Falcon Age caught the attention of a lot of people when it was announced. A first person adventure game, published and developed by Outer Loop Games, that revolved around caring for a pet falcon that you then used in battle? That’s an idea that has a lot of potential!
While the concept of video game falconry is indeed interesting, and the game’s story is willing to take risks I’ve not seen often in higher budget titles, Falcon Age lacks a handful of features which really hold it back from being all it could be.
You wake up as the character Ara in a reorientation facility, where your only company is a mother falcon, her baby, and a few different robots. Your reorientation starts by learning basic controls and how to mine for ore. One day, a small patrolling robot notices the mother falcon and ends up killing it as it is an intruder. The baby is then left all by itself, and Ara decides to take care of it.
After learning how to feed and call for your new feathery companion, it helps you escape your confinement, gaining you a weapon a long the way. Your celebration of freedom is then cut short by an intense sandstorm, but luckily you’re found by your Aunt and taken back to their “basecamp”.
After a day of doing some errands for your Aunt, your falcon is fully grown (but can be changed back to baby form with a special hat, thank goodness) and in order to become a fully fledged Falcon Hunter you’ll have to help the resistance take back the planet from the colonizers, mostly by shutting down the refineries and other structures they’ve built.
Like a lot of other video games, save points are dispersed throughout the world as water fountains — with of few auto save points after certain events — but there never seem to be as many as their should be, which made finding one that was close enough to my most recent activity feel like a hindrance, rather than a simple task.
Combat is optional in Falcon Age, which is great for players who just want to enjoy the story. Unfortunately, this means that the combat doesn’t have much depth. Ultimately, changing this option doesn’t actually change much, and since there’s no option to switch the mode at any time, you’ll have to restart the entire game if you find yourself actually wanting to do away with the combat encounters.
Combat itself consists of either commanding your falcon to take out an enemy, or hitting enemies with your weapon. Most enemies will actually require a mixture of both of these actions to defeat: your falcon might need to disable them first, leaving you free to follow up and deliver the killing blow. Enemies that show up later in the game are harder to get rid of, and the game doesn’t give you clear instructions on how to actually do this. I found some enemies were even able to go through walls when they weren’t supposed to, making the hunting missions which require you to eliminate these enemies much more difficult.
For a game that centers around using your falcon for (most) actions, it takes a long time for the falcon to actually complete a task. This seems to unnecessarily expand your play time, and I felt like I was spending more time waiting than actually playing Falcon Age at points.
Besides combat, you can command your falcon to perform certain actions once you’ve equipped it with specific items. One of these items is a Sonic Backpack that will help you navigate through a minefield. While this works fine, you don’t obtain the item to dig out the mines until you navigate through the minefield on the way back, which was an irritating obstacle when I was just trying to make some progress. (Note: This has been fixed in a recent update)
You also cannot jump down from higher ledges to lower ones, which made traversing levels seem down-right tedious sometimes.
The game also has some missing or half-baked functions that I feel like your falcon could be used for. The waypoint system feels awkward, and it may have been more beneficial to be able to have your falcon lead you to a selected waypoint, rather than having to navigate yourself across the world and constantly be pulling up the map to see if you have to go the long way around.
When shutting down refineries, there’s no indicator of how many panels you have left to shut down, so if you end up getting to the main doors, but missed one panel, then you may find yourself repeatedly going back and forth through a refinery until you eventually find it. Why couldn’t your Falcon have an item to detect panels? At the very least there could be a number indicator to show how many panels you have left, instead of just leaving the player to assume they were all found only to get to the closed doors!
The visuals of Falcon Age are semi-realistic, but there is a cartoon-ish look to everything that didn’t really grab my interest. There are a few creative ideas and designs sprinkled throughout the game, but it still feels as if the developers could have made the world much more unconventional and intriguing. The blandness of the environments tends to become more noticeable the more time you spend with Falcon Age, and the sparse wildlife and vegetation make this all the more noticeable.
The music of the game didn’t make a lasting impression on me either, though part of this could be due to it’s combination with the slower gameplay than I would have liked.
Falcon Age has a great concept and a compelling story, but it’s numerous flaws make it feel unfinished and its gameplay loop is ultimately unsatisfying. This might be a better experience for those with PlayStation VR, but I cannot help but feel that most of its shortcomings will still remain.
Falcon Age is available on the PlayStation Store for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR.