We’ve always wanted to ride a bird. No, not like that. Grow up. We meant, quite literally, ride on the back of a large avian like something out of The Rescuers Down Under. The Falconeer — making its PlayStation 5 debut after an acclaimed run on Xbox systems — attempts to allow us to live out this bizarre dream with its open-world squawk-'em-up antics.
Missions, in whichever form they take, are surprisingly chilled out. Even all-out assaults on your bird feel somewhat lackadaisical, like the enemy's heart isn't quite in it. Barrel roll, circle your foe, shoot them down with your vulcan-like machine-gun. There are escort missions and deliveries as a break from the “murder everyone” norm, but they all essentially amount to anticipating lots of aerial combat.
Thankfully, it never stops being fun — pitching your bird down to gain speed is always a bit of a thrill, and the controls feel responsive. It's also a lot of fun to explore the world, scratching an itch that the current trend of relatively oblique narratives so often does. The Falconeer doesn’t tell you much, instead leaving you to dig for its treasures yourself. Confusingly, though, brief side missions will often have similar payouts/rewards to lengthier, more difficult story missions — something a little askew with the economy, there, but absolutely no dealbreaker.
What The Falconeer offers is a remarkable open-world-ish experience, one that's all the more impressive given that it's (almost) entirely the work of one person. It's gorgeous to look at and polished as all-get-out, with a warmth and sense of familiarity to the proceedings that reminded us of the Bullfrog classic, Magic Carpet. It's a game that's very clearly cared about, a game whose systems intermingle cleverly, and one that doesn't give up its secrets easily in the slightest. Does it offer the adrenaline you’d expect from the freedom to fly and fight atop an enormous war-warbler? No, not really. But it’s still pretty falcon good.