The Falconeer Review

Matt Lorrigan

It’s easy to be drawn in by the concept of The Falconeer. Soaring across the sea on a giant eagle like some sort of gun-toting Gandalf, the game looks to fulfil those flights of fancy that have long preoccupied humanity, of growing wings and taking to the sky. It’s a spectacularly ambitious game as well, having been created by one-man development team Tomas Sala, offering a really gorgeous 3D world to explore.

At its core, The Falconeer is an air combat game, flipping Star Fox’s concept of animalised pilots in man-made aircraft on its head by putting human pilots on living and breathing giant birds. As a Falconeer, you have your beast of burden kitted out with a long-range weapon of choice and a set of rechargeable lightning batteries, which serve as your ammunition. Flying through a storm recharges these batteries, and also feels extremely cool, with bolts of lightning snaking their way towards you. As reloading animations go, it’s right up there. Your bird also has health that regenerates over time, and an energy bar that allows you to perform barrel rolls.

You'll be thankful for the game's photo mode with shots like this.

These are the tools that you’ll take into every dogfight - or should that be birdfight? - and, quite frankly, it doesn’t leave a lot of room to mix things up in terms of strategy. Whether you’re taking on a pirate Falconeer, a dragon-esque Weaver or an intimidating war blimp, your task is almost always the same - shoot it until it dies.

That’s not to say that the fights aren’t fun, though. At its best, combat encounters can be thrilling, as you and your falcon roll and weave to avoid enemy fire, or dive down to the cover of a nearby island while a lightning storm rages around you. With its bold and impressive art style, The Falconeer can really sell you on these epic encounters, and emerging victorious from a particularly tight dogfight by the skin of your beak is empowering.

However, things can quickly get quite repetitive. During much of my time playing The Falconeer, I couldn’t help but think how cool it could be. I’d be climbing into the sky and wondering if I could perform a sneak attack from above the thick cloud layer, or attempting to flank an enemy I’d spotted from the distance, only to be disappointed when each combat encounter ends up exactly the same.

There is some real joy to be found in The Falconer's quiet moments. While almost every mission eventually ends up in a combat encounter, you’re given plenty of time to take in the strangely beautiful fantasy world that Sala has brought to life. In several missions you’re tasked with escorting a ship, and I’d find myself circling high above the sea, imagining the crew occasionally catching sight of my falcon’s silhouette against the sun, and wondering if that would be enough to protect them. 

In fact, The Falconeer’s greatest strength can be found in its lovingly crafted world and lore. The Ursee - the vast ocean that covers nearly the entire game world - has shades of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker’s sunken Hyrule, with a dash of the morally grey politics and alliances of Game of Thrones. Each of the game’s chapters casts you as a new character, and aligns you with one of the many different factions spread across the Ursee. Characters or houses that served as enemies in one chapter might be allies in another, and this allows the developer to give each and every major power on the Ursee a depth to their history and ambitions. There are few traditional heroes or villains here.

I can see my house from here!

It is always intriguing to discover more of the myths and legends that make up the lore of The Falconeer, and bar one or two questionable accents, the voice performances do a great job of matching the tone of the game, set to an often melancholy but subtle soundtrack that mirrors The Ursee itself - a great paradox, simultaneously freeing and oppressive as you glide with abandon above an ocean that threatens to consume everything. The Maw, a great trench within The Ursee that defies the laws of physics, is one of my favourite pieces of world building in games for a long time.

Despite the draw of the game’s world, the often repetitive dogfights and repeated mission objectives (I can't tell you how many excruciatingly slow ships you’ll have to escort) make the moment-to-moment gameplay a bit dull, and this is compounded by a difficulty that often feels extremely inconsistent. One moment you’ll be sweeping through waves of enemies with no problem, and the next you might inexplicably be taken within seconds by one of the game’s weaker foes. Even in victory, it makes you question whether you got through that mission due to skill, or just dumb luck.

Ultimately, while The Falconeer is enjoyable at times, it doesn’t quite live up to its incredible potential. The ambition on display here might cast your mind to the popular Greek myth of flying too close to the sun, but while Icarus crashed and burned, The Falconeer does nothing of the sort. Instead, its wings are warm with the possibility of greatness, but it just doesn’t quite nail the landing.

The Falconeer

The Falconeer offers up an incredibly well-crafted world with a deep mythology that's begging to be explored further. Gliding over the open sea on the back of a falcon is pure fantasy, but while the game’s dogfights can occasionally be thrilling, they can soon grow rather repetitive. Samey missions and a lack of options in combat ultimately mean that The Falconeer doesn’t quite stick the landing.

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The Falconeer’s soundtrack sets the tone for the game, often understated and melancholy, and most of the game’s voice performances are pretty good as well, bar one or two outliers.


The Falconeer’s art style may be simple, but it has the ability to look stunning at times, with great lighting complemented by a day-and-night cycle that leads to midnight blue skies or burnt orange dawns.


Occasionally you’ll come out of one of The Falconeer’s dogfights feeling exhilarated and empowered, but repetitive missions and samey fights mean that it can all get a bit dull far too quickly.


There are plenty of missions to get stuck into in The Falconeer, and the way each chapter changes your allegiance works really well as a storytelling device. However, an inconsistent difficulty curve and missions that feel padded can make it a bit of a slog.


You'll find a nice selection of achievements here that reward players who explore to the edges of the Ursee, but a few too many will require you to grind out currency to unlock.

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