A dogfighting game where fighter planes are replaced with giant falcons battling against dragons, battleships and blimps. If you loved Star Wars: Squadrons, then The Falconeer might be for you.
It’s a sandbox dogfighting (well, falcon fighting) game set in a world where beneath the clouds there’s nothing but dangerous waves, sharp rocks and shipwrecks (a bit like the film Waterworld). You take the reins of a giant falcon which, besides flying majestically, is also used for combat. If you’re a fan of Ace Combat, Xbox classic Crimson Skies or the aforementioned Star Wars: Squadrons, then The Falconeer will feel familiar, yet different.
Optimised for the Xbox Series X, The Falconeer loads almost instantly and is stunning in 4K. Graphically, it merges the styles of Deep Rock Galactic and Sea of Thieves, making it simple yet also timeless. You can see the spray of the sea against rocks, lightning striking in the clouds and even sea life breaching out of the ocean. Running on an Xbox Series X you’ll be impressed with how an indie title developed by a sole developer can look so sharp.
The Falconeer generally plays like a traditional dogfighting game, but there are some differences. You can instantly barrel roll, dive bomb to gain speed (and rest your wings) and even dive into the waves and pick up items (like sea mines) with your talons. Rather than using mounted machine guns, you have a rider, who uses what is basically a lightning rod to fire lightning – and more – at enemies. On the back of your giant falcon batteries hold energy with which to fire your weapon. Doing so will drain the batteries, but you can recharge them by flying into storms or by purchasing more from vendors.
As you’re flying a giant falcon, you can’t control your speed as easily as you can with something powered by an engine. You can, however, come to an immediate but short stop mid-air, which helps with targeting and combat. Your falcon also has an energy bar, and by flying up, barrel rolling or flying faster (think of it like sprinting) you use up energy. You can restore your energy by resting your falcon’s wings by either divebombing or by flying into gusts of wind, which propel your falcon upwards. Without enough energy, it’s harder to avoid attacks and you can’t perform certain manoeuvres. During certain missions you also have access to a wingman, who can defend or attack on command.
“For a launch title, The Falconeer provides a tantalising glimpse of what the Xbox Series X can do…”
The combat is simpler than that of Star Wars: Squadrons, Crimson Skies or Ace Combat. When enemy falcons or dragons get close, they tend to stick behind you. It can be tricky in combat when there’s a handful of enemies chasing you in circles. While enemies are focused on chasing you, your wingman can target and take out any tails you have, making it a little easier. Aiming and targeting units is also different to other titles as the controls are looser. All movement is done through the left stick, while the right stick only moves the camera around your falcon, and it takes some time to get used to these controls if you’re more used to an in-depth dogfighting game.
For a launch title, The Falconeer provides a tantalising glimpse of what the Xbox Series X can do – impressive load times, and an image so sharp it could cut cheese. While the combat is simple, there is a certain charm to game, and it would be great for introducing inexperienced pilots to the sky. Let’s face it, the premise of flying a giant falcon facing off against dragons by shooting lighting at them is like something from a wonderful child’s dream come true.
The Falconeer is available now on Xbox Series X|S.