Few indie games set out to look amazing and polished from the beginning. This is because they are generally done on miniscule budgets, on often out-of-date hardware. So when you come across one it is often a shock, and this is the best way I can describe my initial impression of Falling Sky.
I managed to get a hands-on play through the early demo at Game Anglia and it left me in awe. The style, smoothness and quality of the game is (and I hesitate to use the phrase) AAA.
Falling Sky is a bold, cinematic game set across the sprawling landscape of American suburbia. The game follows its protagonist Daniel and his younger brother Tommy as they embark on a quest to solve the mystery of their mother’s disappearance. With only a series of cryptic messages to guide them, the brothers set off on a dangerous quest to discover the truth. Playing the game, you can see that the game’s designer/developer, Jonathan Nielssen, has been heavily influenced by movies with regard to the camera angles. Every sweeping pan, slow shot and close up has been meticulously thought out to achieve the very best visual impact. Motion capture has been used to get the very best facial representations and fluid movement, which is something you would not normally find in an indie game.
Besides its stunning visuals, Falling Sky also shows off the developer’s understanding of players in general. For example, in one scene, you enter a living room as visual effects of the sun distorts through the blinds, when a flash of a torch leads you to a point of intrigue. This really shows an in-depth knowledge and understanding of how to manoeuvre the player to where they should go with minimal prompts.
The classical sound and crisp voice acting is also a delight, with the right amount of tension and smoothness for the scene in question, not often found within such story-driven titles. However, with such industry stalwarts as Stephane Cornicard and Christy Meyer in place, you can see that this is becoming something special. Even though the demo is only five minutes long, the game captures you enough to leave you with questions, and wanting to see how the story will progress.
The control system is also easy to use within minimal button presses, so helpful prompts let you know what to do. There is no HUD, as the idea is to drink in as much of the Falling Sky’s visuals as possible, so the little prompts are perfect to ensure minimal disturbance from the game’s narrative.
I managed to spend a decent amount of time with the developer who, incidentally, was trying to get his dissertation out the following day. Kudos to him, as not only was he promoting his game, but he was also trying to finish other work as well, which shows just how much is on his plate — and he has still managed to produce such a beautiful game.
Our conversation was a real revelation of the hardships of development, but also how great it is, as he described how other indie developers had helped with advice, allowing him to bring his project to reality. Descriptions of six months of pure ‘locked-in-a-room’ development time followed by brief bouts of discussions regarding timescale with the producer was humorous, but telling, that you need to really enjoy what you are doing. It is clear that Jonathan knows what story and game he wants us to play and is trying his hardest to provide us gamers with the very best experience possible.
Falling Sky is still early in development and thus there is no firm deadline for release. However, this is one game that we will be keeping a keen eye out for, and as such, one we are looking forward to continuing the adventure.
If you would like to know more about the Falling Sky, check out the developer’s website.