PAX EAST 2020: ‘The Falconeer’ – It’s For The Birds

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Wired Production‘s The Falconeer, developed by Tomas Salas, is an open-world game where players ride a falcon over treacherous seas and battle their enemies. It’s set in a fantasy world called The Great Ursee where there are villages that have split up into five different factions. Each village has its own story and side quests that give context to the corruption that led to these splits. While you learn more about these villages, you take on contract work and go on various missions.

The first few villages in the game are local communities just trying to survive. As you progress, the last few villages are imperial establishments with more militaristic backgrounds. Salas says that there are no magical or fantastical elements in this game even though it looks that way. It all has to do with technology. For example, somehow the manipulation of technology corrupted The Great Ursee’s gravitational pull and there a few levels where the choppy waters that surround villages have been parted. 

There are no heroes and villains in The Falconeer. Being a falconeer is just a job title. The missions are up to you as the player. You can fight for a noble cause or just be a rogue falconeer. Each mission has a consequence for the people that are affected. For example, one mission requires you to attack a few pirate ships and set fire to an island. While you are the hero to the people who hired you, you have still committed an act of burning another village’s island. Salas said this was intentional because he wants to get away from the traditional hero storyline. For him, the hero’s journey is all about the community and friendship along the way.

Third-person aerial combat over fierce waters. The blue portion of the meter is the adrenaline. Flying upwards causes you to lose adrenaline. Flying downwards causes you to gain adrenaline.

As the falconeer, you’ll get an opportunity to learn more about the communities you interact with through side missions. You will learn about each faction, why they are at war with each other, and the reason they split. There is a lot of lore buried in this game.

Your falcon can also change throughout The Falconeer. You can add stimulants and other adjustments to make it better in combat. However, these stimulants can affect the personality of the falcon. Each addition makes it more miserable along the way. Its eyes might be sunken or it might be too fidgety, for example. Salas says he wanted to incorporate this into the game because The Falconeer is made with contrasts in mind. There are consequences for actions in this gameplay.

That being said, the mechanics of The Falconeer are pretty straight forward. You play in the third person and the fighting is a traditional aerial dogfighting style over open water. The flight controls by default are inverted but you can change them. You fight other falconers in combat as well as wooden blimps and pirate ships. You’re always over water when fighting; Kevin Costner would love it. 

According to Salas, the in-game fighting style functions similar to World War One combat planes. The falconeer shoots bullets that can be recharged by flying through lightning storms. Each storm has a different color and can affect the color of your bullets.

Fly through lightning storms to recharge your bullets. The choppy waters and weird weather is a result of corruption with technology, according to Salas.

I’m not great with aerial fighting so I wished there was some type of on the ground combat or ship fighting. You stay on your falcon throughout the duration of the game. The graphics are great and each village I visited looked visually stunning. The gameplay didn’t have much of the storyline developed so I wasn’t able to get an emotional investment into what I was doing.

I should also point out that I wasn’t able to play the game for its full demo period. I was only able to use the controls for the last few minutes of the game while Salas played the demo most of the time. I am very glad he is passionate about this game but I was hoping to play it longer than five minutes. The demo itself didn’t have a plot structure to it and consisted of side missions on shooting down other falconeers and pirate ships.

Overall, I think The Falconeer is okay. It’s fun to play if you’re looking exclusively for an aerial combat style game. Salas is the only developer of The Falconeer and has put a lot of work into it with great graphics, new lore, and creating a new world. Those aspects drew me in but not enough to hold my attention. It was not a memorable experience. While it’s great that he’s creating this new world on his own, I think being the only developer prevents feedback and collaboration from happening.

The Falconeer does not have a release date but will be available to play on Xbox One and PC.