Part RPG, part open world dogfighting game, Tomas Sala’s The Falconeer throws you into the deep-end, both narratively and mechanically, of the cataclysm-shaped landscape, Ursee. As a mercenary atop a giant Falcon, it’s your job to take on the dirty missions given to you by the different houses you will represent across the games chapters. Political intrigue, backstabbing and the pursuit of wealth and power above all else will be yours to witness and, just possibly, figure out what happened to the world along the way.
Released in 2020 for Xbox and PC, The Falconeer now makes its way to PS4, PS5 and Switch with the Warrior Edition. The Warrior Edition coincides with the release of the games latest DLC, Edge of The World, and contains all of the games previously released DLC, making for a pretty filling package.
After a short tutorial on the basics of flight and combat, The Falconeer pops you into Ursee without any further explanations, letting you figure out what you can and can’t do on your own. Initially it can be overwhelming as there’s no explanation for choosing your character, said characters backstory and how much of an impact that has going forward or even how the games levelling system works. With a large open world to explore, waterlogged as most of it is, it’s up to you to explore Ursee and figure it out.
The main campaign is presented through chapters, each displaying the best level for playing them at. Once you’ve chosen your character, you’ll be handed a series of campaign missions to take on to progress the story and earn shards, the world’s currency. Your main house will also have a shop where you can upgrade your equipment or buy writ’s which will let you pick up sidejobs from other settlements. Sometimes a house will also have a series of sidejobs for you to do to earn more shards.
Your rider and falcon – or dragon that you can choose later on – has their own stats that you need to pay attention to when choosing them, such as speed and agility. You can equip your falcon with different ammo pots which can be recharged by flying into storms. The most useful weapon for me was the Hail Mary of a Macross-like lock-on missile barrage that made short work of most opponents. These are one use weapons that can’t be recharged though.
Sadly the games missions, including the sidequests and jobs, are quite repetitive and comprised mostly of the go here, kill that, escort that type of quest design. Along the way you’re bound to engage in dog-fights which, along with exploration, is the games meat, but more variety would have been nice. Thankfully, on the longer missions you can fast travel by “flying ahead” to specific points and can do the same at the end of a mission when it’s time to return to your house. As Ursee is incredibly large, this is an incredibly welcome feature.
Combat I found to be rather simple. Most battles seemed to descend into bouts of enemies and me flying in circles around each other, using the dash button with the roll to turn quickly to return fire or the hover button to accomplish much the same thing. There’s some variety when dealing with warships as you can grab mines in the sea – If there’s any around – to do bombing runs. Strafing runs, when you’re not circling each other, was the order of the day. Ultimately combat is arcadey and rather simplistic, which I appreciated more the further into the campaign I proceeded.
The games difficulty I did find to be uneven though. You can go from a one skull mission to a four skull mission, back to a one skull one and then right into a six skull mission. Skulls denote mission difficulty. It made the game seem a little all over the place.
Outside of the main story missions, you can explore Ursee, landing at other locations to pick up extra jobs for shards and some experience. Beyond this, and the joy of simply wallowing in the games visuals, there isn’t much else to do in the open world.
Despite been a waterworld with outcrops of rock and mountains upon which settlements have been built, The Falconeers world is gorgeous. The rolling sea is a constant wonder to behold whether bathed in the glistening orange glows of sunset or dark and angry during a storm. There’s a wonderful sense of calm as you just glide around the vast ocean, hitting updrafts or wind tunnels to propel you faster. Other falconeers and ships sail along the seas and if you look closely enough, you’ll find swarms of fish and even what appear to be whales breaking the ocean’s surface. If you’re in the mood, there’s also a basic photo mode to capture those wonderful sunsets with.
The Switch version does seem to be using some lower resolution assets compared to its big boy console brethren, with less anti-aliasing, but unless you’ve played the game on another system before, it’s hardly noticeable.
While The Falconeer: Warrior Edition wasn’t quite what I was expecting, with its RPG elements, intriguing world and arcade combat, it quickly grew on me. The story, while far too firmly rooted in dirty political machinations for my taste, still kept me playing through to see what else would happen and who would get their just desserts.
Grab this game here for £24.99 direct from the Nintendo eShop.
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