With Xbox Series X|S launch The Falconeer became one of the games that popped up many times in articles or social media posts. Being an Xbox exclusive helps with getting the attention of the Xbox crowd but there’s more to it than that. For one, it simply looks absolutely gorgeous and it is hard to fathom that just one person created the most of this game. That one Dutch person, Tomas Sala has my highest respect for solo developing The Falconeer. He did everything himself, except the sound work. He didn’t take the easy road either, as this aerial dogfighting game has a pretty big open world to explore too. In a world where games are made with hundreds and hundreds of people, all specialized in a specific development element it is a remarkable accomplishment from Tomas. The Falconeer isn’t going to win the game of the year reward but it is, without a doubt a very original and visually stunning game for both Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.
We played The Falconeer for four hours on Xbox One X and one additional hour on Xbox Series X
What we liked!
- The visuals make up for a lot in The Falconeer, one-of-a-kind visuals give the players an unbelievable and gorgeous world to explore. Use that photo mode! If Microsoft would release The Falconeer as some kind of tech-demo for Xbox Series X without any sort of gameplay or story people would love it. (kinda like that Insects experience tech game on Xbox One X) Flying around and seeing the waves crash on isolated islands, seeing fishes and whales in the stylized ocean, impressive thunder clouds that recharge your weapon. Falconeer’s open world, The Great Ursee is quite a looker! Nothing less than a spectacle, even after playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla! A dried-up water trench seems to be the main unique visual thing and it remains impressive to fly through it. The way Falconeer is set-up it required some astonishing visuals as you’ll be flying around A LOT, it feels a bit mixed but the visuals keep the bird flying as the gameplay itself misses a basic element in gaming, fun.
- A story told by different factions: The Great Ursee has different factions, they all have a different take on the story and the tension and often recognizable real-life troubles make for an interesting story to follow. This isn’t told by expensive cutscenes but with voiced dialogue before or after missions. It is eye-opening to see a conflict play out differently depending on the faction, The Falconeer is a fine example to always try to hear all sides of the story before making a judgment on something.
- Confusing at first: In all honesty, I had to ask a fellow friend of mine who was also playing The Falconeer how I could proceed with the game. I was always starting free-roam and no missions, that might sound a bit shameful to say but the game menus are just really confusing and unclear. You start by leaving a town but before you have to select the mission by selecting the right menu tab. There are a few of them, one that tells you the story, one for side-missions, one to buy items, and one for selecting a mission. Landing and finishing your mission is another confusing element that takes some tries in the beginning. Eventually, you become familiar with everything but a bit more hand-holding in the beginning would have been welcome.
- Atmospheric gameplay makes it worth it: Spoiler, we have the gameplay downstairs at what we disliked but you have a group of people who play games for making fantastic looking images. You know, the photo mode that many games have these days. I am sure that the #XboxShare tag will be featuring The Falconeer a lot, as the endless ocean, great lighting effects, and unique setpieces in the world are born for impressive pictures, ready to be shared with the gaming world.
What we disliked
- No checkpoints during missions: You are already flying a lot over a seemingly never-ending ocean to reach the mission objectives and failing a mission because your eagle took too much damage or some kind of task failed is met with a forced restart of the entire mission. In-mission checkpoints would have been such an improvement as replaying large travel sections again or hearing the same questionable voiced character again for the tenth time is very frustrating.
- The Falconeer is like a tasty-looking pizza where all the ingredients taste the same: After the first hour or so you essentially experienced everything that the gameplay has to offer. It is here that The Falconeer lacks as a game, it simply has too many dull moments and it all comes down to the same basic gameplay elements. This goes on for hours and hours, you fly around for a few minutes and battle it out in simplistic but too challenging aerial dogfights. Side-quests, that are a must to play as you need to upgrade your eagle feel like a chore, it isn’t normal that I get the same feeling as doing the dishes while playing The Falconeer. Aerial fighting lacks variety, it lacks skill, and often feels like pure luck when you manage to defeat opponents. The first impressions of the game are amazing but the gameplay breaks down the awe-feeling that the visuals set-up rather fast. It really came as a surprise to me that a game that focuses so much on aerial dogfights is that barebones in fight mechanics. I often felt like that peashooter from Plants vs. Zombies, feeling a little weak against everything else in the game. You can order your AI-controlled wingman to shoot a specific enemy but most of the time you are just circling around endlessly waiting for the auto-aiming to finally hit and kill an enemy.
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