Kentucky Fried Falcon?
The Falconeer really is a weird little game. It’s set in the skies of the watery world called Ursee, and it’s occupied by several factions, all vying for their slice of what little land is left. There’s something deeper and darker afoot, though, and the story is actually really good. It’s just a shame it takes a damn long time to get anywhere interesting.
Early on in The Falconeer, I struggled to connect with the story. It’s very geeky high-fantasy stuff, and with faction names like the “Mancer Order” and “House Borgia” I was initially turned off. I don’t like Game of Thrones, and I certainly didn’t want to like Game of Air Thrones…
The Falconeer’s aerial combat gameplay and unique art style kept the controller in my hand when the story failed, but only up until a point.
Gameplay is really simple because let’s face it, there’s not much you can really do with an aerial combat game. You’re kind of limited by what gameplay mechanics can be involved. And limited The Falconeer is.
Most of your time in the story is going from mission to mission, escorting a ship through treacherous territory; retrieving an item from a lost temple; raiding an opposing faction – it’s a familiar loop and that loop is short. For a game that’s so unique and against the norm with its setting, it sticks to the familiar far too much.
Something that really got me frustrated was the lack of mid-mission checkpoints, meaning that if you fail a mission, you’re doing it all over again. This is especially annoying with the multi-part missions. There was one particular mission in Chapter 3 where I had to escort a ship (which was boring) and then battle enemies while protecting a key. I died so many times on this mission and it was a real slog to redo it again and again, mainly because of the pointless escort at the start.
The combat isn’t half bad, though, and I found that it worked really well with a very simple set-up – point your bird’s cursor in the general direction of the enemy and pull the trigger. Simple and effective, if a little too ordinary; I’m flying atop a great big falcon, after all, why not incorporate some of that majestic create into the combat? I’d have liked the mounts to have had a bit more presence during combat, rather than just being a means to get around.
While I can whinge and moan about this and that, what I have no right to complain about is the game’s world. It’s stunning and like nothing else you’ll see in a game. The watery landscape is almost like a moving painting with the waves moving in a strange fashion, the night sky dotted with stars of unequal size as if poked into the world at random by the artist’s paintbrush.
Some of my favourite moments in The Falconeer came when I wasn’t on a mission, but just exploring the world a little. I’d get up high, catch a jetstream of air to propel me away from the home base, and away I’d go on the search for some hideouts or temples, inching my way close to a very achievable Platinum trophy.
I didn’t “get” the story to begin with. I’ve never been a fan of the style of storytelling that The Falconeer employs – floating heads spewing exposition. I find it hard to concentrate and I inevitably smash the buttons on the controller to skip ahead, and as I said, it seemed to be a bit out of my comfort range.
I was wrong.
The Falconeer is as much sci-fi as it is high fantasy, and somewhere around Chapter 3, the tables turned and while I was getting frustrated with the gameplay and its repetition, the jumbled story was coming together and I was pulled in.
I’m annoyed with myself for not paying it more attention to begin with, but I reckon I’ll probably enjoy the story and the lore a lot more on a second playthrough, which The Falconeer will get from me. Partly for its gameplay, but mostly for its one of a kind world.
There’s a lot more to come from The Falconeer, and as a first effort – from a solo developer no less – it’s undoubtedly impressive. I’m looking forward to seeing more from this world and what other mad ideas its creator wants to share.
The Falconeer PS5, PS4 Review
Overall - Good - 6.5/10
The Falconeer is weird and wonderful with its surprisingly good sci-fi/high fantasy story and lore-ridden world. Despite its unusual and “out there” premise, it falls into the familiar and doesn’t do anything new with its gameplay.
There’s a world worth seeing in The Falconeer and it really is an artistic piece by a passionate artist, but it feels like a piece of a larger picture.
- Unique world and setting that’s ripe for exploration
- The story is really good but it takes a while to get going
- Flight and combat mechanics are really easy to pick up
- Missions are repetitive and poorly paced with no checkpointing – frustrating when you fail
- The warbirds you ride feel underused and they’re essentially just vehicles
- Some unfortunate bugs that force you to reboot the game
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS5. Reviewed using PS5.