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The Falconeer review – soaring combat on the wings of giant warbirds

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November 12, 2020 at 12:00PM

IK Multimedia's T-RackS 5

Xbox Series X|S (version tested), Xbox One, PC; Tomas Sala/Wired Productions
It’s a satisfying experience as you glide gracefully over the ocean, but too often the dogfighting and bombing runs play out as erratic scrambles

Made mostly by a single developer, Tomas Sala, The Falconeer is a seriously beautiful aerial combat game about giant warbirds. Its setting, The Great Ursee, whose archipelagos are scattered sparsely across an expanse of ocean, is home to entangled warring factions, widespread piracy and tense trading relations between distinct island communities. When you step into its generously large world for the first time, little about the cultures and people that populate it is apparent – and it’s clear the many island nations hide a wealth of secrets. It’s a world not unlike the oceanic locale of Kevin Reynolds’ infamous post-apocalyptic movie Waterworld, but darker and more eerie.

Riding around on the backs of huge, weapons-laden birds of prey, you unpick the mysteries of The Great Ursee. As you deliver traded goods, escort ally warships and raid enemy strongholds, you learn more about the elaborate, shifting socio-political backdrop, assuming the roles of various characters from different clans to understand the story from different perspectives. The game does a splendid job of making you feel as if you are at the reins of a bird, and not just a reskinned aeroplane. Wing beats, speed-building descents and graceful gliding climbs all lend a striking avian sensation to the movement.

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