Having an animal pick something up at your command is one of the great joys of being a pet owner. It’s hard to put into words. Falcon Age, a first-person action-adventure game for PlayStation VR, understands the special bond that exists between a person and their pet, and it beautifully expresses the trust and affection that caring for an animal can give you. As well as the robust combat and fine crafting, it captures that pure, precious thrill of playing fetch – and captures it so well that after a few hours in the company of this bird, you’ll feel like you’ve adopted a new pet. This is our Falcon Age Review.
Falcon Age Review: About
- Platform: PC, PS4
- Developer: Outerloop Games
- Editor: Outerloop Games
- Release Date: April 9, 2019
Falcon Age places under your guidance a baby falcon whose mother is killed to protect him, and in the course of a roughly four-hour campaign, you raise him, train him, educate him, lead him into battle, and otherwise act as his full-time caregiver. This can be done conventionally, on television and with a DualShock 4, or in virtual reality, with a PSVR headset and a pair of Move controllers (or in VR with a DualShock, if you prefer).
However, Falcon Age is explicitly designed to be played in virtual reality, so the traditional non-VR gameplay feels like something of an afterthought. It suffices in two dimensions with familiar first-person controls, but the best qualities of the game are only noticeable with the headset on and the Move controllers in your hands. If you want to bond with your bird, you need to be able to reach and touch it.
You play as Ara, one of the few people left on a planet ravaged by robot settlers. Upon opening the game, Ara is captured, forced to follow a monotonous daily course of “re-education” in the form of morning quizzes and heavy labor mining ore by picks outside. Soon she escapes, and the story follows her attempts to adopt the ancient traditions of her almost extinct people as she fights alongside the sloppy resistance that the planet seeks to retrieve from its unwanted invaders.
Interestingly, the story begins near what seems to be the end of colonization; the planet is already depleted for resources, and when we arrive, it looks already plundered. The smell of belated destruction – in any dim view and barren valleys, of course – makes a new assumption that might otherwise feel too familiar.
It also reveals the politics of the game, which is as central to the Falcon Age as the bird. The background to the story – a vast, predatory, colonial superpower that plunders a planet of its valuables and brings the natives into wildly unjust obedience – is intended to suggest certain analogies from the real world, and it’s hard not to keep the historical parallels in mind when hearing this story from the perspective of the oppressed.
Even the falcon is poignant here; you are told early on that falconry is part of the traditions of the indigenous people, who quickly disappear under tyrannical rule. It is a pure resemblance, but it is relevant, and it gives the game a seriousness that gives the impression of being a cute little bird.
As you and your falcon make their way through the desolate landscape, attacking robot posts and learning to farm on the reclaimed land, you will discover camps, meet other survivors and, following the requirements of an adventure game, you will meet merchants with things to buy and people with groceries to finish. The world itself feels well-realized and intriguingly grim, while you map vast plains of bare rock exhausted by vegetation and equipped with fittings of sleek, ominous steel.
The conversations you have with the residents, on the other hand, tend to be frighteningly slender and sarcastic, with a dialogue that clogs just as strangely carelessly. Your hero, in particular, often talks like a frightened teenager, with options to sass in almost any exchange with other people. I found the sarcastic one-liners inappropriate for the environment.
Fortunately, communication with your feathered friend is much more natural – perhaps because it is entirely unspoken. For your trouble, it’s on your orders. The mechanics are simple, modeled on the basics of falconry. The standard condition of your bird is in the air and rotating in the air.
When you bring a fist to your lips, you call it to you, and when you raise a hand, it invites you to land on your wrist. While he’s lying on the ground, he can be fed, petted, played, or, if he’s injured, cared for – and more later. The Move controllers are very sensitive to even subtle movements, and the bird AI is sharp enough that I’ve hardly ever had any trouble getting it to follow my orders or fly to me when necessary. It feels like a natural extension of your own body in an elegant, smoothly integrated way.
Falcon Age Review: Conclusion
The highest compliment I can think of for paying Falcon Age is that it evokes the same feeling I get when caring for my real pets – including the real terrifying alarm I felt when my bird was at risk of injury. This is about much more than just a cute animal.
Falcon Age, a first-person action-adventure game for PlayStation VR, understands the special bond that exists between a person and their pet, and it beautifully expresses the trust and affection that caring for an animal can give you.