Falcon Age Review

May 8, 2019
REVIEWS
PSVR
Also on: PS4

Sharing stories between generations is key to understanding where we’ve come from, what we’ve done and where we are set to go. These traditions are often simple concepts, but they can shape who we are. Now, what would happen if someone — or something — tried to take that away? That fight for freedom, for survival, for the right to not be forgotten is at the core of Falcon Age.

A story of growing up and overcoming the odds, these themes are reflected in almost every aspect of Falcon Age’s story. Playing as Ara, a strong-willed young woman held captive under the robotic rule of The Outer Ring, you must break out of prison and fulfill your indisputable destiny. Falcon Age’s story is one of clear heroes and villains and that plays into the folktale-like nature of this story.

Simple on the surface, but with a lot to dive into if you choose, the delivery of Falcon Age’s story is mostly done well. A little plot-heavy in the beginning and light towards the end, it’s at its best when allowing you to uncover things for yourself. Lots of the narrative and world building is told through (mostly) optional character interactions, which made me feel like I was very much part of this journey. It’s a world that is rooted with lore and history and one that, despite its harsh emptiness, I enjoyed exploring.

Look at dem talons!

Of course, this journey would have been nothing without the game’s titular bird of prey. Your falcon is your companion throughout, helping you do everything from fight The Outer Ring’s robots to digging up buried treasure. As I got to grips with the controls and how to get the best out of my feathered friend, there was definitely a bond forming. And not simply from a gameplay perspective. Playing in VR gave me a real sense of connection to this virtual creature, something that isn’t easy to pull off.

Playing in VR, by the way, is the best way to play Falcon Age. Although using the Move controllers and the teleport mechanic can make the controls feel clunky at times, when it all clicks into place it’s brilliant. Establishing that VR can handle fully-fledged, story-based experiences is key to its continued support and Falcon Age is a testament to the idea that it can work. My only gripe is with the way the game tracks movement, with Ara’s body placement seemingly not being tracked by head movement. This led to some awkward situations where I had weapons and items on the opposite sides of where they should be. Moving using the buttons on the Move controller solved this, but when instinct took over it often left me completely turned around.

Get the drone! Get it!

Outside of VR the game is just too simple an experience. Exploration can be easier using a standard controller, but everything about Falcon Age seems built with VR in mind. The uncomplicated combat mechanics and actions work excellently within the limitations of virtual reality, but you’ll be left wanting when they’re replaced by simple button presses. Calling in your falcon, having her land on your arm, and interacting with her feels great regardless — but it’s so much better when it’s like you can reach out and touch her.

Your falcon feels very real too, with enough detail to give her a personality of her very own — one that very much matches that of Ara. At its best the world itself, has personality and feels very lived in. However there are long stretches that feel empty and almost too simple. Oases and characters offered some much needed colour, but between contrast of the desert and the refineries very little else changes. Wandering around the world in VR, I can forgive a lot of this. Bold and bright, the style does lend itself well to virtual reality and leaves room for your falcon to very much be your focal point. However, frequent drops in fidelity and texture pop-in cannot be excused.

"So I said, 'Are you falcon kidding me???' Hahaha! Hey! Are you listening? HEY!"

Thankfully, actually playing the game and exploring the world is fun enough in the moment to let a lot of that slide. Watching your falcon soar through the air as it hunts prey before calling it back helps develop the bond between you and your companion. And as straightforward as the game’s quests are, there is a thrill to working with your falcon to dispatch enemy robots on your way to taking down a refinery. There’s also real peril to see your falcon low on health (don’t worry, she can’t die) as you’re cornered by a sentry, only for her to swoop in and save the day. I would have appreciated more side quests, a little more variety and more depth to my actions, but still I had a lot of fun.

That’s the thing. Ultimately, Falcon Age’s best asset — being an awesome VR game — is also the thing holding it back the most. This is a game built as a virtual reality experience and whilst that’s a lot of fun, the limitations are most definitely on show. Alongside the simple combat system are some rudimentary crafting mechanics, and some entry level exploration.

However, when I was fully immersed in this game, it felt great. I loved the story, enjoyed my scant meetings with characters and laughed at Ara’s sharp wit. It just feels like nothing here was explored to its full potential in fear of it being too much.

Yes, I wanted something more — something deeper — from Falcon Age. However, I still loved my time as a falcon hunter.

We'll meat again. Owl be sure to say "hi".

Being placed into the shoes of someone in the midst of so much change and conflict was really powerful. Playing in VR gave extra weight to actions and conversations; aspects that outside VR felt a little shallow thanks to voice acting and animation being reduced to just fundamentals. This story and the way it’s told is a rarity for video games. It’s a fantasy, sure and one that ends a little too abruptly. But it’s one that’s so close to the experiences of so many people. Falcon Age is an example of games moving forward and maturing, and how new technologies can help games achieve a connection that isn’t always possible.

Despite its problems, Falcon Age is still a fantastic experience. Too simplistic outside of VR for sure, but for anyone looking for a fun, engaging, narrative-driven game to play in PSVR, I wholly recommend this game.

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7
Falcon Age is a game with so much potential that doesn’t quite do everything it could have. Still, it’s a fantastic, fun, story driven-experience and a must-play with PlayStation VR.
Ant Barlow

Started with the PlayStation, now I'm here... with a PlayStation. Once skipped school to play the Metal Gear Solid demo repeatedly. I love stories big and small. Trophy hunter. Recent VR convert. Probably a hipster.