The Falconeer Xbox Series S|X Review

November 29, 2020

It’s amazing that The Falconeer was largely developed by one person, Tomas Sala. We’re used to seeing indie games come out of small development teams, but Sala should be proud of what he has achieved here solo. The Falconeer is by no means the greatest air-combat game and has several flaws, but hidden beneath are some glimmers of a grander experience.

The Falconeer is set in the ocean world of Ursee. It is here where there are many factions spread across various islands and villages, including the Dunkle, the Empire, Mancer Order and House of Borgia. The game is split into five chapters, four of which are unlocked from the beginning, and are played from the perspective of each faction. In each chapter you select a character who flies atop a giant warbird. You complete missions ranging from escorting cargo ships, defending against/attacking enemies, going on patrols and complete races. But the main appeal is just being able to fly around and explore. There’s a giant trench dividing the ocean, statues and other structures popping out of the sea, ships sailing across the ocean and various islands to visit. A lot of care has gone into developing the game’s lore and making the environments interesting to explore.

What many players will find frustrating is you have to invest a significant amount of time to get a better understanding of this world. The chapters are entwined and the game drip feeds information. I personally struggled to understand what the heck was going on even after several hours into the campaign, which admittedly made it difficult to motivate me to continue further. It’s a weird design choice and you can’t help but feel something better could have been done to make this aspect more appealing, even if it was just a more traditional campaign and a bigger focus on core characters.

The main novelty of The Falconeer is, naturally, flying your own big arse bird around the map. Your falcon is capable of performing dives, summersaults, momentarily braking in mid-air, can grab/drop bombs using its talons and comes equipped with a forward firing lightning weapon. It can take some getting used to, but the controls are tight and before long you will be controlling your bird like a pro. You can update your bird’s abilities by purchasing Chants and Mutagens. This is actually where the game falters. When you first start playing, your bird is severely underpowered to the point where you will struggle to defeat enemies. It just isn’t a lot of fun flying back and forth, slowly chipping away at your foe’s health meter. You’ll be forgiven if you rely more on your AI companions during the first missions as they seem better equipped to handle it. Here’s a hint; make upgrading the lightning gun your top priority. And keep upgrading it! Your bird’s flying speed is also sluggish to begin with, so that’s another area you’ll want to upgrade.

There are also inconsistent difficulty spikes. Even in the first few missions you’ll at times become completely overwhelmed by the number of enemies attacking you. It’s a frantic game of dodging incoming fire while your companions take care of enough enemies so that you can have a breather. Again, there’s a need to grind your way through missions and upgrade the bird, but this takes far too long and feels like a chore. There are also no checkpoints in missions, so if you do unfortunately die, you will need to restart from the beginning. This occurs often, which just adds further frustrations.

The mission structure gets repetitive. There’s just not enough variety beyond having dogfights in the air and exploring the world. You have to put in a great deal of time to upgrade your bird for things to get more engaging, but by the time you actually get there you would have likely lost the motivation to continue. As mentioned, initially your bird’s speed is sluggish so it can take you a while to travel around the map. There are jet streams which provide a speed boost, as well as some storms which recharge your lightning rod, but these are few and far between. In fact, when traveling between locations the game’s open world feels empty, which is disappointing to say the least.

It’s a shame The Falconeer suffers from all these faults, as visually it’s actually quite stunning. Cel-shaded graphics, a day/night cycle and partical effects all look amazing, especially when playing in 4K with HDR. The game runs at a smooth and consistant framerate, and there’s also a photomode which further highlights just how gorgeous the graphics. The audio is a mixed bag, with some voiceovers being hilariously bad, while others are strong and appropriately fit the tone of the game.

It’s clear The Falconeer had the makings of a great game. Combat controls are tight, there’s a expansive ocean to explore and the graphics look fantastic. Unfortunately, it all falls flat due to inconsistent difficulty spikes, a lack of variety, a sense of being underpowered and just some generally bad design choices. If you have the patience to spend a lot of time discovering the lore and upgrading your bird, you will eventually be rewarded, but otherwise you need not apply.

The Falconeer was reviewed on an Xbox Series X console with a review copy provided by the publisher. For more information, check out the game’s official website. The game is also avaliable on Xbox One and PC.


- Expansive world with rich lore
- Amazing visuals
- Tight combat controls


- Repetitive missions
- Bird feels unfairly underpowered
- Lots of grinding required to level up
- Empty world

Overall Score: