Falcon Age Harkens Back to the Best Parts of The Last Guardian – PAX East Preview
The Last Guardian was one of my favorite game releases of 2016 for good reason. The relationship built between the main character and Trico, their gigantic birdlike companion, was powerful because of how the game provided options for those characters to interact and naturally build that relationship. During my time playing Falcon Age at PAX East, the game evoked the same feelings of connection and companionship that I held felt through The Last Guardian years ago. The player’s interaction with their pet falcon in Falcon Age is the highlight in a game brimming with potential.
Falcon Age is being developed by a small team for PlayStation VR and takes place on a dying colony planet. The game begins as the player character, Ara, escapes jail after being wrongfully imprisoned for a minor infraction. She was able to escape with the help of a falcon that she had befriended during the time she spent locked up. My demo began as Ara was already free and I was able to spend the bulk of my gameplay experience exploring the open environment. The game is comparable to Firewatch; taking place in first person on an open map with a colorful art style, however Falcon Age does contain elements of action and crafting that makes the game much more involved. You along with your falcon companion are able to hunt, fight robot colonizers, craft food and snacks, and more to work together and make progress in the game. These elements were fun, but what blew me away during my time with the demo were the options available for the player to interact with Ara’s pet falcon in fun and unique ways.
Ara’s falcon is lovable from the get go. In virtual reality, the player is able to hold the left PlayStation Move controller to their face and press the trigger in order to whistle for their pet which can be named by the player from the start of the game. The player can then hold their arm out for their pet falcon to land on while using the right PlayStation Move controller to pet it, tend to its wounds, dress it up in gear and more. Despite the interesting world and narrative, the action elements, the characters, and the other aspects that add life to Falcon Age, petting the bird was the part of the demo that I almost immediately obsessed over. The way the bird’s feathers retreated under my right hand as I gently pet it was nearly mesmerizing and even more so when I applied a piece of gear that turned the large falcon into a baby one. It was utterly adorable and immediately reminded me of the best parts of The Last Guardian. Building that relationship with your pet and overcoming adversity together was a powerful experience in The Last Guardian and Falcon Age looks to emulate those similar feelings. However, in Falcon Age your pet seemingly obeys your every command and it’s a welcomed improvement over Trico’s occasional stubbornness
Along with the direct ways to interact with your pet, Falcon Age also provides options to command and work alongside your bird in order to problem solve and take out enemies. A flying drone will need to be handled by your falcon and once the drone crashes down, that’s Ara’s opportunity to finish the job. Hunting down food will also need for you to utilize and command your falcon to get the job done and in VR this feels natural. Commanding is as simple as pointing and clicking and by the time I finished the demo, I was impressed by how the control scheme seemed to fully utilize the full breadth of the PlayStation Move controllers. I was also pleased with how well I was able to wrap my mind around controlling Ara along with Ara’s falcon.
Falcon Age of course has much to offer outside of just interacting with the falcon. I finished my demo hopeful and excited to explore the fascinating planet that the game takes place on and learn more about its characters and the effects that the intruding robot colonizers are having on people in this community. The combat of Falcon Age is satisfying and the game seems to offer a unique perspective and commentary on neglected and dying cultures. All of the narrative elements surrounding Falcon Age are thematically interesting and during my time with the demo I was convinced that Outerloop Games were competent in their approach due to the writing which reflected the diverse backgrounds of the developers.
With all of that said, Ara’s falcon is the glue that held the whole experience together during my time demoing Falcon Age. In a game that is attempting to tackle complicated, real ideas with its narrative and themes, the utilization of the falcon appears to be a wonderful way to ground the story and increase the personal investment between the player and the world. The falcon also serves as purely mechanical fun and an exciting way to interact with a deeper narrative experience. I’m excited to see more of Falcon Age when it releases in April.