes beyond the scenery that you’re flying through though. Your falcon, as well as the enemies you’re fighting against, fit very well into their surroundings. Even if it is a bit absurd that there’s massive seafaring robots being created while we’re relegated to flying on birds, they don’t look out of place. All in all, I found the game very artistically impressive.

From a gameplay perspective, the dogfight mechanics are very simplistic. I am fairly certain that you could beat this game without ever having to barrel roll your falcon. While that may sound like a negative, I enjoyed the pared-down controls, because I found that I had to employ a little more strategy. You can’t simply fly into a swarm of enemies and rely on an arsenal of tricky maneuvers to render yourself virtually untouchable. Playing on the highest difficulty I found myself relying heavily on my wingman to defend my tail feathers and trying to find ways to pick off enemies one by one.  

Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the story that kept drawing me back from my ventures out into the scenery. The game also tells its tale in a fun way. You’re intermittently taken back to a cutscene with a woman talking to you about reliving memories as a falconeer. You then take control of three different arcs where you’ll control a falconeer for a different faction each time. These changes provide the player with differing perspectives of the tale as you discover the secrets of this water-covered world.

The story also takes several twists and turns. First you feel that your faction or city is the one to be pitied, until moments later you’re on a mission to backstab one of your former allies and position yourself back on top. The whole affair reminded me of the shenanigans you’d see at a Survivor Tribal Council, and it keeps the story very interesting. Unfortunately, that whole story wraps up a little too quickly.

The not so good

Starting where I left off, this game is very short. Accomplishing all the major milestones on the map screen that serve as a kind of progress metric, I was able to discover everything and finish the story in about 25 hours. That time total is also including all my pointless meandering as I enjoyed the scenery. As I mentioned, the game does present the story well, but there just isn’t a lot of story to be had.

The story isn’t the only way to fill your time in this game though. This game is an open-world game, allowing you to traverse the Great Ursee as you see fit in between your missions. Unfortunately, if you’re like me, you’ll find that you stop doing this fairly quickly. The open world just doesn’t provide a lot of new entertainment value. Most of what you’re doing in the open world mirrors your mission gameplay, and most of my open-world time was spent grinding bounties on the side so that I could buy a fancier falcon.

The open world does offer some exploration targets, with your map screen, showing your progress on discovering landmarks and locations, as well as completing races. Most of these can be found just by playing through the story though, and while the time trial gate races are fun, there’s just too few of them with no incentive to beat your goal time more than once.

The biggest problem I had with the game came with the progression and missions. You get dropped into this world with a bit of info about how to lock onto targets and dogfight, but a lot of the other elements come with very little form of introduction or tutorial. This leaves you wondering what the permits at the shop are for, and whether the other side missions actually have any impact.

Once you get your bearings and start progressing through the story missions though, you’ll find that they get repetitive quickly. Go escort a ship A to point B and fight off enemies along the way. Go deliver thing C to person D and come back. Oh, and fight any enemies along the way. Or the pretext can be dropped for the more straightforward "go fight enemies here." The story elements are always a little different, and you don’t find yourself doing these things for the same reason, but nonetheless the actual tasks don’t vary a lot.

While you’re on these missions there’s one last very painful point to discuss. Progression saving. I wrote a little about the need for some strategy in some of the dogfights. Because of this, you can very easily find yourself turned around, running into an enemy airship, and being eviscerated before you can escape. I like that: punish me appropriately for losing control. What I didn’t enjoy is that after that death, I now must start the mission over, which means repeating the first 15 minutes of escorting a ship with only one or two enemies popping up. Have this happen a few times in a row and you’ll quickly be lowering the difficulty or grinding bounties to try and make your warbird overpowered to avoid this.

The final verdict

So how do I feel overall, and would I recommend this game? I find myself torn. I really did enjoy this game and I feel a bit wrong giving it a hard time for being short because they didn’t fill it up with fluff and pointless tasks. I just wish there were more to it. There’s a lot of potential that just doesn’t fully feel tapped into, so I want to play more of it, but I can’t bring myself to open it up because I know there’s nothing new for me to do. But if you do acquire The Falconeer, throw a few hours at it and enjoy getting lost in The Great Ursee.

The Falconeer sets players in a gorgeous setting with a storyline that keeps you entertained and intrigued, but falls short on both the amount to do and in keeping the gameplay as interesting as the story.

Rating: 7.4 Above Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

Hey, my name is Jon, i'm a bit of a jack of all trades/master of none and that reflects in my choice of games.  I'll play anything that catches my eye, although I burnt myself out on the MMO side with Runescape and RFOnline growing up, so you're less likely to find me there.

Outside of games, I love music and making things, getting outside with my Husky Rowdy, am getting married this winter, and spend more time than I care to admit watching cooking shows on Youtube and Netflix. 

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