Developer: Tomas Sala
Publisher: Wired Productions
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
Also available on: Xbox One, Xbox Series S, PC
Release: 11th October 2020
“Become the Falconeer and soar through the skies aboard a powerful Warbird. Uncover secrets lost to the sea as you join or oppose different factions and clans scattered throughout The Great Ursee. Take advantage of multiple Falconeer classes with individual stats, weapons and warbirds that can be upgraded through winning battles, completing quests, discovering secrets, or applying Mutagens or Chants. Use ocean thermals and energy to dive, dodge, barrel-roll, and twist to gain advantage.” - The Falconeer website
The Falconeer, a game created by solo developer Tomas Sala, is a game that, to be honest seems a little bit lost on me. The lack of story and poor controls make the experience of playing a little pointless and a bit of an effort. The art style, while cute and seemingly on trend, does give it a real indie feel, which makes complete sense given this is what it is. I however prefer realism, especially when considering that this game was an Xbox Series S/X launch title. After reading reviews from other outlets giving this game 4/5, I was super keen to jump in and give it a go. Unfortunately, the game didn't really live up to my expectations.
I feel a little harsh criticizing the production value of an indie game, but the lack of substance is too formidable to look past. From a bare looking menu, to a very average looking character selection screen and no real explanation as to what anything is, the ‘indie’ vibe is too overwhelming. This would be fine if this weren't a launch title, that promised to be so much more.
The story is usually the aspect of indie games that wows me. Given the low production value and below average graphical style, it is usually the storyline that takes an average indie game and boosts it to status of ‘excellent’, in some cases capable of rivalling their AAA competitors. Unfortunately for Falconer, this is where they fell short, having an extremely paper thin storyline. What little storyline there was, was further diminished by the downright terrible voice acting. It really pulled focus and distracted me from ever forming any sort of immersion.
From a very short 30 second introduction, you're thrown into a bit of a tutorial/training mission. This training mission quickly randomly morphs into something else, as the kingdom and the empress are attacked by pirates. Without giving away any spoilers, there are key events and then, rather than bolstering or continuing on from such events in this part of the game, you find yourself looking at a map selection screen. Then, once you select a map, you're just dropped into a level with very little direction or reason to continue.
In fact, from the very beginning of the game, all 4 chapters are open and available to play; which I found a little strange. Not only could you play any chapter in any order, but you were able to skip chapters completely. This is yet another contributing factor towards the issues surrounding storyline and progression. I went from chapter 1, to chapter 4 and well, once you've used the overpowered Mancer warbird in chapter 4, there's very little reason or willingness to return to the previous chapters and use far less impressive characters. There are 2 main types of missions, there is all out warfare and then somewhat driving miss daisy feeling delivery missions. These delivery missions featured minimal combat and lacked any real urgency and excitement.
Despite the art style not quite being my personal preference, the game does look and run well, especially on my Xbox Series X. Running at 60fps, the movement is fluid and extremely smooth which is important, especially in those fast moving battle scenes. Although it's not exactly a testament to the full potential of the Series X, it is nice to see how smoothly the console handles this type of motion.