The Falconeer is set in a beautiful world called The Great Ursee. It is, as you’d expect from that name, predominantly covered in water. It’s also filled with impossible geography, with archipelagos, mountains, and huge chasms parting the sea itself littered all over the place. I’m thankful that you can, if you want to, just soar through the sky of this beautiful world and take your time to simply drink it all in.
Of course, The Falconeer isn’t just a game about flying high above the world and casting your eyes over it. At its core, The Falconeer is an aerial combat game, one where dogfights are carried out with riders atop massive warbirds. You need to take on a variety of different missions to advance the story and discover more about they factions and everything that’s going on.
Most of your time in The Falconeer will be spent flying around and getting in fights. Your bird controls like a plane would, which means that in fights you basically shoot in front of you, barrel roll, and whizz around trying to avoid incoming attacks. I’m being a little reductive here, but honestly, I very rarely found myself needing to do anything else. Most of the dogfights ended up playing out like a dog chasing its tail, except I was always hoping to be the head of the dog and never the tail.
It’s fine for what it is, but I don’t think this is the game to go for if you’re looking for a game to sell you on the idea of aerial combat. Instead, this game is much more about the story it’s telling and the world it’s set in.
It’s also a world where, at first, glance, you’d think the bond between human and warbird was integral to both of their survival, but it’s not that straight-forward. You can upgrade both your weapons and your warbird if you earn enough money to be able to do so. The weapon upgrades amount to different weapons or more powerful versions of the ones you know and love. They’re reloaded by flying through thunderstorms and collecting the electrical energy within them – for the record, that’s one of my favourites aspects of this game.
Things get a little uncomfortable when you’re looking at upgrading your trusty warbird though. You can use mutagens to enhance your warbird, which give you passive effects that will improve your bird’s ability to fly around and do its job. One of these is called Vein Rider, which is a mutagen that coats the cardiovascular system of your warbird in a self-repairing mucus. Lovely. Others are rather dark and more twisted, like Sark Blood, which stimulates a bird’s adrenal gland in such a way that your bird is put into a permanent state of fear. Given how mystical the opening of the game is, and hows its touted as such throughout, there’s something deeply disturbing about little details like this.
I think this tonal disconnect resonated with me because it felt indicative of how I felt about the game as a whole. I don’t dislike The Falconeer, but I’m also not particularly enamoured with it.
At its best, The Falconeer is a beautiful world that allows you to explore the airways above a beautiful and mysterious sea. It’s one where the people within it feel as though they’ve got a thousand stories to tell you, and as you play with each of the factions, you’ll discover that the politics of each group are just as complex as those in the greatest fantasy worlds.
However, at its worst, The Falconeer feels like a boring game of tag rather than an intense aerial dogfight. There’s a chance that I simply came into this expecting something different from the combat, but even as I grew to adjust to the way my bird moved and how I could attack, it never felt all that satisfying to down an enemy.