Falcons and robots and dress ups, oh my!
Did you know humanity has practiced falconry since 4000-6000 B.C? Sadly, in my concrete jungle existence, my own chances of befriending a bird of prey were slim to none…
…or so I thought! Outerloop Games has arrived with their new virtual reality adventure game Falcon Age to fill the falcon-shaped hole in your heart.
And not to worry; if you’re not a PSVR player, Falcon Age is also playable on the good ol’ PlayStation 4 with DualShock controllers.
Reach for the sky
Falcon Age allows you to take on the role of Ara as she fights to save her planet from its robot overlords, armed only with an electric baton and her best bud falcon. You’ll spend your time directing your falcon to hunt wild game, picking fruit, arguing with your prickly aunt and whacking robots on the head.
It also involves considerable walking and backtracking. So much backtracking. By all the falcons above, this game needs a fast travel mechanic. At the very least, all that exercise allows you to appreciate the bright and beautiful environments, accompanied by a solid selection of ambient music.
Best bird friends forever!
You meet your falcon partner when she’s but a wee baby fluff-ball. And she’s gorgeous. It’s obvious that Outerloop Games have poured countless hours of love into creating an animal companion that acts and moves like the real deal.
Needless to say, I formed an emotional bond immediately.
She doesn’t stay a baby forever, and before long she has grown into an imposing adult – taking up half the screen when she alights onto your forearm. Happily, there is an item that allows you to change her back into her baby form when you’re feeling nostalgic. Or for when you need to see more of the screen.
Outside of duelling robots to the death, you’ll spend 90% of your time hunting wild animals as a team (a joy!), playing with and buying cute outfits for your bud. I really can’t overstate the joy of this.
Fair warning – your falcon can’t actually die, but she gets so beat up that it’s actually pretty traumatising. If you’re not careful, she gets stuck full of horrifyingly large needles that must be plucked out by hand. One. By. One.
Bird vs. Machine
Battle involves hitting robots with your baton, stunning robots with the baton’s whip function (admittedly, very cool) and calling down your falcon to distract/attack/ lift robots by the foot so you can brain them.
While this sounds deep and entertaining at first, it becomes repetitive quickly. A five hour game runtime hardly calls for a wide array of enemy-types, but if I’m feeling the repetition after less than five hours, the balance isn’t quite right.
Also, I love my falcon friend, but her battle AI was kinda janky, yo. I’d be swinging wildly stunning ‘bots, whistling her down to do her bit (“Now, Windsong, now!”) and… nothing. I look to the skies and see her still spinning her way down, or a few times, stuck inside a building with an open door.
For some, a romantic hunting trip with their falcon will be sufficient entertainment, particularly within a virtual reality environment. Outerloop Games recognises this, and in a win for accessibility, has a menu option to remove combat from the game.
Join the resistance
Somewhere within all these bird playdates is a story. An account of an indigenous people whose planet and culture are being sucked dry by a colonial presence. A tale of persistence (or not) in the face of overwhelming odds. Of partnership with nature.
Like the combat, the story doesn’t reach its promised heights. Themes aren’t explored in any depth, disserved by pacing, shallow character interactions and a frankly disappointing ending. A niggly point, but conversation trees don’t always branch correctly, and contain a number of typos.
While we’re on the topic of errors, I need to mention the glitches. I experienced enemies disappearing into walls, jittery animation, and missing environmental textures during the five hour play time.
Buy it when it’s cheep
There’s a lot to love about Falcon Age – namely, its falcon. She is a majestic, perfect creature, trapped within an imperfect game.
I’ve picked apart a number of flaws in this review, but truly, what Outerloop Games have achieved with this animal companion is exemplary. When you get past its issues, it’s worth picking up for bird dress up times alone.
So, if you’ve always wanted a falcon but your landlord ain’t so keen, this is your game.