Review: Falcon Age (PS4/PSVR)

Review: Falcon Age (PS4/PSVR)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • PlayStation VR Optional
  • DualShock 4 Optional (1)
  • Move Recommended (2)
  • PS VR Aim Controller None
Title: Falcon Age
Format: PSN (6.09 GB)
Release Date: April 9, 2019
Publisher: Outerloop Games
Developer: Outerloop Games
Original MSRP: $19.99 (US), £15.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: E10+
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Falcon Age stands out as a unique VR experience. It’s one that I will use as a testament for the impact that playing in virtual reality has on gaming. While the game can be played with or without VR, there’s a strong case to be made for the latter.

The concept for the game isn’t a complicated one, having a pet either attack enemies or run support while you destroy them. If you played Mark of Kri on PlayStation 2 you’ll remember the eagle. I was pretty attached to mine. It was your loyal companion through hours of gameplay. Outside of plowing through enemies on the field while your ride her, your falcon, Epona, doesn’t really help you fight. Nevertheless, the attachment is strong.

Review: Falcon Age (PS4/PSVR)Review: Falcon Age (PS4/PSVR)

All of that takes on a completely different intensity in VR, when that creature is landing on your arm and looking you in the eyes. When it reacts to you petting it, or feeding it the falcon becomes a living creature, one that you form a powerful bond with.

Falcon Age is an adventure game with all that entails. There’s an over world map, bases to take over, NPCs to talk to, a small cooking mini component, physical combat, some stealth, and a pretty interesting science-fiction story. Hell, you can even play a round of golf in some of the towns using the baton whip as a way to toss a ball around the field.

You start the game in a prison camp, with no falcon, and you’re allowed outside time only to mine ore. I didn’t expect this aspect of Falcon Age. I thought it was going to be a purely fantasy-themed story. The prison is run by sentient robots and they ask subservient-related questions every morning before allowing you to return to the mundane mining tasks.

I don’t want to ruin the series of events that lead to you acquiring your feathery companion. You eventually end up outside of the prison fighting alongside a rebellion to take back your planet. Again, not something really revealed in promotional videos, but a really awesome discovery once you start playing.

Review: Falcon Age (PS4/PSVR)

Combat comes in a variety of flavors and offers a variety of styles. Early on you are given an electric baton. You can use it to bash enemies as well as hold them in place or yank them towards you Scorpion style using a plasma whip. Additionally, you can have your falcon distract an enemy while you bang on their exposed weak spot using that baton.

I had a small issue with the controls, unfortunately. We are beyond year two of PlayStation VR’s lifecycle, and a lot of VR games have adopted similar control schemes for experiences of this type.

With many of these games, the left Move button moves your character forward and your head, or right controller buttons, turn your character. Strafing is achieved by turning your left hand in the direction you’d like your character to move. This frees your right hand to swing a sword. It’s not a bad system of controls, and until we get a Move controller with joysticks, it will continue work well.

Falcon Age does something different, with no options available to change it. The right Move button moves you forward and the left buttons turn you. So it’s like having a first-person shooter built for lefties, but no option for right-handed folks.

Review: Falcon Age (PS4/PSVR)Review: Falcon Age (PS4/PSVR)

If it were the first VR game on the market, I’d understand the choice. But playing Borderlands 2 VR or The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim VR for dozens of hours, then going to this control scheme is pretty frustrating, particularly when it should give players another layout option.

What this creates is a frustration during combat that should otherwise not exist. Seriously, imagine playing your favorite first person shooter with the DualShock 4. Now imagine the sticks being flipped.

Regardless, I was enjoying the game so much that I forced myself to adapt to the controls. Fortunately, if the controls don’t work for you, you can also play in VR with the DualShock controller.

You have quite a few options when it comes to controlling your falcon. She will act on her own and hunt for food which is great. But if you want her to attack a specific creature or enemy, you can point at them with the Move controller and she will do her best to engage them. This is not always a direction you want to go, as there are gun placements that can seriously wound her if you are careless about where you send her.

Review: Falcon Age (PS4/PSVR)

If your falcon takes too much damage, she’ll be grounded and unable to fight. In order to heal her, you must call her back to you and remove the poisonous darts from her body. It’s a very interesting component that is even more emotional in VR. You can see her flinching as your remove the darts and nurse her back to health.

Falcon Age is fully playable in outside of VR. Your DualShock works as it would in any first-person game. Regardless of how you choose to play the game, there is something special here. But it’s very clear that the game was designed to be played in VR. Just having your falcon look at you and follow your movement with its head indicates that much love was given to the VR experience.

Visuals:
While employing a simplistic visual style, Falcon Age looks beautiful whether you’re in VR or not. A lot of attention was given to the cohesion of the world, but a tremendous amount of love was also given to the falcon itself. You will believe this is a real creature. Not only can you pet it and see its feathers react to your fingers, but its animation is brilliant and resembles that of a real bird.

I encountered quite a few instances of framerate drops. I wouldn’t say that they affected gameplay, but having framerate issues in VR is a completely different experience than doing so in a non-VR game. It can be a little daunting, particularly when you’re really invested in the universe.

Review: Falcon Age (PS4/PSVR)Review: Falcon Age (PS4/PSVR)

Audio:
I was surprised to find out that not all dialogue was voiced in Falcon Age. Characters would begin talking and then trail off, leaving you to read the remainder of their messages.

The text is large enough to be legible, even with VR’s lower resolution. But having to read what a character could be vocalizing to you in VR is a bit strange and takes you out of the virtual world.

Much like the Zelda series, though, the hints of the character’s voice helps with imagining their voices while you read. It’s not a deal breaker, but I was curious as to the reasoning behind this choice.

While I won’t be humming the music at work tomorrow, I did find the beats appropriate for the setting. The falcon’s sound effects were perfect, with a loud shriek responding to your beckons whenever you summon her to your side. Overall there’s solid sound work here, even if it’s a bit minimalistic.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Review: Falcon Age (PS4/PSVR)

Conclusion:
Falcon Age has a lot more depth than I initially guessed from watching videos. Despite fighting with the limited control options, there’s a lot to do.

What I thought was going to be a pet hunting game ended up being a full open world adventure. This one includes interesting characters, puzzles to solve, and a very unique companion that comes to life in VR. This is my first true pet game in VR, and it once again shows the power of VR when a developer puts effort into making it a solid package.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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