Colonialism forms the premise of your quest in many a video game. From Sid Meier’s Civilization to Ni No Kuni II, the role of stranger in a strange land is an all too familiar one. While games like Mass Effect and Spec Ops: The Line approach this dynamic from a critical perspective, it is undoubtedly a theme worthy of further exploration.
Falcon Age, the impressive debut from Outer Loop Games, casts you as Ara, a young woman enslaved by robot invaders on her dying home planet. Befriending an orphaned falcon chick, the two of you break free, setting out to reclaim your home from the vice of the sinister Outer Ring Company.
With each battle won in the push back against the invaders, reclaiming resource refineries and liberating fellow natives, I felt my bond with my falcon grow. This connection is central to both Falcon Age’s gameplay and story, with the reclamation and preservation of your cultural heritage enabled and embodied by your avian ally. The immersion of VR, paired with smooth, intuitive Move controls, greatly helps this connection. Your falcon truly feels like a natural extension of you and commanding her to distract foes, hunt wildlife and gather resources soon becomes second nature.
Although thoroughly enjoyable without, Falcon Age is an absolute joy to play in VR. Teleportation movement, featuring an ingenious mechanic which allows you to control the direction you face with a twist of the Move controller, makes navigating this compact open-world efficient, minimalizing the usual tedium of this method. Your energy stick, which doubles as a Bulletstorm-style whip, makes the simple combat immensely satisfying, allowing you to pull-apart enemies and bash them into scrap. The occasional malfunctioning AI rendered enemies motionless or caused my falcon to soar unresponsive into the yonder. Otherwise, the game performs astoundingly well for not only a VR game but a studios debut.
A handful of side quests, mini-games and other distractions take up your time between missions, which at their best help flesh out the world and at worst feel like fun filler. A slick crafting system encourages you to hunt and forage to cook up healing items and buffs for your falcon friend, however the game’s forgiving difficulty makes these more an option than a necessity. An extensive selection of toys and accessories for your falcon provide the most entertaining diversion. Everything from jazzy head wear to skateboards and juggling balls are available for you adorn your falcon with, and with each animation so lovingly crafted, these interactions excel at intensifying your bond with the bird.
The bold, cartoonish art style and rich, warm hues of Ara’s home planet are reminiscent of Firewatch yet find their own aesthetic which translates perfectly to VR. While the story refrains from burdening your enjoyment of this vibrant world with the weight of its central theme, the presence of colonial oppression feels omnipresent, reflected in desolate landscapes and downtrodden townsfolk. Despite passable writing and a lack of fully voiced characters, this bittersweet tale is affecting and provides a refreshing take on the relationship between colonized and colonizer.
Falcon Age’s original story, vivid world and unique take on cooperative gameplay results in an excellent game, made essential in VR. By the end of my 6-7 hour adventure I was completely enamoured with my falcon friend, and despite the ample playtime, I was left wanting more. Whether Outer Loop make Falcon Age 2 or fully-fledged Zelda VR game (please!), this superb debut is an ambitious and promising start for the studio.
Falcon Age is an excellent game made essential in VR. The intimacy of VR brings you face to face with your endearing falcon friend and intuitive Move controls make commanding your companion and bashing-in bots a joy.
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Reviewed using PS4 Pro.