Sadly GOG imposes a tiny character limit on reviews, so the full review has to go here...
Review for game version 18.104.22.168 (german localization) deluxe edition
First and foremost, The Falconeer is a flight simulator. It also has arcade combat and some RPG elements, but most of the time you'll be mid-air, exploring a water-covered dystopian world. When you've had enough of exploring the world to find ancient relics and small or less small settlements or simply taking in the scenery, you can return to settlements and (depending on your faction affiliation) do story missions or side quests. Alternatively you can earn yourself some experience and shivers (the item you'll use as currency) by doing some freelancing: Try to find pirate treasures hidden at decent places in the sea, destroy ships and sell their load in towns or escort trading ships to their destination for a reward.
You know the cliché that most RPG quests are simply "fetch this" or "kill that". Well, at least in most games I played that's actually true. However, good quest design made even fetch and kill quests enjoyable. Think of TES IV: Oblivion, a game that had a lot of good elements about its quest design: Simple tasks were embedded in interesting lore, featured unexpected twists and fascinating scenarios. Instead of a simple "kill 6 trolls and get an item from their lair" you'll be sent to investigate the vanishing of a painter, get sucked into his latest painting, where he's trapped alongside you and the thief that stole the magic paintbrush which was used to create this paintworld from the painter's imagination – however, the thief has been killed by his painted troll guardians, and you need to retrieve the paintbrush to escape the paintworld.
How does The Falconeer do its quests? First of all, let's look at the ingame actions all these quests are based on.
a) Destroy mobile target
b) (Retrieve and) deliver item, but you'll find yourself under attack at least once
c) Defend location under attack
d) Conquer fortified position
e) Escort ship
f) Precision flight
Except for precision flights, which only happen in few story missions (and for unlocking new optional mounts), and freelancer escort jobs every quest involves at least one airborne fight. The fighting is rather enjoyable, and especially with a low character development not trivially easy. Until you're good at evading projectiles (with or without evasion rolls) you will have to find a balance between offensive and defensive combat phases. When you can get close behind a target and chase it, that will be the perfect time to strike offensively. However, you'll inevitably get hit, lose health points and energy. You'll have to descend sharply to regain energy (and evade projectiles), but also use your energy to perform evasion rolls and get back to greater heights, as the higher you fly, the better your chances of survival are. You can hide in the clouds, outmaneuver larger air-ships by positioning yourself above them and so on. When you don't have much health left, recovering a bit is more important than potentially taking out another hostile. Later on, despite facing stronger foes, you'll be better equipped and more experienced and able to take on large squads of foes or fortified positions on your own without much trouble.
Side quests will always consist of differently flavoured tasks of one of the types a), b), c) or d) and are generated with a couple of variables (mission location, hostile faction, end location). Story missions feature mostly combinations of all objective types listed above. There are some exceptions to this which require you to cleverly interact with certain game mechanics, such as destroying only specific parts of a ship to render it immobile without destroying it completely. I liked that, but I found it too rare. In general, you know what to expect before you set off for a mission, and while the story missions certainly aren't as blunt as the side quests, they still don't excel at providing you with creative obstacles and restrictions. While I appreciate that airborne combat can play a prominent role in a flight simulator, I found that the quests did sufficiently emphasize flight mechanics. I'd have liked to see some more missions that involve safely traversing an air-mine field (rather than just shooting them out of the air), reach a location quickly and so on. On the other hand I can imagine that this sort of mission objective was added so sparingly (and mostly for optional content) because the developer wanted to prevent that players who struggle with the controls are unable to complete a mission and get frustrated by that.
Speaking of defeat: You may at some point fail a mission either by screwing up with an objective or dying in combat. When you fail a side quest, well, you miss out on your reward but continue in freeplay where you are. When you fail a story mission, you will be brought back to your home settlement and can start the mission again or go for some side quests and freelancing as usual. When you die, you're brought back to the point where you've last set off, and lose a bit of your currency. There are no manual saves, only automatic saving whenever you land at places. In general, this is no issue. Missions don't take long so if you have to cancel one unexpectedly you won't lose much progress.
2. Flight controls
As the game is a flight simulator its controls are rather important. First of all, this is the very first flight simulator I've ever played. I can't make comparisons with other games here and only speak from the perspective of a person that's had its first contact with the genre in the reviewed game.
There are multiple control schemes available for controlling the camera and your movement (including inverse controls for each, as usual). You can map these controls to different parts of controllers, your keyboard or your mouse. I went with mouse + keyboard controls – but my mouse has extra buttons and I mapped every keyboard action to them, so I played the game mouse-only (and thus single-handedly, in case that's relevant to someone who's currently got an injured hand or the likes; with some extra buttons on the mouse this game is perfectly playable with just one hand).
The mouse-only controls were rather intuitive. The falconeer will fly into the direction you point towards. When you shoot, the projectile is sent where you're pointing (which doesn't make it trivial to strafe around a target while also shooting at it). Descending increases your velocity, ascending decreases it. You can slow down your movement at will, but increasing your movement speed again will either require descending or investing energy. Energy is used up for acceleration, evasion rolls and ascension, aswell as lost when you're hit in combat or collide with objects. It is regained by descending or performing specific combat actions if specific perks have been acquired.
This sounds like a trap: How to gain energy that is required to ascend if the only way of gaining energy is to descend – and you are already leveled with the water covering the planet? Firstly, you can still ascend when you're out of energy (it's just going to be slow without energy to dash), secondly, much more energy is recovered when descending compared to the energy spent for ascending (even when dashing). You'll never find yourself trapped unable to move.
3. Technical aspects
Game size: ~1GB
Loading times: Hardly noticeable. Of course this depends on one's individual hardware, but this game did a good job. There are no loading screens ingame. I think some loading screens are hidden in cutscenes, though, so maybe one would notice them when skipping cutscenes.
FPS options: 60 and 120
Volume sliders: Master and voices. Music, ambience and SFX aren't separate.
UI is scalable.
Bugs: I only encountered a single bug. Pausing the game and accessing the options (escape key) is often unresponsive when you're in or very near a town. When you want to access the map, options or return to your home city, get some distance to the nearest settlement first.
Stability: I did not have a single crash when playing the game. Alt+Tab works without issues.
4. RPG aspects and story (spoiler free)
There are very different interpretations of what "Role Playing Game" means. I'll look into role-playing and character progression aspects. I'll also drop a few words on the ingame story in a way that is, in my opinion, free of spoilers.
4.1) The Story
The game is divided into the prologue (tutorial), four main chapters and the epilogue. Each chapter is built upon the previous one. While the story's beginnings are rather humble you'll find that it keeps escalating throughout the chapters and leads into rampant turmoil. As always, there are twists, mysteries and revelations. Nothing too wild, you can see a lot of it coming. Over all, the story builds an arc that is coherent and has some interesting aspects to it.
4.2) RPG: Role-Playing
In each chapter you assume the role of a different character. You'll be playing no-one specific, as you can pick a (game-generated) character appearance, name and sex. You're not the chosen from prophecy. Instead, your character has a faction affiliation that determines which factions get along with it and which don't, deciding where you'll meet hostile forces and where you can get wares and side quests. There's no decision-making, you'll follow a linear story that has happened to this seemingly random character in the world's history.
Post edited December 02, 2020 by Krschkr