I've been wanting to play The Falconeer since we gave it a spotlight at the PC Gamer Show. Its bird battles and aerobatic dogfights certainly make it intriguing, but there's surprising depth to its rich fantasy world. For starters, it's set in a post-apocalypse where a colossal flood wiped entire civilisations off the map—which is pretty cool—but there are also political and historical elements to its story. Think the political house-system of Game of Thrones, but in a world engulfed in water where giant, feathered garrisons roam the skies.
So, the business with the birds. In The Falconeer you play as a rogue freelancer who, alongside their bird BFF, picks up odd jobs to earn a living. At the beginning of the game, you get to customise your character and I decide to pick an older woman with shocking white hair, who looks tough as nails with a weather-beaten face. Riding on the back of your buddy, you explore the flooded lands of The Great Ursee, completing missions, trading for items, and fighting various airborne menaces.
This fantastical world is divided into different human factions who live on small intricate settlements scattered throughout the sea. I love the environmental storytelling here—of human civilisation grasping onto whatever land was left after the world got swallowed by water. You can fly to different cities and settlements, picking up jobs and learning more about this world in return for your services.
An impressive amount of lore has gone into this world, and every city has an interesting history behind it and a description of how it fits into the wider political sphere. One of my favourites is Basilicus, a powerful city that deals in lost knowledge and old technology that's perched on the edge of a giant canyon called The Maw. Did I mention that there's a colossal gorge in the centre of the map? Because there is, and you can fly straight into it. It's both terrifying and stunning.
When you're not ogling at the landscape, you'll be completing your freelance jobs, which involve lots of aerial combat. Battles have a fast and frenzied excitement and controlling your giant bird is a dream. It's a simple case of locking on to your target and then unleashing a torrent of lightning bolts at them, while making sure your enemies don't get a clear shot at you.
Your bird has some serious moves, like being able to dodge incoming missiles or quickly double-backing on itself to keep an eye on targets from behind. You can also pick up mines in the ocean with your bird's talons and drop them on enemy ships—a tricky move that I still have yet to master.
There's a drama that aerial combat has that no other battle scenario can recreate. The freedom of zipping through the sky with a handful of enemies all around you is exhilarating and what gives these battles an extra amount of oomph is the environment around you. The sky can be anything from dark clouds cracking with electrical energy, or the deepest of blood-red sunsets. Even outside of combat, the landscape is never the same for too long, making for some stunning sights.
I'm super impressed with The Falconeer so far, and even more so with the knowledge that it's being developed by a single creator, Tomas Sala. I've had plenty of aerobatic fights with angry sky pirates, but there's so much more to do. I've escorted ships across the sea, scouted out missing tech, and been a secret spy for illusive factions, all of which fits into an arching political history between the world's different houses. There are also hints of forgotten ancient technology and treasure beneath the waves, and if you've seen any of the game's bombastic trailers, you know what's to come.
When I've had enough action I just like to fly around, taking in all the sights that The Great Ursee has to offer, following wherever my bird's beak takes me. The Falconeer is a pretty remarkable game, and if you want to get in on the bird battling action you can sign up for The Falconeer's beta when it launches in October, with the full release following on November 10.