The Falconeer is an aerial action game set in a fantasy world that contains massive birds, expansive seas, and warring factions. It utilizes a striking visual style to depict its game world, one that straddles the visual line between cel and plastic shading.
Despite its rich visuals and pleasant airborne exploration, The Falconeer is rife with issues. Its combat is a frustrating blend of awkward controls and unbalanced difficulty, and the non-existent checkpoint system means you must replay entire missions should you fail an objective.
Still, The Falconeer’s visual charms and relaxing flight make for a good, budget PC game, provided you’re willing to overlook the title’s shortcomings.
A History of Violence
You are thrust into The Falconeer’s world with little more than some background lore. The Great Ursee, as the realm is called, is filled with tiny island nations that vie for territorial control, or desperately try to remain neutral and eke out a living.
You play as a titular Falconeer, a pilot of tremendous, trailer-sized raptors, who every faction relies on for defense and security. Falconeers are armed with lightning-blasting catalysts, and can go toe to toe with virtually any military armament.
You learn much about the world and its lore by undertaking missions. Roosting within a settlement lets you accept these missions, and initiates NPC dialogues. The exchanges explain each territory’s history, economy, and politics.
Unfortunately, you don’t spend much time within a region, as you’re in the sky for most of the game. As a result, the world and its people carry a transient feel.
The missions involve carrying payloads to a destination, escorting ships, and fending off threats, either by attacking defensive targets or battling the various enemy types. The foes include warships, warbirds, and airships, each of which have their own strengths and weaknesses.
Ships are resilient and can target you relatively easily from any direction, but the vessels are slow and not particularly maneuverable. Warbirds mirror your own abilities, but they are easy to down if you manage to line your shots.
Airships lie somewhere between warbirds and ships; they are more maneuverable and aggressive than standard ships, but are notably slower than your own bird. Early missions present singular tasks for you to complete, such as retrieving a payload and returning it to base, but the missions become longer and more demanding as you make progress. They often combine fighting, escorting, and retrieving objects before you reach your end goal.
Boosting Your Bird
Your warbird earns experience as you successfully complete missions. As you level up your warbird’s passive abilities, such as health, speed, and stamina recovery, the beast grows stronger. You can further enhance the warbird’s capabilities by purchasing ability-enhancing mutagens.
Low-tier mutagens are cheap and weak, but swappable; they’re perfect for experimentation. High-tier mutagens, on the other hand, are permanent enhancements. The mutagen system is a nice feature, but the game isn’t challenging enough to warrant investing your time into it.
Tilting, rolling, and diving are easy to pull off, and the way your bird rhythmically sways from left to right as it glides through the air is a wonderful detail that makes movement feel natural. However, once combat is thrown into the mix, the relaxation and pleasantries are all cast into the sea.
At best, the combat is functional, but it isn’t particularly fun or intuitive, regardless of the control scheme you use. Admittedly, I have not used a flight stick. Instead, I played with either a gamepad or a mouse-and-keyboard combo. The Falconeer’s Steam page warns that the game doesn’t support keyboard-and-mouse controls, and encourages controller or flight stick use. Despite that warning, keyboard-and-mouse support has been patched into the game.
Still, no amount of fussing with sensitivity settings makes the dogfighting fun. On controller, the aiming reticle is bound to the same stick as movement, and it moves far too slowly to efficiently use. On keyboard and mouse, aiming is done with the mouse, but the movement is wildly erratic and imprecise.
These functions can be customized, so you can remap movement and aiming to different controls as you see fit. I ultimately settled on mapping flight controls and aiming to my mouse and camera to WASD, with sensitivity dropped to the lowest setting possible. This worked, yet still felt overly sensitive during hectic battles. The Falconeer has a lock-on feature that lets you easier target enemies, but this does little to alleviate the problems. The camera does a terrible job of tracking locked foes, and the targeting system has no impact on how you aim your shots.
On top of this, your warbird is not particularly durable despite its behemoth size, so enemies can easily overwhelm you if you don’t make use of your maneuverability. An indicator showing where off-screen attacks are coming from would have been a tremendous help. Compounding this annoyance is the lack of a checkpoint system during missions. Losing a fight or failing an objective means starting that mission from scratch. It’s incredibly aggravating.
Can Your PC Run The Falconeer?
The Falconeer is hardly a graphically demanding game, so you don’t need a high-end PC to enjoy its unique aesthetic. To run the game, your PC needs at least an Intel Core i3 or equivalent CPU, AMD Radeon HD 6770 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 GPU, 2GB or RAM, and 3GB of available storage space.
On a desktop computer equipped with an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 CPU, a Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 GPU, and 16GB of RAM, The Falconeer pushed polygons at a blistering 120 frames per second rate (with its graphical settings cranked to maximum). On Steam, The Falconeer offers full controller support, Steam Cloud saves, and Steam Achievements.
Not Quite a Top Gunner
Piloting a warbird, absorbing the gorgeous sights, and learning the world lore are The Falconeer’s best elements, and they make me wonder if a greater focus on exploration and maneuvering, rather than clunky combat, would have better served the game. A story-dense, delivery-and-exploration experience in Death Stranding‘s mold would have resulted in a more impactful and less frustrating game.
Still, The Falconeer contains a good amount of content. In fact, the one-person developer, Tomas Sala, frequently updates the game based on community feedback. So, if you’re looking for an evolving dogfighting game that avoids the typical military setting, The Falconeer is worth a flight. Just expect a bit of turbulence.
- Subpar combat controls
- Repetitive action
- Lacks checkpoints
The Bottom Line
The Falconeer blends aerial exploration with dogfighting, but doesn’t stick the landing. It delivers an interesting, but middling, action-fantasy experience that’s filled with gorgeous sights and clunky combat.