The Falconeer Review: Flying Too Close To The Sun

The Falconeer presents an inviting fantasy world and tense aerial combat, but the entire experience feels more and more empty as the hours tick by.

Tomas Sala put his name right on the box for The Falconeer, an open-world dogfighting game in the vein of Panzer Dragoon that’s published by Wired Productions, and he isn’t shy about his grand goals from the very first minutes. Those who dive in will experience a beautifully rendered fantasy world full of its own long history and intriguing factions. Riding atop a giant warbird, dodging blasts of lightning, and bracing a thunderstorm to reload, it all makes for a great first impression. Unfortunately, none of that can carry the game beyond those initial few hours, and its ambition lets it down more often than not.

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After a brief introduction via text scroll, new players of The Falconeer are dropped in and given a few missions to choose from. Each one has fully voiced dialogue to set them up, but there’s never really an effort made to key players in to the mostly aquatic planet of The Great Ursea. Unknowable jargon proliferates a lot of the dialogue, and every conversation seems to lead to the same handful of objectives. Missions are limited in scope, ranging from taking on enemy combatants, to divebombing enemy ships, to defending a package from all manner of dangerous individuals.

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If there’s one thing that The Falconeer gets right, it is its tight aerial combat. Dogfighting games used to be pretty common on consoles, but they’ve fallen out of favor in recent times, so it was a delight to climb onto a giant falcon, rip into enemies, and do a barrel roll. Early enemies offered a fair challenge, but the difficulty eventually ramped up to a point that required player upgrades. This means stopping story progress and completing simple tasks without much to motivate players other than affording a new gun. It’s a shame, as the later fights with giant warships and drakes are where the game really shows what it can do.  This is the structure of most open-world games, but The Falconeer‘s vast world of oceans doesn’t entice as much as many others.

Falconeer Twilight Gameplay

The Great Ursea is a beautiful world, but it’s also an empty one that feels small once the game truly opens itself up. There are moments where The Falconeer can be a graphical showcase as pretty as any game getting upgraded for the launch of the Xbox Series X, but there’s a distinct lack of incentive to explore its surroundings. The fact that this open world even exists is an accomplishment, but it’s a hindrance to the gameplay experience. It’s another game that would probably benefit from a focused story campaign rather than a structure that encourages repetitive side missions and travel time.

Each story mission does feature voice acting, but that also serves mostly to drag things down. The voice acting ranges from serviceable to hilariously unfortunate, with at least one accent that’s reminiscent of Groundskeeper Willie from The Simpsons. The problem is that the Scotsman is treated like a serious character, which rips players right out of the multiple story missions he’s a part of. It’s already hard to decipher the story and jargon as is, and layering on what sounds like a boisterous comedy voice isn’t helping things.

There is a great game buried somewhere in The Falconeer, but it’s trapped behind an open-world structure that does it no favors. Every choice beyond the aerial combat seems to backfire in one way or another, and while there are numerous unique enemies with interesting details, they all zoom by the player character at 90 miles an hour, so they go unnoticed. Story beats that sometimes defy fantasy tropes would pop up and intrigue, but there’s no connective tissue to string players along. Even the combat isn’t fun for long when it’s shoved into busywork side missions made for the sole purpose of accruing gold. As a graphical showcase for the new Xbox, The Falconeer may be worth a look, but here’s hoping that Thomas Sala can find the time to develop something else in The Great Ursea that takes better advantage of its strengths as a setting.

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The Falconeer is coming to Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC on November 10. An Xbox One code was provided to Screen Rant for the purposes of this review.

Our Rating:

2 out of 5 (Okay)

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Updated: November 6, 2020 — 3:00 pm

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