Falcon Age has you solving puzzles and exploring an open world with your falcon — a charming companion who is easily the star of the show.
Starting a game in prison is an impactful way to begin the story. It’s a bit easier to demonstrate where you can go, what you can do and helps serve as a locked down ‘tutorial area’ of sorts. In Falcon Age, you have been imprisoned and forced to work for the Outer Ring Company — a company run by robots that seem to be interested in using human labor to do mundane tasks, such as mining ore.
Life seems dull and pointless in this facility, as you are required to report to your robotic superiors and produce a quota of ore on a daily basis. It makes sense that eventually, you seek to abandon this terrible slave labor camp. Thankfully, you have a trained pet falcon to assist you in your escape, as her talons make light work of the machines that held you captive. The process of your escape also yields a new tool to assist you in the matter — an electric baton — and it quickly proves to be a fair weapon to bash the heads of those who might get in your way.
When your falcon — who serves as both a weapon and a tool — learns to finally and truly befriend you and trust you, you’ll find how much easier life is with a bird of prey on your side. As you begin to explore the world outside of the prison walls, you meet up with your Auntie, a character that somehow seems unfazed by the fact that robots were holding you hostage. Her task in this world, however, is to get you up to speed with the training you need to make you and your falcon a force to be reckoned with.
After revealing that your name is Sarangerai or Ara for short, Auntie helps you work towards naming your falcon — which is a milestone task that helps bond your bird to you. She upgrades your baton to include an electric whip, shows you how to make snacks for your falcon and sets you off on a series of tasks — so that you might be proper acquainted with your flying friend and help others on this barren planet still oppressed by the Outer Ring Company’s robotic force.
Exploration on this desert planet can be controlled in several different ways. Playing the game on a Playstation VR headset, it feels very natural to use the Move controllers to command your feathered pal to attack prey and retrieve items. Each controller represents its respective hand, and you can send and retrieve your falcon with some easy buttons commands, making it an easy choice to pick. Moving around in the world is conducted through teleportation, which is an easy solution to movement, but certainly not the best way to handle it. You can otherwise opt to use a controller — in my opinion, the best overall solution to input — which allows you to move traditionally with the left stick, and has you running through the dusty landscapes with ease.
Whether you choose to play in VR or TV mode, with your Dualshock 4 or the Move controllers, control of your bird feels great, and you can tell that Outerloop Games spent a fair amount of time ensuring that interacting with her was both fun and engaging. Sending her off to tackle prey gives you a sense of anticipation, as she circles in the air above it, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. Using her as an extension of yourself to retrieve far, unreachable items and destroy key items related to the robotic uprising feels exciting every single time. Once she lands back on your hand, however, is where the real magic happens.
Your falcon loves to play dress up — you can adorn her with many different cute hats, masks and various other accessories. After you complete your training with her and are set off to other tasks, she becomes an adult falcon, large and mature. However, if you want to return her to her arguably cuter, younger self, there’s a hat that lets you transform her back — which also helps by giving back a bunch of visual real estate that her larger, adult version inhabits.
Petting your falcon is certainly earns a positive point for playing in VR, as she interacts to your hand running along her back. Putting a closed fist up near her talons will also encourage her to provide you with a charming fist bump. There are also a large assortment of toys that you can find or purchase from vendors, that she will lovingly interact with, such as a pair of juggling balls or a tiny skateboard, perfectly sized for her. These interactions with your bird go above and beyond, cementing the believability that you really have this bird with you who cares for you just as much as you care for it.
At the menu screen of the game, you are given two different options for gameplay modes: combat or no combat. It’s nice to see these options, especially in a game that excels in VR, to offer up an alternative means to play. If you just want to chill and explore with your bird, Falcon Age has you covered. The standard way of playing involves combat, however, and there’s a lot involved to keeping your falcon from biting the dust.
Your baton allows you to use its electric whip to both stun and pull enemies — something more useful for the flying ones. You can then send your falcon to attack a stunned enemy and once you get close enough, you can bash their weak points to defeat them. Unfortunately, there are turrets that set their sights on your bird and shoot darts at her. If she is hit, you need to call her back to you so you can pull the darts out by hand. The darts do a considerable amount of damage, so it’s good to have some crafted snacks in your pouch to bring her back to good health. Combat can feel a bit clunky at times with lots of different types of robots attacking you at once — which is hard to handle in VR especially — but with it being a totally optional mode, there’s a means to experience the wonder of this game for any player.
Falcon Age has a beautiful world to explore and never ceases to amaze with its digital bird that really feels alive. A surprising amount of thought went into the control and VR options and the game really shines when it all comes together and players feel like they are fully in control of their bird. You really feel like you are in this world once you don the VR headset and the magic of the interaction with your falcon is something that just has to be experienced to believe. Falcon Age is easily one of the best VR experiences I’ve ever come across and is worth the effort if only to enjoy the joy of falconry with a feathered friend at your side.