I must say that giving me a pet or an animal companion in a video game is a quick way to make me take notice of it. Some of my favorite games have had memorable animal companions such as Trico in The Last Guardian and D-Dog in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. So, when I saw that Outerloop Games, the same team that brought us Wayward Sky and Dino Frontier, was working on a new game with a falcon companion it immediately drew my attention. That game is Falcon Age and after previously releasing on PlayStation VR it has now made its way to the Nintendo Switch. I previously covered what the game was like in virtual reality but I wanted to see if I would feel the same way about it playing it on a traditional screen. Here is what I thought.
The story of Falcon Age has you playing as a girl named Ara who is locked up in a prison camp run by robots that are a part of the the Outer Ring Company who is ruining your planet and oppressing your people. As Ara, you eventually obtain your pet falcon and escape your prison camp. You then join up with a resistance group and Ara’s aunt to fight and push back your robotic invaders. The story got its grips in me pretty much from the get go and I was immediately in love with my pet falcon by the end of the introduction. From that point on in the game my companion rested on my arm as we explored the open world together. I fought battles with it, dressed it up, and pet and fed it during our adventure. I was very satisfied with the story and the characters I met along the way by the time I reached the end of my 6 hour run.
The gameplay in Falcon Age has you traveling through this world taking out enemy refineries, fighting enemy robots, and completing various quests for NPC characters that usually involve finding something and bringing it back. There are also shops where you can buy items such as new cosmetic items for your falcon. I really enjoyed toying around with all of these different items and I spent a ton of my time playing just fooling around with them on my falcon.
Of course it isn’t all about dressing your pet up and feeding it as your falcon plays a key part in the combat system. You can direct the falcon in certain directions to attack although the falcon will also perform actions on its own. In order to succeed at the combat system you have to learn how to balance the falcons attacks and your own. You are armed with an electric baton that can be used to take out enemies on the ground as well as those your falcon knocks out of the sky. Turrets for instance will require you to take out personally because they will deal a ton of damage to your falcon quickly if you don’t. Combat scenarios get harder as the game goes on and I enjoyed switching back and forth between attacking enemies myself and issuing commands to my pet to do the same. Something I do want to point out though is there is a mode you can enable that lets you play through the entire game without ever engaging in combat which I went back and did a bit of after I finished the game.
If your falcon gets hurt during battles you’ll have to call it back to you to pull darts out of it. I always felt bad every time I had to do this as if it was a real life pet of mine. You can also craft food items to heal it along with other items that will give your falcon some bonuses which really helps out. When you liberate an enemy area you can use that area as a farm for growing the food and resources although I kind of felt like I didn’t use this feature very much. I also want to talk a little bit about why I think this game is better served playing in VR. When I played a bit of it on the TV screen or in handheld mode I found I wasn’t nearly enjoying it as much. For one, the world and falcon just don’t feel near alive on either screen as they do in VR. The other issue I had was how the movement speed while traveling through the world felt too slow.
In terms of visuals the graphics in the game are pretty great which is helped by the more cartoon-like art style. The world doesn’t have a ton of variety though sticking to largely the desert and some more industrial like areas. I would’ve liked to have seen more from that. The star of the visuals though is the falcon itself which is wonderfully animated which helps make it feel that much more real. A negative I’ll point out though is that the game does suffer from quite a lot of pop-in while moving about and I also had some minor frame rate issues at times. The audio work seems like it could’ve been better though as Falcon Age does that weird thing I don’t like where NPC’s will read a brief line of dialogue and then the rest you have to read. When I encounter this in a game I always just think to myself that the developer should’ve either gone all in or don’t do it at all. Doing it like this just makes the whole thing feel off. Music is fine and pleasant for the most part and the sound effects are solid too especially those of the falcon itself.
Falcon Age was a fun adventure with a great story that I was happy I went on with my pet falcon. I’ve played a lot of games with animal companions and Falcon Age is probably on up there among my favorites. I wish the world was a bit more varied and that you could get around it faster. The game also loses quite a bit of its magic when you aren’t playing it in VR so if you have the means to do please experience it that way. If the Switch is your only way to play it then I still think it’s a good game worth checking out.
*Falcon Age is out now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR, and Nintendo Switch. Reviewed on Nintendo Switch. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.
- Interesting story and characters
- Great visual style
- Issuing commands to the falcon and interacting with it was satisfying
- Not being able to actually reach out to your falcon on the Switch makes for a lesser experience
- Slow traversal speed
- Could've used more environmental variety