Fighting to the death on the backs of giant animals is truly a fantasy staple. It’s usually dragons, sure, but, in The Falconeer, it’s falcons. The game will release in November, and I got to take a look at what it has to offer. That said, I’m currently not sold on the game and I see a fair amount of issues with it so far. I played through the prologue and the first chapter and, while some of the ideas are really neat, the execution isn’t everything I hoped for.
The Falconeer plays out on open maps. When you start a chapter, you pick a pilot and a falcon. They have different stats and are good at different things. The maps are mostly ocean, but there are many settlements that you can land at. Landing at a settlement will give you the ability to choose a story mission or various side missions. Side missions grant you currency that you can spend at shops for upgrades and whatnot.
The game space is fairly large, and the flying works mostly as you might expect. You can brake in the air and dive, plus you can dash and roll to the side. The dash allows your falcon to press forward for a bit but it takes long enough to recharge that it should be used sparingly. Still, flying around can be rather relaxing and the visuals, while simple, are fairly detailed and atmospheric.
The tutorial itself underwhelmed me. At one point it tasked me with picking up a mine but refused to tell me how to do so. I finally figured it out after flying near mines and pressing every single button, but after doing that and letting it go, The Falconeer wouldn’t let me pick up another one. I felt that the tutorial did a pretty poor job of explaining things in general. Even with familiarity, though, the combat doesn’t get any better.
The Falconeer plays like a typical dogfighter, except it feels less accurate than most of those tend to. You can mark enemies but can’t actually lock onto them. You can have the camera follow them too, but this won’t even let you aim. Your main attack is to just use the right trigger to shoot at your foes, who generally also ride falcons. But it’s extremely easy to miss. Once an enemy’s health gets low, it stops focusing on attacking you and tries to dodge you, making it tedious and difficult to finish them off.
Most of the time, this resulted in me awkwardly turning my falcon back around as the enemy flew away from me, most of my shots missing along the way. To add insult to injury, the only way to refill your ammo is to find thunderclouds and fly near bursts of lightning. The Falconeer doesn’t tell you how much ammo you have left and it doesn’t seem to tell you when you’re done refilling either. All too often I’d blow through all my ammo trying to take down a single enemy, only to have to go and refill, which resulted in me having to return seconds later as I barely got any ammo from doing so.
As such, I’m kind of wary of playing the game, as I’m just not enjoying it. I like the idea of The Falconeer, but I really hope the combat will be less cumbersome when the final version releases.