Does Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles soar to new heights or plummet to the depths?

Bulwark: Falconer Chronicles is return to the world of Falconeer brought to us by Tomas Sala. For those of you unfamiliar The Falconer it was a 2020 aerial combat game and my review of it can be found here

Where the Falconer was an Ariel combat game Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles is a “City Builder” but this moniker falls woefully short in relation to Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles. You’re not tasked with building a city but more accurately rebuilding the ‘world’. Speaking of world building, Tomas Sala the games soul developer continues to enrich the setting of what I think we can now call a franchise. Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles takes place on and above the Ursee, a large aquatic world that at the time of Bulwark is still suffering the impact of a great war some 40 years earlier.

The Warbirds are still epic.

You as the player have left your warbird but not the skies as you now traverse the watery wonder-scape in an airship. You’ll begin by founding a settlement and it’s your responsibility to see it flourish, to do this you’ll need to extract resources, attract settlers, manage relations with the various factions of The Ursee and reconnect the many disparate islands. How you go about this and at what pace is entirely up to you. Most city builders provide you with a set of objectives with rigid goals for completion and essentially guide you from start to finish. Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles couldn’t be more different, you’re actively told by the game to build everywhere, explore and there are no mistakes, build, demolish and rebuild. 

Initially this lack of direction is daunting and to be entirely honest frustrating, I’ll admit to joining the games discord in the hope of getting some guidance, but again, thats not the ethos of this title. Modern gaming regardless of genre holds our hands and almost robs from us the joy of discovery and Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles is an attempt to ‘let the gamers play’. Once you accept that you are free to do what you want, unburdened by a subset of objectives the game becomes liberating. While there are no mistakes, as demolishing a building doesn’t cost you anything, you are free to build and knock down almost at will, there are of course ways of being more efficient. You of cause have resources, but rather than generate them over time, the only limit is one of distance. Can you build a route from the wood milll, to where you need said resources (a route you’ll need to assign sailors and captains to and resources can only travel a certain distance, meaning perhaps you’ll need to trade with a faction in order to gather supplies needed to expand. 

You’re not the only people on the Ursee though, and naturally people are out to claim what you have, so you’ll need to defend your shipping lanes. Pirates will often attack you and you’ll need to fly your airship and it’s accompanying wing of Warbirds to defend them. You can also declare are on factions if you like, with relationships breaking down due to old grudges from the great war. This is often manifested with captains refusing to share routes with those associated with long held rivals and adds to the sense that this world is a living environment, unlike many ‘city builders’ in which the world is a lifeless table of stats. 

The cities you build look fantastic and creation is so simple.

As you’ll have noticed this review is for PS5, a console. Home consoles aren’t usually the stomping grounds for these types of games but before you go running off hoping for mouse and keyboard support, there really is no need. Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles has a simple yet brilliantly intuitive control scheme. Essentially everything is managed by selecting something, say a command tower, with context dependant actions popping up based on the distance you move the analogue stick from the tower, then a simple button press to confirm or cancel is all thats needed. It’s fiddly to begin with but you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

In fact I’d advise letting go of all expectations, let go of what you’re used to and accept the almost casual freedom thats offered by Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles, this game doesn’t want to lead you by the hand, it wants you to explore and enjoy the journey. A very untraditional move for a ‘4X’ title but it works. Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles moves at it’s own pace, one that felt sluggish to begin but once I adjusted to the ethos of the game I found myself booting up the game to unwind and relax. I’d just unwind exploring and building as my fancy took me. 

Speaking of unwinding, it was made all the easier to do by the games soundtrack, lilting and sometimes hauntingly evocative melodies combine with the gentle roar of the ocean in what is almost a mediative pairing. Coupled with the strong aesthetic carried over from the original entry Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles is a treat for the eyes and ears, which is as simultaneously engaging as it is relaxing. 

There isn’t a huge amount of narrative in Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles which is probably the similarity the game has with others of it’s genre and I feel that if you’ve not played the first game in the franchise there’s a ironic lack of world building in this world builder. However, as a fan go the original title I was happy enough to enjoy rebuilding a world that had charmed me back in 2020.

A PlayStation 5 review code was provided by 1UP PR.