Written by Edwin Francisco • Staff Writer
In the Falconeer, by Tomas Sala, you will experience a world called Ursee in conflict. You will see Ursee from different perspectives from different nations battling each other.
In this game, you are a Falconeer in which you ride a giant falcon. You will be flying most of the time, going around the world, exploring and finding islands, looking for missions, going through air battles.
The world of Ursee itself is strange, since it doesn’t follow the basic rules of physics. There are these places in the ocean that defy explanation like the Maw which is prominent in the map. The Maw is basically like a crack in the ocean where it looks like a scar from above. There, the water just doesn’t exist and goes nowhere. That crack is an opening to the ocean floor. The water doesn’t even go down for some reason. It just flows normally even at a weird angle. Although in there, it is mentioned that there is technology unknown to the inhabitants, thus the crack in the ocean might be remnants of long lost technology.
My problem with the world itself is that it seems just dry for an environment that is full of water and ice. Somehow I really wanted to see more variety like a desert, open fields or forest, but here you just get a bunch of islands with villages and cities on them. Some of them even seem grand to look at, making me wish I could get off the falcon and just walk around and feel the majesty of the city. So, it looks good, it just lacks variety. The clouds look really good, though not as great as seeing the clouds in Flight Simulator 2020.
There is also that day and night cycle that doesn’t really do anything except make it difficult for you to see anything at night, and let you see the sun in the morning and the two moons at night. What got me interested is actually something early in the game. It does make you feel that there are structures that are ancient as you are flying around. When you are not focusing on the missions you can get to see a few more things that won’t be told in the story.
There are 4 chapters in the game, each chapter has 10 missions to go through. These chapters of the game tell a point of view of a particular nation. Because of that, the story is actually a bit interesting because it features varied perspectives. But to tell you the truth, it was really hard to get into the story, I only got interested halfway through it, but I did enjoy it at the end. It still opens up the possibility of another game.
I think the problem with the game is that the missions will eventually feel redundant, there will be a point where it just feels all the same, and it doesn’t help the fact that everything looks the same. The missions can vary from basic attack, escort, pick up and delivery. The missions themselves are pretty much the same, but sometimes it uses a combination of those things. I really wish that basic missions can be more varied. Once you are finished with the game, you are allowed to go back to the chapters and play it again with your current level retained. There are even locations that will not be explored in the main story, it will be nice to actually explore these a bit.
Since each chapter is using a different falcon and pilot for the ten missions, it was weird for me that your experience is retained from the previous chapter. Story wise, it didn’t make any sense to me, but I do understand that it continues the progression system. For every chapter you are locked in on what falcon you are riding, and there are no special skills on what falcons can do. It’s just that each falcon has a different color and they don’t do anything special. It would have been interesting if each nation had a special ability that no other nation can do or what if you can buy falcons or other flying creatures with other abilities or skills. There’s even a dragon very prominent in the game that you can’t fly since you are stuck on a falcon.
Game Review: The Falconeer By Tomas Sala
The game does use an autosave – there is no manual save. There are no checkpoints within missions, so if you make a mistake, you lose that mission. Losing a mission will sacrifice some of the credits you have earned and it will reset your ammunition. But everything that you have bought or gained will be kept. You do keep leveling up regardless of winning or losing the mission. You can do basic missions which are always available in all the nations that you have unlocked. This will gain you some credits and your falcon will level up increasing the falcon’s set skill limits.
The music is interesting, but it’s very mundane when you are just traveling. When you are flying it’s more ambient, but it does ramp up to epic levels when you are in a battle or when you are in a settlement. It reminds me of Scottish-Irish music because of the heavy use of bagpipes.
The controls are pretty good and easy to get into. I enjoyed a lot of the flying, it was easy to use. My main issue is that the tutorial was a bit lacking. It does teach you a bit at the start, but I had to figure some of the controls on my own. I’m okay with learning the controls on my own, but making it vague was a bit off putting to me. What I didn’t like is that it was hard to determine my altitude or my speed, although if you reach the highest point, it will force you to fly down a bit. But most of it is a lot of guesswork on how fast or how high you are. The falcon will follow your moves in general, but if you don’t control him for a while, the falcon will steer itself. This is bothersome for long flights, but for some missions, the game will completely skip the long flight. Combat is pretty good, since the controls are easy to get into, it’s very natural to just use the right trigger for firing. You still need to lock on to your target, or else firing would have a hard time hitting anything.
I’ve played most of the game on the Xbox Series X, but I’ve also tested it on my laptop. I actually find the keyboard and mouse combo a little more interesting because you have more control over the gun and you can easily change camera angles using the mouse with ease. But flying is another matter. Flying in the open area is actually nice, but tight spaces are hard to do using the keyboard and mouse, and I don’t recommend it unless you really don’t have a choice. Doing the same camera angles and playing at the same time is actually difficult to do using the gamepad setup, but flying using the gamepad is a lot easier to handle. I just find it fascinating that the game can give you a different experience with a change of control scheme.
There are parts of the area that can help you travel or gain energy, like there are wind tunnels that randomly show up in the sky. Thunderstorms where you can get a little firepower energy. You can also look for and eat fish to gain some life. I find those interesting, but I feel that they were underutilized, like I felt that there could have been more to these things.
I don’t like landing though. With everything so easy to do, suddenly landing can give me a headache. With the controls, it should have been easy, like press “A” to land when you are close to the landing area. But for some reason, you have to do it at a certain angle. I know I’m not the only one in this, but it was just that I wish that there was an indicator on the map of what the angle should be, not only when you are near the landing area.
The game reminds me a lot of Star Wars Rogue Squadron (PC, Nintendo 64), which is a good thing, because I really miss that game. Or, you can also consider this as a better version of LAIR (PS3). But because of seeing dragons in the game, somehow I wish someone made a version with Panzer Dragoon in mind.
The graphics are cartoony, with straight lines all over. It doesn’t have cell shading, so it just mostly has a lot of flat colors but with toon shading applied. I had a hard time distinguishing female characters from the male, every character has a very defined jawline, and you never see your own character in the game. It’s a good thing you don’t play this game looking at yourself. It does have that style to it, which is not bad. The open world and the open ocean reminds me a lot of Legend of Zelda Windwaker, but a high resolution version of that style. I like how it all looks, but I don’t think this is something that can wow you visually.
I have mentioned in my older reviews that I love seeing the animation on small minute details, the only thing animated here are the flags, the water and the ships. I just wish there was more to this, but even the trees look hard as a rock, in which everything you see other than water is already a rock. There is only clear weather and thunderstorms, which is why I think this game needed more weather effects, since a lot of the areas are covered in ice, I would have liked to see some falling snow, but no, that did not happen. But it is impressive how smooth everything visually animates. I don’t have a 4K television set or 120hz, but with my experience, the frame rate was quite stable all throughout.
There are a few technical issues that I experienced when I played it on the Xbox Series X. Quick Resume rarely works. And sometimes the audio doesn’t work when Quick Resume actually works. To return the audio, I have to exit and quit the game and restart again. Sometimes when I’m on the town menu screen and disconnect my controller, some of the text from the menu is retained but at the same time, the screen that tells me that the controller is disconnected is also there, mixing up the text from two screens. Although all these issues are minor that really didn’t bother my experience, and none of these are game breaking.
I enjoyed the game by Tomas Sala overall. The visuals are interesting, but not varied enough. The action is fun and I got invested into the story. I think the game can drag a bit because of the repetitive nature of the missions and the visuals, but if you do push through, it can be interesting. I also don’t like the lack of a save point within missions. Will you get a grand ending? No, but there is one epilogue mission. The game is good, and I know there is room to grow in this. It’s better than some of the indie games that I’ve tried, but somehow this just doesn’t hit the mark of being a great experience.
But with everything that I’ve said, I do look forward to a sequel. Why? Because the game has so much potential. I think what made this special is that the game was done by one person named Tomas Sala.
As a single man effort, this is incredible. I presume that given more time and possibly manpower, this game can be more.
Rating of 3.5 out of 5
Game released on November 10, 2020
Developed by Tomas Sala
Published by Wired Productions