The Falconeer: Warrior Edition (PS5) Review | Plus PS4 opinion

Have you ever wanted to take to the skies and soar through the clouds on the back of a ginormous bird, taking in the beautiful sunsets, blue skies, and terrifying thunderstorms? If so, you’re in luck; The Falconeer: Warrior Edition lets you do this, all whilst helping out multiple factions, engaging in very satisfying combat, and discovering various settlements and camps throughout the large map. Originally launching on the PC and Xbox consoles last year, you can now pick up the game on the Nintendo Switch and the PlayStation 4 and 5.

The Falconeer was developed by Tomas Sala, a solo BAFTA-nominated indie developer. Since embarking on a solo career, this is his first release, partnering with Wired Productions as the publisher on all platforms. The visuals and artistic design are rather unique, making the game stand out from other titles within the same genre, combined with an interesting story and brilliant voice acting that perfectly immerse you within the world. Basically, before playing The Falconeer I wasn’t really a fan of dogfight games, but now I’m hooked and want more!

I’ve been playing the game over the last week on the PlayStation 5, but I’ve also played a few chapters on my PS4 Pro. I’ve achieved the platinum on the PS5 version and I’ve dabbled with every mode and visual/performance setting. The question is, is this a game you need to get your talons on today? Let’s find out…

The Falconeer 1+1

Strange looking falcon!

The Falconeer is an open-world game that’s been split into four chapters (plus a prologue and epilogue), with each subsequent chapter slightly increasing the difficulty and threat level, and which faction you’ll be teamed up with. The experience starts gently, slowly teaching you the various combat mechanics and how to manoeuvre your giant warbird, but you’ll soon find yourself in the heat of combat with opposing creatures, ships, and land-based turrets. As seen from various perspectives, a single intertwined storyline plays throughout, uncovering the mysteries and reason for the conflict between the various factions.

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Aside from the main story, there are several side missions you can take on either from your designated home base or various settlements you’ll find as you glide around the rather big world. Most of these missions will be either defending your base, seeking out enemies and destroying them, or delivering a package without it being destroyed in the process, yet thanks to the brilliant gameplay and beautiful visuals, I never grew tired of taking these on and completing them for extra cash.

If you find yourself hooked to the lore and left wanting more, with an urge to milk every piece of well-written background story from the game, then there’s a lot to be discovered which isn’t simply handed to you on a plate. The map contains many hidden shrines that reward you with a mini-monologue when you perch yourself upon them, and there are various ships and settlements with people willing to talk to you should you fly near them and lock on. I personally really enjoyed simply ignoring the main quest and flying around, taking everything in.

The Falconeer 2+1

Yes, that’s a flying snake-like creature!

Gameplay
So, what’s it like taking control of a bid bird? Although I’ve never done it before, I would try but I’d probably flatten the pigeon I try to sit on, everything felt authentic and very realistic – aside from the mounted weaponry. The flying is weighty and relaxing to control, with realistic physics as you sway around based on the wind speed and direction, meaning you can’t just put your controller down as you’ll begin to swerve and change direction. As you’re a creature and not a machine made of metal, you can also perform fast barrel rolls to turn around quickly, dive into the water, and flap faster to gain more speed.

Combat itself was fun and satisfying, with the standard mechanics you’d see in something like Star Wars Squadrons – you get a small white target indicating where you should shoot to hit the enemy when the distance, speed, and direction is taken into account. Each of the warbirds also has its own special attack which can be used with Triangle, such as shooting missiles that lock onto various enemies within range. You can also purchase and upgrade the main weapon and ammo packs from the various settlements, providing you’ve bought a license to trade there.

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Interestingly, to refuel your weapon charge ‘on-the-fly’ (so to speak), you have to fly through the dangerous thunderstorms and catch the lightning ala Doctor Frankenstein and harness the energy to charge it up. If you do it too much though, you risk overcharging and damaging your weapon, so you have to be mindful of the gauges.

When you’re not engaged in combat, you’ll find yourself simply exploring the world and trying to uncover the many hidden locations and monuments. Unlike other open-world games, The Falconeer doesn’t simply have you sit at a watchtower and multiple locations appear for you to check out, you have to find and approach each location for yourself, pushing you to explore the beautiful world. 

The Falconeer 3+1

It’s very satisfying watching the enemies crash and burn!

Combat
As mentioned above, I enjoyed the combat as it was incredibly satisfying taking down the other giant birds, watching as they set on fire and plummeted into the ocean below (presumably becoming a tasty KFF treat for the giant whales you often see jumping out of the waters). However, a few difficulty spikes resulted in me sadly dying and having to undertake the missions again, from the start. This may be because there’s an item or function I’m not aware of, but I couldn’t seem to restore health whilst in combat, so when I found myself surrounded by enemies, it would usually lead to my death. *Update – fish. You can dive into the water, grab fish, eat said fish, and restore your health. I’ve literally just figured this out!*

Flying away, dodging their projectiles, and diving into the water never seemed to help me avoid the inevitable.

That’s when I discovered that you could purchase new (and stronger) warbirds by completing various racecourses within the world, swapping out my weapons for upgraded ones also seemed to help make more of an impact on the bigger enemies. Once I had started progressing and enhancing my feathery falcon, the game became even more satisfying as I was a badass – nothing could take me down as I caused wanton destruction on anything that moved! As you’d expect, killing innocents branded me as a pirate and all settlements refused to let me dock with them, but I was the most feared and powerful Falconeer out there!

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The only thing missing was the unique combat skills of the mighty birds themselves. They utilise the heavy weaponry you strap to them, but they can’t attack with their talons or thrust their beak into the face of those who face you in a game of chicken (or should that be ‘falcon’?). As such, you get the graceful movements and physics of riding a living creature, but not the brutal and deadly talon to talon combat which would have added an extra level to the realism, in my opinion.

The Falconeer 4+1

I enjoyed just flying around, exploring the world.

Exploration loading times!
Lots of games have various ‘fast travel’ mechanics, usually taking anything from a few seconds on the new consoles to a few minutes on last-gen (depending on the game). In The Falconeer, fast travel isn’t ‘fast’, it’s instant! Loading a game simply fades out and in within a second, fast travelling to any settlement within the game is instantaneous, and when you’re flying to a specific location for a mission, you’re sometimes given the option to hold Cross to speed up – pressing this fades the screen out and in within a second and you’re now right near the location you were flying towards. 

This is both on the PS5 AND the PS4 Pro, so it’s not just the fast SSD allowing the game to do this, it’s the efficient way the game has been programmed. I believe this may also be down to the fact that there are no textures within the game – it’s crazy to think, but every shape, character, and surface is stylised 3D assets with not a single texture within the game (aside from the fonts). I imagine that would help greatly with the loading time as no textures are being streamed in, this also means there’s no pop-in or LoD in terms of details – the game looks very clean and gorgeous in motion.

PS5 Activity Cards
The PS5 has a single Activity Card that simply tells you how far through the game you are and which chapters you’ve not completed. Mine, at the moment, says I’m on 83% as I’ve not done the prologue. Sadly, there was no trophy tracking trophies or cards for the various trophies based on finding all the shrines or locations. I would like more developers to make use of that feature, especially when the next PS5 OS firmware is introducing trophy tracking on-screen. 

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The Falconeer 5+1

Taken on my PS4 Pro

Visuals
I mainly played the game on the PS5 and it looked and played beautifully. By default, the game runs at a native 4K and 60fps on the new console. However, if you have a 120fps capable TV (and you’ve set the 120hz toggle to ‘auto’ in the PS5 settings), the game will boot up in 120fps mode. For me, this was 1080p @120fps (as my TV only supports that resolution at the higher framerate), but the visuals looked downsampled so it may be around 1440p – I’m not sure.

The PS4 version supposedly runs at 900-1080p and the PS4 Pro is supposed to be 1440p. I say ‘supposed’ because I’m not fully convinced. I’ve talked to the developer and he’s assured me that the game is set to run at 1440p in the code (on the PS4 Pro), but the game looked lower than that to me when I played it on my TV via the PS4 BC on the PS5 and directly on the PS4 Pro. What threw me was the font, on the PS4 Pro the font looks a little squished, cut off, or distorted, as if the scaling isn’t quite right. It really stands out when you compare it to the super-sharp and clear UI of the PS5 edition. It’s a shame the UI on the Pro couldn’t have been rendered at 4K, even if the gameplay is 1440p.

Regardless of what console you’re on, and ignoring the fonts (which I recommend you scale to the biggest setting if you’re not on the PS5), the game looks stunning. The lighting as the day/night cycle plays out, the reflections on the waves, the dynamic lights from your projectiles as they approach the enemies, it’s all very magical and a work of art in itself. The animations of the birds are also perfect, beautifully recreating the movements of the various creatures as you sore through the sky and stalk your prey.

Same Scene, various ‘sun positions’:

Photo Mode
The Falconeer has a simple photo mode, you can pause the game and enable the setting at any point. Here, you can adjust the FoV (to zoom in and out), tilt the camera, move a fair distance away from the protagonist, and even move the position of the sun with the Triangle and Circle buttons. That’s right, instead of having filters, you can manually move the sun and watch as the sky goes from night with stars, to an orange sunrise, bright blue midday, then back to the red glow of sunset. It’s wonderful.

Personally, I would have loved a more robust photo mode, maybe have some unusual filters as we saw with The Forgotten City? There were two things I found a little ‘iffy’ with the photo mode though. First, despite inverting the y-axis in the options for general gameplay, the camera is non-inverted when you activate the mode (this seems to happen all the time at the moment, people seem to forget the invert option in all modes). Secondly, the camera feels like it’s on wheels in this mode as it gains momentum and continues to move even when you’ve stopped pushing the thumbstick. They’re not big issues, but mild annoyances.

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The Falconeer 7+1

I love the visual design!

Features
First up, simple stats.
• The game is 1.05GB on the PS5, 1.99GB on the PS4.
• You get both the PS4 and PS5 versions with the same purchase, with two trophy lists.
• There’s no save export/import, so you can’t load up a PS4 save and get an instant platinum trophy.
• The PS5 version does initially load the game faster than the PS4 version, but once you’re in the game then they both have instant loading.
• Both versions are 60fps just with different resolutions, with the PS5 version offering 120fps if you enable the option on the PS5 and have a TV that can run at that framerate.
• Both versions can utilise the controller speaker and play the in-game chatter through that as if it’s a radio. This can be disabled and play the audio through the TV instead.
• Contains all DLC since launch, including The Kraken and the new ‘The Edge of the World’ DLC (which you can now buy on PC and Xbox).

The PS5, however, utilises the controller to create a much more immersive experience. First up the game fully supports haptic feedback, allowing you to feel every hit you land, splash you make, and crash you accidentally incur when you go head-first into a blimp. As I always say, this isn’t a rumble, it provides a more precise vibration based on sound. Secondly, the adaptive triggers are used to provide the force feedback of your weapon, violently pulsating and punching against your finger as each ‘pew pew’ leaves your weapon of mass destruction.

Going from this level of immersion to the basic no-feedback PS4 version was very jarring, I honestly don’t know how we went all these years without the incredible DualSense controller! I don’t know if it has or not, but it would be great if the developer also added the DS profile to the PC version of the game, allowing PC gamers to experience this extra level of gameplay.

PS4 Pro (left) = PS5 (Right)

PS4 Pro
PS5

Technical
Aside from all my praise above for the visuals and gameplay, how did the game run on a technical level? On the PS5, the game ran great in all modes except when you went head-first into an enemy ship or blimp, or you were close when a big explosion went off. This would cause the game to have a momentary drop in framerate before promptly returning to a solid 60fps. A new patch has literally just dropped though, so I’ll test that out and adjust this accordingly…

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**Update – EU finally got version 1.03 for both the PS4 and PS5 versions of the game. Performance is now pretty much perfect – there’s still the odd dip when you’re literally on top of the enemy as they explode, but it lasts for a fraction of a second before returning to a solid 60fps. Also, the strange font ‘issue’ is still there within the PS4 Pro version of the game but the 1080/120 PS5 edition scales perfectly and looks just as crisp as the 4K mode.**

The visuals in all versions look amazing, thanks to the no-textured design. However, the fonts and UI on the PS4 and PS4 Pro look ‘off’ – they don’t look like they’re scaling correctly and even if you make the scaling the biggest in the menu, it still looks like parts of certain letters have been snipped off. It’s hard to explain, but I’ll put an image as an example above. *Update – I’ve just tried the game on a base PS4 and a 1080p TV. After scaling the fonts to the max within the settings, the font looks fine. So the scaling ‘issue’ may just be when the console is upscaling the lower resolution to a 4k output.*

The voice acting and music are brilliant, each character plays their part perfectly and delivers their lines with a lot of passion and skill, with the music helping build the atmosphere and immerse you within the game. I’d actually recommend picking up the version of the game where you get the soundtrack with it on PSN, as there’s no way to buy it on its own on the PS4/5… yet. *Correction – Sony has, stupidly, stopped soundtracks listed as “Soundtracks” from being shown on the mobile app, webstore, and PS5 console. However, you can see and buy the soundtrack on the PS4 console ONLY, atm. I’ve told the publisher, as they need to relist it as a ‘game’, ‘demo’ (like KT do), or ‘DLC’. I’m not sure why Sony has done this but it’s led to many soundtracks being on PSN yet not purchasable unless you have a PS4 console.* **Double correction – since making a fuss about not being able to buy soundtracks tagged as “Soundtracks” on the PS5, they magically appeared yesterday. Search for “Soundtrack” on the PS5 and you’ll see them all – they still don’t show online or in the app though**

Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
The Falconeer: Warrior Edition is one of the best dogfight games I’ve ever played, it looks beautiful, plays brilliantly, sounds amazing, and contains a lot of interesting gameplay and story to keep you entertained. If you feel the combat or missions are getting a little repetitive, go exploring and seek out hidden ruins and settlements, then return to the main story when you’re ready to progress, there’s no pressure to stick to a linear path. Casually take your time, bond with your warbird and enhance your abilities, then help out another faction as you uncover more of the story – it’s one of the best indie games I’ve played this year.

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A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

The Falconeer: Warrior Edition

£24.99
8.5

Final Score

8.5/10

The Good:

  • - Brilliant gameplay with realistic physics and weather effects
  • - Gorgeous-looking game despite having no textures anywhere in the game!
  • - The voice acting and music are perfect, helping build the atmosphere
  • - Combat is very satisfying and often challenging, forcing you to think about what you're doing instead of simply rushing in
  • - Very interesting story which lets you play from all perspectives

The Bad:

  • - If you only focus on the quests then it can feel a little repetitive, breaking it up with exploration helps keep things fresh though
  • - The photo mode is a little basic and I wasn't a fan of the floaty camera control
  • - The 120fps mode has to be enabled in the PS5 settings and can't be turned on or off within the game itself
  • - The fonts within the PS4 and PS4 Pro version look 'off', as if they've been cut, trimmed, or squished
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