Out of all of the launch titles available on the Xbox Series X, there was something about The Falconeer that had me intrigued the most. Besides the fact that it’s a new IP that revolves around aerial combat (something I love in video games), publisher Wired Productions also hadn’t been shy in showcasing the fact that it can play at a silky smooth 120fps in 1800p (or just 60fps at 4K if you prefer resolution). I wanted to see THAT in action.
I’m happy to report that it looks and plays as nicely as I hoped it would too, with The Falconeer certainly harnessing the power of next-gen within its presentation and gameplay mechanics.
The Falconeer takes place in a water-filled world known as The Great Ursee that is inhabited by four warring factions, with the player taking control of the titular Falconeer and soaring through the skies with their mighty Warbird. You’ll work with the four different factions throughout the game’s campaign, with each having their own different goals to work toward and varying levels of prosperity that help them stand out from one another. As you learn more about each faction and the folk that control them, you’ll see how tensions have risen across The Great Ursee and will, hopefully, be able to find a way to bring peace to the seas before everything boils over.
It’s a surprisingly deep narrative, with plenty of lore to be found across each of the factions that really helps build a meaningful world in the game. It’s difficult to pick sides as you work your way through each job throughout the campaign and it certainly does more than enough to keep players engaged until they reach the story’s conclusion – even if there were some moments where things could be a little bit more convoluted than they needed to be.
The Falconeer’s gameplay all takes place within the skies of The Great Ursee, with the player piloting their Warbird as they weave through the air and cross paths with the many enemies that want to bring the adventure to a swift end. Actually flying your bird feels blissful throughout, with it smoothly manoeuvring around with ease and able to pull off an array of special movements such as a speed boost or barrel-roll by filling up their energy bar. It just feels so damn good to do throughout, and honestly, I never tired of simply flying around and soaking in the sights of the world.
Whilst flying is easy to get to grips with, combat brings with it nuances that those who have enjoyed the dog-fighting genre previously will be familiar with. Chasing down targets to ensure you’ve got them in your sights? Check. Timing your attacks carefully to consider the shifting direction of foes? Check. Ensuring you’ve got enough ammo by flying through surges of lightning? Ok, this is the first time I’ve had to do that before and it feels atmospheric and brilliant here, but you get my point that you’ve got to manage your weaponry carefully.
Either way, combat in The Falconeer does feel good, but it will take some getting used to. You can’t simply rely on a target reticule and the fire button, but have to pursue foes and carefully line up shots perfectly. The same goes for the mines that you can drop on seaborne enemies, which require pin-perfect precision to accurately hit. There’s definitely a learning curve there, but with a bit of experience and the upgrades you can earn in the game, it shouldn’t take long for players to find themselves a top-shot Falconeer that is taking part in some gruelling encounters.
Whilst the flying and aerial combat mechanics themselves remain enjoyable, there is an air of repetition to be found in the gameplay. Whilst there’s plenty of missions to complete in the game, a lot utilise similar objectives that can see you do a lot of the same things over and over – especially in the side missions, which could be a little lacking when compared to the main story missions. It was a bit of a shame, especially since the completion of side missions is tied to getting some of the best gear in the game, meaning you have no choice but to perform some mundane tasks over and over if you want to get the best stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, some of the main missions do have some spectacular moments and The Falconeer can really shine in places… there just isn’t a whole lot of consistency with the thrills. Also, the lack of checkpoints in missions that force you to replay dialogue? Come on, we’re in 2020, games should have grown out of that – especially since SSDs let players dive right back into the action these days.
One thing I haven’t touched on in this review is just how good The Falconeer looks on the Xbox Series X, with it managing to look fantastic in both the game’s native 4K and 60fps and the ‘Performance Mode’ which allows for an 1800p resolution at 120fps. The world itself is full of wonderful sights, whether it’s seeing a thunderstorm in the skies or the sun glaring over one of the many wondrous locales you encounter, whilst the silky smoothness that the 120fps brings manages to look and feel ‘next-gen’. Sure, PC gamers might have that, but it was my first experience of it on console and it ensured that the Falconeer constantly wowed me… it’s just a very pretty game.
The flying and air combat of The Falconeer is really fun throughout, whilst the startling sights and slick performance really make it a sight to behold on the Xbox Series X. It’s just a shame that the mission design itself could get a little repetitive, with the more stand out battles against foes joined by some repetitive side missions or mundane races.
Fortunately, the satisfying buzz of flying around whilst battling enemies at a sublime 120fps more than outweighs those issues and it’s certainly an impressive launch release – especially when you consider that The Falconeer was made by one person. It might not necessarily have all of the tools to be considered one of the best games in the Xbox Series X’s launch line-up, but it is certainly one that manages to look and feel next-gen.
Developer: Tomas Sala
Publisher: Wired Productions
Platform(s): Xbox Series X (Reviewed), Xbox Series S, Xbox One, PC