Indie Game of the Month – The Falconeer

This month’s choice for Indie Game of the Month was pretty obvious. This was the month of next-gen consoles, the release of PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, so I obviously had to take a look at a “next-gen” indie game. Thus, we have The Falconeer, an Xbox Series X launch title (though it’s also available on Steam) and while it may not be the best showcase of next-gen tech, it’s certainly an interesting game worth your time.

The Falconeer is an open-world aerial combat sim, but instead of dog-fighting in planes, you get to ride on the back of giant birds. You get to experience the story from four different perspectives, of four different factions, each with their own unique character classes. While you can experience the narrative in any order you like, it is suggested that you tackle them in chapter order simply because the classes you have access to increase in power in “later” chapters, and it’s a bit discouraging to have to play as the underdog after you have already experienced being an unstoppable juggernaut.

For the most part, the game is completely focused on combat. You’ll be put into a huge battle arena and tasked with taking down certain flying opponents, huge floating fortresses, dive-bombing ground targets, and more. While the game gets a little repetitive, the number of combat goals are varied enough to keep you playing. Unfortunately, there are a few stages that experiment with secondary goals, like delivery or escort missions, and these just aren’t fun to play. For the most part, they are the same as combat missions, since there are ostensibly enemies that are trying to shoot you down. They just have an extra failure condition, an extra condition that doesn’t make these missions more fun, just more frustrating.

You can upgrade your giant bird with new weapons and abilities, but unfortunately, these are a little bit too expensive which creates a bit of a problem with pacing. You basically have to grind if you want to upgrade anything and grinding isn’t super fun. Also, it’s not particularly necessary. You can pretty much push your way through the whole campaign without spending a whole lot of time customizing your characters.

I would suggest taking your time, though. This is, still, an open-world game, and it’s an open-world game that you get to fly through. That made it just unique enough to really make me dive into the world. Soaring through ancient ruins, dipping up and down among the clouds, skimming the surface of the world below, all of this made the fantastical floating world of The Falconeer come alive.

There are a lot of things to criticize The Falconeer about. The voice acting, for example, is pretty cringe. The character models when zoomed in feel kind of robotic when they aren’t atop a giant bird. The particle effects in a massive battle can sometimes be distracting. There is plenty of room for improvement.

Yet I am tempted to give it a pass for every small error and flaw I come across for the simple reason that this was made by one person. Yes, this is a headlining next-gen title made by a single guy, and that’s astounding. I don’t think I’ve seen an indie game this big in scope made as a solo project.

And here’s the thing, as a solo project this is astounding. Indie games tend to have a veneer of jank on them, which shows that they were working with limited time and budget. Not The Falconeer. When I say that this has flaws, I mean it has the same flaws you might see in AAA titles. The world of The Falconeer is beautiful, far more beautiful than many AAA open worlds, and even greater still when played at high resolution in 120fps which, by the way, the game supports on both PCs and XSXs.

In fact, you know what this feels like? This feels like modern day open world masterpieces like Breath of the Wild and Horizon: Zero Dawn. It’s a world where things interact with each other and it’s up to you to figure out how to take advantage of it. Catch an updraft to gain height without losing stamina. Fly into a lightning storm to shake off pursuers. While the missions themselves are fairly simple, the way you go about solving them is really all up to you.

I haven’t finished The Falconeer yet, and I probably won’t for a while. There are a lot of next-gen games to play and I, personally, can’t really bring myself to binge open world games for long periods of time. But The Falconeer feels like an escape to me. It’s a nice game to come to whenever I need a break. I can easily pick up from wherever I left off, complete a few side-quests, push on with the main story, and just get a rush of dopamine from diving through the clouds for a little bit.

As the kick-off to the next generation of indie games, I say that The Falconeer is a pretty great example. It takes advantage of the higher-powered next-generation systems, it runs at high resolution and frame rate, and it crafts a world that is huge on a scope like no other indie game has done before. It feels next-gen and it feels indie at the same time, and that’s a feeling worth experiencing.