In The Falconeer, you fly around on the back of a giant bird while shooting lightning blasts at your enemies. The controls are intuitive, and flying feels absolutely wonderful. The visuals are stark and simple, but no less breathtaking. The music is equally mesmerizing and perfect for conveying a sense of awe and wonder at everything the player sees.
It’s just too bad there’s really no story to be found in The Falconeer.
Lemme immediately back that up by saying I’m actually enjoying The Falconeer immensely for all the reasons I’ve just listed above, but what became immediately obvious after playing through the game’s first chapter was that The Falconeer is a very different sort of game. Whereas most games try to ease you into their fantastic world through the eyes of a relatable character, The Falconeer does absolutely none of that.
In fact–spoiler alert–your character dies at the end of each chapter, so there’s really no danger of getting too attached.
The character you play in The Falconeer has a face and a name, but it’s completely interchangeable with any of the other preset names and faces available at the beginning of every chapter. Your character never speaks, never has an opinion, and never has any agency to go beyond the confines of whatever mission you and your giant bird embark on.
I’d go so far as to say you–the player character–isn’t even the main focus of the game at all. Neither are any of the secondary characters, who although distinctive in their voice acting and visual designs, don’t really stay on-screen long enough to have any sort of development.
The main character in The Falconeer is the world itself. The great Ursee is full of rival factions, powerful nations, and noble houses, all tied together by an ancient mythology. You–the player–are merely inhabiting a floating vessel that only plays a small part in the power struggles between much bigger players.
As you play through the game, the world gets built up around you as you discover secrets and perform missions for each faction, but it’s always from the perspective of an outside observer. You’re a leaf on the wind of the great Ursee being blown by forces far more powerful than you.
This design sort of flies in the face of most storytelling, which often tries to simplify things. Especially in video games, a story tends to be told from a single perspective to keep things from getting too confusing. Think God of War, Red Dead Redemption, Jedi: Fallen Order, or Horizon Zero Dawn–all these games were hero stories told from the perspective of one character. Sure they had compelling worlds, but the world was always delivered through the lens of that character to keep the player from becoming overwhelmed.
The Falconer’s approach of delivering the history of an entire world from the perspectives of multiple throw-away characters is probably why the game seems somewhat polarizing. Both Cian and Bella were fairly ambivalent to the Falconeer in their preview and review, respectively, and a large part of that can boil down to the clumsy way in which The Falconeer delivers its story–or lack thereof.
Me, I’m not so harsh on The Falconeer. The flying mechanics feel great, the combat is both somehow fluid and relaxing, and the world itself is extremely interesting even if it feels like the player has little impact upon it. I’d even go as far as calling The Falconeer refreshing for avoiding the tired “chosen one” tropes of most games.
But I do hope that The Falconeer 2 tells a better story than the original.
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Actually a collective of 6 hamsters piloting a human-shaped robot, Sean hails from Toronto, Canada. Passionate about gaming from a young age, those hamsters would probably have taken over the world by now if they didn’t vastly prefer playing and writing about video games instead.
The hamsters are so far into their long-con that they’ve managed to acquire a bachelor’s degree from the University of Waterloo and used that to convince the fine editors at TheGamer that they can write “gud werds,” when in reality they just have a very sophisticated spellchecker program installed in the robot’s central processing unit.
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