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Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles – Review

Solo developer Tomas Sala is back with a follow-up to The Falconeer, a game with a unique setting and a memorable aesthetic that dropped you into dogfights on the back of a giant eagle. 

Bulwark shares the same world but is less action-focused. It still pushes forward with innovation by sliding into the city-building genre. I’ll take any excuse to see more of this art style and world-building.

a steampunk looking airship nears a cluster of island with impressive towers of a settlement. There's an overall light blue tone from the ocean, clouds and the art style.

The building mechanics are streamlined to the point of being fully menu-less and even resources depend on supply ranges rather than micromanaging hard numbers. These are welcome deviations from the norm but the game just doesn’t strike me as simple, accessible and zen as I was expecting. 

There are some similarities to chill experiences such as Townscaper; buildings develop and customise depending on nearby buildings and you can add extra floors, balconies, foundations and walkways just by clicking on or around an existing tower. You place towers in your factions, style and business and residential buildings will spring up around the foundations and walkways. It’s a very fast way to build an impressive settlement. You can also place commanders in your towers and they’ll place defensive structures and top their tower with a unique structure as well as giving other bonuses.

many bowered buildings crowd an island and a web of coloured lines denote supply routes

With resources simplified the flow of building is incredible. You get a lot of freedom and constant zaps of dopamine as you dole out upgrades and expansions or connect two massive towers with an impressive sky bridge. I’d be covering the map in a web of buildings and walkways if this world wasn’t mostly ocean.

There is some challenge here but unfortunately, it mostly comes from adapting to the camera and cursor controls which are locked to the currently selected building. You do have access to a cool steampunk airship but again there’s no free movement or camera.

a small airship approaches the edge of a chasm in the ocean. large angelic statues are seen in the distance

With colonies spread across the sea, you’ll need to set up trade routes. I enjoyed unlocking and discovering new ocean-going ships and each captain has their own character and allegiance. Seeing just where your resources go, and importantly where they don’t is just one button press away which is handy. And the system of building paired harbours to set up trade routes is also quick and easy. However, I had so much trouble managing these routes. 

There’s no easy way to locate each captain or cycle through your active harbours. Your best bet is to fast travel to each resource you own on the map and then click on every nearby harbour. My iron deposits would eventually dry up and I’d have to reshuffle entire supply chains, although it’s nice you can turn resource depletion off before starting a campaign.

small airship in the middle of the ocean. Gian eagles fly escort although they appear tiny by comparison.

I still love the creative designs of the ships, aerial units and of course the buildings with distinct designs for each faction, but the world feels kinda empty this time. Random events happen but they aren’t massively impactful beyond finding a new captain, a unique building or a refugee citadel to welcome into your settlement. There’s also the occasional pirate raid. I was just expecting more. 

Even the campaign mode is more of a sandbox than a narrative campaign when the original The Falconeer proved that this world is ripe for Game of Thrones-style political shenanigans. The only political shenanigan I seemed to have was the option of declaring war against a faction and in so doing also cast out all of my citizens and captains of that faction. Not a great option when I just wanted to bully an outpost out of their iron or a quick skirmish for fun and general might testing.

City on the edge of an ocean chasm. Portrait of an NPC "assigned commander" is shown in the centre of the image

Bulwark is a fantastically creative game with some really satisfying building mechanics, but at its worst, it becomes empty and frustrating. It would also greatly benefit from an autosave. I would still love to see more in this Falconeer universe though. I do want to acknowledge the potential Bulwark has, with the first content update of the roadmap just announced a few of my niggles are already due to be resolved particularly in regards to diplomacy and progression. I’m excited to see where this goes. 

7/10 star rating

Developer: Tomas Sala

Platforms: PlayStation 5, GeForce Now, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Xbox Series X and Series S

Publisher: Wired Productions





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