The Falconeer Gamescom Preview
Tomas Sala is the sole developer of The Falconeer and he has been working on his game for about 2 years. He once was a Skyrim modder and made, amongst others, Moonpath to Elsewyr and has been in the game industry for some 18 years, worked in larger teams, but burned out on everything, took time off and The Falconeer came out of that.
The Falconeer is an open world air combat game with RPG elements. One of the themes of the game is that you are in the air flying a falcon over the ocean of the great Ursee, where all the secrets in the world are covered below the surface of the see. The world has mysteries that run deep and are there for you to uncover. It also has hidden treasures and ancient relics that can be found under water.
Tomas is currently wrapping up the core mechanics of the game and will start on the story telling part of the game next, so at the moment the game is more of a sandbox open world experience.
You play a single character that you get to create from the start. The first step is to select a portrait and with that also being a male or female. Then you get to select one of the available classes, like the falconeer, who is a noble, honor-bound flying soldier, or a mercenary, who is just doing it for the money, a privateer, who is a fallen noble, or one of the other classes. Each of the classes have different perks, outfits and slightly different statistics, which will provide some differences in the gameplay.
There will be a short origin story at the beginning explaining how you got to where you are now, which will also provide you with the bird, the weapons and the permit to fly.
The game always starts in a trading town, where you get to play the story of the traders. You can go into the wider world and play the side missions, earn credits, find shops or explore the secrets of the world, but you have to finish the first part of the main story in order to advance and play the next story. In a new story you start as a new person with a new life. You have to select a new portrait and a new name as well, as the ones you have used before are not available anymore. However, some of the skills from the previous person you were, will carry over, so you don't have to start completely from scratch. By going from one story to the other and collecting all the life experiences, you get a more complete picture of the world you are in.
There are 3 factions that tell the story. First there are the civilians or the traders. Then there is the empire, which is the reigning superpower with nice cities and a palace, but who also have a full-fledged navy. The third faction is the Mancer faction. They control all the technology in the world and control where the technology comes from and who gets what technology. They have been controlling the technology for thousands of years already preventing the world to advance too much. This also means that almost everybody in the world is after what they have. The Mancers also have the technology to open up the see to allow the search for treasures.
There is a reason for the things being as they are and by playing the game you will slowly unravel the complete story of the world. You will also encounter a fourth faction that you don't get to play, which are the freebooters. They are refugees, who fled from the empire and the Mancers. They have found some ancient lava caves to live in. In these caves they have found some biotech technology, which they now use to modify the creatures of the sea.
Throughout the world you will encounter flying trading ships who will call out for help whenever they are under attack and, if they are friendly with you, will help you when you are under attack as well. The trading ships might also offer you a mission, like escorting them to their destination. They are sort of the backbone of the world and are quite important.
In the shops you can trade and buy ammunition for the weapons on your bird. In the demo the bird was stocked with fire and lightning ammo. Ammunition can be bought but it can also be recharged. The Lightning ammo can be recharged by flying through thunderstorms and fire ammo can be recharged by flying through a volcano. However the ammunition can be overcharged, resulting in the ammunition to explode and inflict some damage.
The shops also allow you to buy a better or more powerful weapon, when you have the money.
Flying is quite straightforward, if you dive you gain speed and if you pull up you lose speed. This will cost energy, so by making your movements fluent you lose the least amount of energy. You can also perform some acrobatics with your bird, like a roll or a dash, which however costs energy. Occasionally you will also see vortices of hot air. When you fly through them you get pushed up for free, to a higher position.
While flying you are bound to enter into a fight at some time. Air combat takes place in real-time and the idea is to not get hit while you try to take out your opponents. Sometimes your bird might catch fire, in that case you can dive into the water to put the fire out, after which the auto-heal will kick in. When you attack a ship, bits and pieces of that ship will fall down when you hit it. You can collect the splinters that drop as they are used as currency in the game. The game also supports a target option allowing you to target the sub-systems of the ship, like the turrets or the engine and there is a lock option where you can lock upon an enemy, which is quite helpful at times, as the combat can be quite hectic.
The stats of your bird can be improved, which is accomplished by injecting the bird with poison and steroids, which will improve the skills of the bird, but it isn't necessarily good for the bird in the long run and it isn't going to look that well either. So you will have to make a moral choice between having a better or a healthier bird.
Your actions in the game influence your relationship with the NPCs. Improving your standing with them will get you better missions. But there will probably not be a dynamic faction system where your actions influence your alignment with a faction.
There will be only one game saving option available, which is when you land your bird. This means you have to finish the current mission first, before you can save. So, there is only one save possible between missions and during the missions there is permadeath. When you die you have to start the mission over again.
The game will support difficulty levels, but there will not be any auto-leveling. An iron-man mode would for example provide no auto-lock or target options in combat and would have much more instadeaths, where easier modes provide more supporting options and is more forgiving to your mistakes.
For those who like in-game photography, Tomas has put in a camera mode, where you freeze the image, after which you can move the camera around in 3D and take screenshots of the frozen scene.
Some gameplay elements still need to be added, like bombing, where you get to pick up sea mines from the ocean and drop them on the larger ships and escort missions.
The Falconeer is scheduled to be released in 2020 and I personally would really like to fly a falcon to explore a world and shoot down some ships in the process, so I've added this one to my wishlist.