Birds of Prey
Console launches are an exciting time. Promises of new experiences, new IP’s and new visions of old classics flood a market that magically feels ready to take the next step in technology even though the previous is just now being pushed towards its limit (a story for another day). The Falconeer, soared its way onto the Xbox family of consoles to help bolster the meek launch lineup. Does this indie have the heart to lift an otherwise DOA lineup for the giant green X?
This bird is low-poly and crisp.
Visually, The Falconeer mixes a nice blend of low-poly models seen in something like Ashen with a pop of colour similar to Sea of Thieves. No, The Falconeer is not going to win any graphics awards nor is it even close to showing what the new console can do. That being said, the game is crisp. The animation alone is worth the price of admission. The falcon you pilot and there will be a few, is gorgeously animated and while blocky at first glance, is animated with such grace and fluidity. The water effects which make up a large chunk o the title are also well done. The ever-changing weather conditions have a real impact as they outwardly affect the world you inhabit. The world geometry is solid albeit a bit lacking in variety, but everything on display does shape a fantasy world that is believable after a bit of exploration. The smooth camera movements do a great job of framing the action and keeping you at the centre of the fun when you don’t opt to track your enemies.
Reach for the Crimson Skies!
Control-wise, The Falconeer is a joy to behold… or actually hold. Early trailers certainly gave off OG Xbox gem Crimson Skies vibes. To be fair The Falconeer doesn’t fall in line with the arcade dogfighting sim but what is here is well balanced and well designed. The flight is expertly handled using the left thumbstick as you gracefully fly through the skies. Little touches like charging your cannon via kinetic energy is not only well implemented but also adds a layer of depth not teased at by previous arcade flight games. While the vast majority of the game encompasses dogfighting and action, it would be a disservice to ignore the amount of escort/fetch quests. Thankfully, these are never dull. The flight control itself is engaging, rewarding, and dare I say relaxing. Gliding through the skies feels effortless but exciting. Diving from the skies above into the lush seas below never gets old as you aimlessly wander when not on an active mission.
Perfectly balanced, triumphant scale.
The audio side of things has been handled just as well. The voice acting while not groundbreaking does a fantastic of capturing the atmosphere. The character’s voice work is convincing and fits the mood of a semi-futuristic waterlogged world. The music has the perfect balance of triumphant scale but the subtleness to let it slip back into the background all during the course of one battle. The weapons do not sound the best and there is no point in dancing around that. At no point did it come across that your cannons were packing any type of substantive punch. That aside, what is on offer is well done. Explosions rumble, birds cry everything fits nicely while not outstaying its welcome.
On the whole, The Falconeer is solid. Unfortunately being one of the only “exclusives” available at launch puts this indie in a rough spot. No, it will not, cannot, and was not designed to be the killer app needed to launch a new generation of consoles. What is on offer is good. The story does not lack in intrigue and will even pull at the heartstrings of Game of Thrones fans with the House Battles and the world that has been created. However, given its release time and being viewed under that lens, it’s not the next step some were looking for. During our time with the title, it was played on Xbox One and Xbox X series. The next-gen performance boost was negligible at best. Yes, it runs fast, yes it runs smooth but that’s unfortunately it. The Falconeer failed to really sink its talons in. While this could be a solid start to a franchise it could also be a one-off title that is lost to time.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Xbox
Release Date: 10/11/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Action & adventure
Developer: Tomas Sala
Publisher: Wired Productions
Download link: Microsoft Store