While the Xbox Series X launch lineup looks lacking in the wake of Halo Infinite’s delay, The Falconeer from Tomas Sala and Wired Productions is about to swoop in a day one game worthy of serious hype.
Inverse played through the prologue and first two chapters on PC, and The Falconeer has proven itself to be one of the most intriguing indie games coming to next-gen Xbox consoles.
As a customizable Falconeer, you explore the expansive oceanic world of Ursee and defend yourself from all sorts of threats while riding on the back of a giant falcon. While it isn’t the friendliest game to newcomers due to complex controls for its frantic aerial dogfights, The Falconeer is a downright impressive game, especially when you realize it was made mostly by just one man.
Diving headfirst into the action
For anyone unfamiliar with aerial combat games like Ace Combat 7 or Crimson Skies, then The Falconeer’s controls and combat do take some getting used to. Your Falcon is constantly in motion. And knowing how to effectively position yourself in battle is crucial, even when it's overwhelming and chaotic.
Controls are initially inverted, and while you do have the option to change them, I tend to prefer inverted controls for aerial games. Players do also have total control over the third-person perspective, though manipulating the camera doesn’t always intuitively line up with where your character is moving or aiming, so there’s a certain amount of finesse the player needs to execute.
You’ll rely on The Falconeer’s lock-on system almost constantly as you mark enemies within your sights with the press of a button. While this won’t automatically aim your targeting reticle at them, it does give you a better idea of how you need to position your Falcon to attack enemies.
Once you're past that dissonance between controls, camera, and movement, The Falconeer becomes a thrilling and satisfying aerial combat experience. You’ll definitely want to pay attention during the tutorial, though. While it may feel similar to many other games in the genre, The Falconeer is in a class of its own as an indie game because of its vast open-world rich in fantasy lore.
The Falconeer takes place in an entirely original world with a complex network of factions. The game is thick with its own jargon, showing immense confidence in the world of Ursee. After a short prologue, the first two chapters let you loose to explore various regions of this oceanic world.
The main city of the first chapter is Dunkle, a trading and mining region on the edge of the Imperial Territory on the edge of collapse. The second chapter focuses on Cleftspire, a rust-colored remote mining island.
Missions typically boil down to fighting enemies, flying to certain locations, and finding and retrieving objects lost at sea. The archipelago setup of The Falconeer is reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, as flying from area to area elicits the same adventurous feeling that Wind Waker had.
You're limited to talking to people via a menu when you land on an island, which does hamper the sense of immersion, but it's an understandable concession given the small development team . Still, the complex relationships between all of the factions in this world, the lore, and my character’s visits with the mystical Seachantress upon death all piqued my interest for the full game.
A next-gen indie game
While I played The Falconeer on PC instead of an Xbox Series X or S, one aspect of that experience enticingly hints at a big next-gen benefit — the game consistently ran at 60 FPS, the frame rate the developers are targeting on Xbox Series X. All of the motion feels extremely fluid, which made the somewhat intricate combat a bit more manageable. Despite being an indie game, it truly felt next-gen.
I tried The Falconeer on a weaker laptop that could only run it at 30 FPS, and the difference was jarring. When played at a lower frame rate, the game feels clunky, and that proves to be frustrating in a game where you are constantly in motion. Wired Productions isn’t sharing the target frame rate for Xbox One yet (we asked), but if it isn’t 60 FPS, then you’ll definitely want to opt for the next-gen version of The Falconeer.
The jump to the next generation of consoles might not seem as groundbreaking as it has in years past. Still, the improvements to performance systems like Xbox Series X will make hidden gems like The Falconeer that much more accessible.
If you do opt for the PC version, it has all of the resolution and gameplay settings that are to be expected from modern PC games, though the text in menus could sometimes feel way too small. Our demo proved that this is definitely a game worth playing when next-gen Xbox consoles launch in November.
The Falconeer will be released for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S on November 10.
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