Welcome to the Ursee, a water world ravaged by an unknown cataclysm that has left the remnants of humanity scattered across various islands and outcrops of rock. A world filled with political machinations and betrayal by the Houses that run what’s left of this oceanic wonderland.
The Falconeer is – on the off chance that you aren’t familiar with it – an open world dogfighting game that sees you take on the role of the eponymous Falconeer, an errand boy astride a flying mount whose role it is to do whatever it is that your House demands of you. Presented through chapters, the game’s story sees you take on the role of different Falconeers for each House. There’s just enough backstory for your character and its class to add some depth to the world, but that plays second fiddle to the Machiavellian machinations and political aspirations going on around you.
The Falconeer was released in 2020 for Xbox and PC and now the game has flown to PS4, PS5 and Switch in The Warrior Edition. The Warrior Edition contains all of the game’s previous DLC including the latest expansion, Edge of The World which adds new classes, mounts and quests.
If you’ve played the Falconeer before, then you’ll know what to expect from the DLC as, ultimately, it’s more of the same as the base game. For everyone else, the Falconeer drops you into the Ursee without much in the way of explanations. There isn’t any form of handholding in how the game progresses – though this is rather linear in choosing your missions – or how to make the most out of the world’s sidequests, levelling or buffing your warbird. Initially, this can be overwhelming but in short order you’ll figure it out and be on your way to sabotaging your allies in the name of self-interest, power and profit.
At the beginning of The Falconeer, you can choose immediately between the first three chapters – each with its own recommended level – though it’s best to follow them in order to both level up and maintain narrative continuity. Missions reward you with shards, the world’s currency and each House – and some locations – have shops to upgrade your equipment from or purchase writs, which give you the go-ahead to work side jobs for other settlements.
The Edge of The World DLC adds three mini-campaigns and two new classes to the game that can be accessed in any chapter from the get-go. First-time players won’t be aware that these classes are actually additional content. The integration though, is seamless as the classes and their stats fall in line with the rest meaning that you aren’t overpowered at all for the coming missions. If anything, you’re rather vulnerable until you start earning some shards, get used to the combat system and can equip some better weapons. The new chapters though, while not essential to the Falconeer’s overall experience, does take you to new locations with a larger emphasis on the worlds supernatural elements.
Mastering the game’s flight controls can take some time, especially when it comes to speeding up and evading fire. Tracking enemies in combat is troublesome at first, but eventually gets easier as soon as you realise that dashing and turning at the same time, or hovering quickly, is the best way to keep your target in sights as they zip around you. Your default weapon’s ammo can be recharged by flying through lightning storms, though the best weapon, a Macross-like multi-missile attack, is a once-off use.
Combat tends to be rather simple though, adding to The Falconeer’s arcade feel which was preferable the further into the campaign I progressed. Most battles end up with you and the enemy circling each other until one of you goes down. There’s a little bit of variety when dealing with warships or ground targets as you can grab mines and perform bombing runs.
The missions and sidequests, however, are repetitive and comprised of simplistic, go here, kill that, escort that quest design. And while there are dogfights aplenty, the simplistic mission structure and lack of any truly epic fights – even when dealing with a Kraken – was at odds with the world lore and elaborate political plots. Most missions also require you to travel vast swathes of ocean to complete said simplistic tasks and then back to your House again after. While there can be a zen-level of relaxation during these periods – especially if you take your fingers off of the controls and watch your mount glide off course on its own – the fast travel feature that lets you fly ahead to specific points both at the start and the end of a mission, is a welcome boon.
The Falconeer does suffer from an uneven and inconsistent difficulty. Mission difficulty is rated by skulls and you can go from a one skull mission to a four skill mission, to a two skull mission and straight into a six skull one. Coupled with the lack of mid-mission checkpoints you can find yourself replaying long scouting or escort sequences before engaging in that combat sequence you failed previously.
Outside of the story missions, you can go gallivanting aboard your mount across the Ursee, to explore the world and take on those sidequests and jobs to earn more shards. However, beyond admiring the game’s stunning stylised visuals, there’s very little to do in this large, open seascape.
Visually, The Falconeer is gorgeous. While the Ursee may be a giant ocean from which rise outcrops of rock and towering mountains upon which settlements have been built, the stylised visuals and lighting and tiny details turn what could have been a drab experience into a visually charming one. The rolling sea is constantly engaging to behold whether it’s dark and violent during a storm or bathed in the sparkling glow of an orange sunset. Other ships and Falconeers traipse across the world and if you get close enough to the surface, you’ll find schools of fish and whales breaking the surface.
The Xbox Series S version of the game gives you a choice between a 60fps higher resolution mode or a silky smooth 120fps mode with a softer image. Regardless of which mode you choose, the game’s art design stands out superbly. And if you have the inclination to, there’s also a photo mode to capture your explorations with.
The Falconeer’s story wasn’t quite what I was expecting. The political machinations left me feeling a little cold, but the intriguing world and lore kept me coming back for more.
Visuals8/10 Very Good
- Arcade combat
- Gorgeous visuals
- The lore
- Inconsistent difficulty
- Very little to do in the open world