The Falconeer: Warrior Edition on Nintendo Switch combines an excellent open world, unique worldbuilding, and the incredible feeling that comes with soaring through the sky on the back of a giant falcon. From just the first few hours of gameplay it’s easy to tell a lot of effort and passion went into this game. Aside from all those features already mentioned above, there are some very well done story missions that let you get invested in the world and the characters.
- Dark and engaging story missions,
- Dynamic and explorable open world,
- The joy of soaring through the sky.
- The only way to unlock more content is to engage with the story,
- Sometimes missions feel repetitive.
The Falconeer embodies much of what an open world should be. There is a story to follow that puts your character in precarious and even morally questionable positions, but you are free to put that story on hold. Simply take wing and explore the vast ocean world to see what else it has to offer. But of course, the main form of progression does come from that story. So no matter how far you fly, you will always be drawn back.
Tomas Sala, the solo developer of The Falconeer, also known for games like Oberon’s Court, and the popular Skyrim mod Moonpath to Elsweyr, created a beautiful and dangerous world. Not only does the environment itself threaten to consume you, but other falconeers will try to shoot you down, and all the while you must reckon with your own controversial choices. The Falconeer is a great experience and embodies what many open world games should strive for.
A Game with Atmosphere
The Falconeer takes place in a fictional world called the Ursee. There are several factions, from the organized and powerful Northern Imperium to the chaotic and scattered pirates trying to take what they can. You are a falconeer, a mercenary, providing important services for various factions, for the right price. A dark shadow hangs over everything, emphasizing what it takes to survive in this cruel and ruthless world.
The visual and audio experience of exploring the Ursee is quite enjoyable. Flying is a totally different experience close to the water or high up in the clouds. Sometimes the seascape will be bathed in the reddish-orange light of a sunset, or you’ll suddenly be overtaken by the dark clouds of a thunderstorm. Everything from the sounds, the visuals, and even just the feel of the controls makes the experience of exploring enjoyable.
One of the best details of this game is what happens to your falcon if you leave the controls alone for a few moments. With no directional input from the rider, the falcon starts to glide back and forth on its own. It’s just a small addition, but it really makes the falcon feel more alive and highlights the joy and whimsy of flight, especially against the dark backdrop of this world and story.
Hard Times, Hard Choices
To call the world of The Falconeer unforgiving would be an understatement. Fortunately for the player, being shot from the sky isn’t the end. Upon defeat your character is sent to the Falcon goddess and told to “try again”.
As a weapon in the battles of these various factions, sometimes these moments of desperate survival must be carried out by you. The one drawback here is that the game and the story only continue if you follow the directives given to you. You are free to explore the world as you want, but the next chapter of the story only comes once you’ve completed the current chapter. It would be nice to have total freedom to tell your own story, but the one The Falconeer is telling is still worth following through.
Sometimes allies need to be betrayed, and the less respectable but powerful allies need to be appeased. Sometimes even when you have the power to save another community, in a world where mines are drying up, and pirates steal whatever they can, it might be in your best interest to let the competition be weakened.
In a ruthless world, sometimes the decisions can be tough to make. Since you act under the orders of others, it is up to you how you feel about the decisions made by your superiors. If survival means compromising morals, is that a world worth surviving in?
More To Explore
The Falconeer has already been released for PC and XBox, but it’s only now finally coming to the Nintendo Switch, PS4 and PS5. The “Warrior Edition” subtitle refers to the inclusion of a new storyline titled “Edge of the World” which includes new stories and new locations, as well as all DLC to date, improved voice work, and a more streamlined tutorial.
So if you have played The Falconeer before, there is more to experience. Those who already own the game can get the expansion separately, but those who get the Warrior Edition will have it all at once.
It also is very important to mention that part of this DLC includes the ability to fly on a “feathered serpent” that is more like a feathered dragon than a serpent. This might not exactly fit the term “Falconeer” anymore, but it is still awesome and a great change of pace, especially when enemies get to fly around on a few other creatures too.
Creating an engaging open world is a difficult task, but The Falconeer does it well. Despite each island being just that, a rock in a huge open ocean, they all manage to feel distinct from each other. As part of the various factions in Ursee, these communities will treat you differently. Some might have mercenary work for you, some might just offer to sell you useful items, and others might just try to shoot you out of the sky.
The world might even be more enjoyable to explore without the necessary completion of the story missions. There’s plenty of islands to interact with and various missions to take on. Not to say that the story missions aren’t fun, but the world can feel less “open” when you are forced to follow a certain progression. At times the missions can also feel repetitive, with a lot of the same gameplay mechanics being re-used.
Overall, The Falconeer: Warrior Edition is a great experience. Hopefully future titles can take a lesson from this game in terms of how players can explore their open world, and what they can find. But all of that is the cherry on top of an engaging story, breathtaking visuals, and the pure joy that comes from riding on the back of a giant warbird.
Matt Buckley | Gamepressure.com