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The Falconeer

Posted by GG Goblin On November - 16 - 2020

Take to the skies.

 
Across all forms of fantasy, from video games and movies to books, there is a recurring theme when the hero, or villain, climbs onto the back of a dragon or giant bird and takes to the skies. It is always a powerful moment, bringing the magic of flight into worlds were that is incredibly rare. As such, a game where the player spends all of their time on the back of a giant bird, fighting other aerial warriors and adversaries, will instantly spark the imagination. Tomas Sala’s The Falconeer not only brings that fantasy to life, but also happens to have the privilege of being a launch title on the new Xbox Series X/S, using the new technology to show just how beautiful flying around a fantasy world on the back of a giant bird can be.

 


 
And boy, it is beautiful. The fantasy world of Great Ursee is the destination for this tale, a world covered mostly by ocean with the occasional land mass. The player will take on the role of a Falconeer and spend their time on the back of a massive warbird, flying high above the stunning world below. Swooping down low, close to the ocean, the water effect is impressive, and the land masses add points of interest to break up the horizon and give the player something to focus on. The bird itself is impressive to watch, and the way it dives or gains height is filled with power and grace. Deliberately heading into a storm to charge weapons is both breath-taking and filled with potential risks, but still something to behold. There is no denying that The Falconeer is a good looking game that brings the idea of controlling a giant bird to life.

 
However, other aspects of the game are far less engaging. The story, for example, feels dry and difficult to invest in. This is a world in conflict, filled with various factions and, as is often the case, the player is dropped right into the middle of it all. The problem is that very little information about this world is given to the player at the start, and even what is shared can fall flat due to lack of context. This is obviously a deep and detailed world that has been created for the player, but it is like they have been dropped in part way through. As a result, it becomes increasingly difficult to care about what is actually happening in the world, and much easier to just carry on with doing whatever the next mission requires.

 


 
When it comes to the missions, they are again a bit difficult to care about. In an open-world fashion, the player is able to drop to the ground and pick up both primary missions that carry the story forward, or side missions. The side missions have a purpose in allowing the player to grind for upgrades, but do nothing beyond that. The biggest problem with the missions, both main and side, is that they lack variety. They will involve fighting enemies, either in the air or down on the ocean, delivering or retrieving certain items, or escorting. That pretty much covers it. Even for those players who really enjoy the act of dogfighting on the back of a bird, this lack of variety will take the shine off.

 
But still, the actual act of flight can be quite exhilarating. Anyone used to dogfighting in other games will be able to pick up the flight in The Falconeer without too many problems, although it has to be said that the birds are perhaps a little more difficult to control than your average jet fighter. The birds are not always as precise when being controlled and may take some adjustment to master. Using ocean thermals to gain height, diving to gain speed, and barrel rolling to avoid the enemy fire will see the player get the most out of their bird. The players weapon will often need to be recharged, which means flying into a storm, but that also brings the risk of damage. Dive bombing the ocean going enemies is great fun, but again suffers from the same repetition as the rest of the game.

 
The early combat is challenging, especially for players who have little experience with dogfighting games, and will only get more difficult as the game progresses. Fortunately, the player is able to upgrade as they go on, making their bird more manoeuvrable and more dangerous in the skies. For those new players, there is a tutorial at the very beginning to introduce all of the different aspects, but it is not the most friendly. Sadly, the checkpoints can be set quite some way apart, so failure will lead to yet more repetition.

 


 
The Falconeer sets up what could be a deep and interesting fantasy world, and then throws in some fairly fun aerial combat, and some impressive visuals. However, the story is difficult to invest in and the missions are so lacking in variety that it takes the shine of what could be a very exciting game. It feels like there could, and should, be more to come from The Falconeer. Players who are looking for the thrill of dogfighting on the back of a giant warbird will find exactly that here, but there is little else to hold those moments together.

 

 ★★★★★★½☆☆☆ 



 

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