Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles Interview – Building, Falconeer Connections, and More

Tomas Sala speaks with GamingBolt about his upcoming strategy title.

Posted By | On 13th, Feb. 2023

Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles Interview – Building, Falconeer Connections, and More

Fans of aerial combat games will tell you that solo developer Tomas Sala’s The Falconeer is one of the better games the genre has had to offer in recent years, but curiously enough, the next game in that universe is going to be a very different kind of experience. Though still set in the rich world of The FalconeerBulwark: Falconeer Chronicles instead features a very different gameplay loop and promises to combine 3D exploration with building mechanics and strategy systems. It’s an enticing combination, and one that we’ve been curious to learn more about for some time. To that end, we recently reached out to Sala with some of our questions about Bulwark and what will make it tick, learning quite a bit about the game in the process. You can read the full interview below.

bulwark falconeer chronicles

"When the itch for a new project came around, I first evaluated The Falconeer and decided to continue with the parts that most resonated with players, sort of critiquing it as well. It was clear that the world, both the visual quality of it and the worldbuilding resonated best with gamers so that was a healthy starting point."

Bulwark is set in the world of The Falconeer, but it is, of course, a very different kind of game. What was behind the decision to develop a strategy title in the universe? Was making it its own IP something that you considered?

I think when you start to look at another project as an indie, you are driven by necessity as much as creativity. I strongly believe that the ‘game jam’ model of bashing out something new till it sticks is inherently wasteful and less and less sustainable in today’s marketplace of massive amounts of games.

So when the itch for a new project came around, I first evaluated The Falconeer and decided to continue with the parts that most resonated with players, sort of critiquing it as well. It was clear that the world, both the visual quality of it and the worldbuilding resonated best with gamers so that was a healthy starting point. What resonated most with myself, and I enjoyed most about the process of The Falconeer was creating the little towns and forts. So combining those two, Bulwark was born. With the core premise being,” design your own Mont Saint Michel”, a premise that also feels right for a world full of pandemics, war, and natural collapse, we all need someplace to feel safe. I also helped tremendously by watching the genre of sandbox builders and chill strategy games being born during the development of The Falconeer, something very inspirational.

Bulwark is taking a unique approach to its building mechanics, with its in-world 3D building tools. Can you talk to us about how these work in terms of the moment-to-moment gameplay and how they help set the game apart from other strategy titles?

So I think it’s unwise to call Bulwark a strategy game or even a city builder, I’ve already learned this from the demo. It is in essence a 3D sandbox builder in a living (and conflicted) world. When you play Bulwark it’s not about going into a problem-solving mindset, it’s about enjoying building a fortress or settlement and watching it come alive (and interacting with other factions on the Ursee, including a spot of combat). I make the joke, there are no mistakes, only happy accidents (quoting the lovely Bob Ross). So gameplay reflects that when there are resources they are unlimited and only transporting that unlimited stream across vast distances is a challenge, which you solve by building.

So when you want to build a giant fortress somewhere on a lonely rock, you’ll need to provide some resources to that location. You can do that by first placing an outpost on the island and then building a bridge for your main resources to reach that outpost, but you can also set up a trade route with ships. But you might find that say iron (there are workers, wood, stone, and iron in the game) isn’t reaching that outpost, the mine is too far away. Your solution is either to find a shorter route to the new outpost or simply build up the iron-producing area. You can do that by simply building more stuff around that area, getting workers there, and automatically they will build up production. The solution is always to build something. That is the core gameplay.

One thing to add is that there is no list of buildings to place, unlike a city or colony sim, you don’t decide what gets built for the most part. You get a few basic buildings, towers, outposts, and harbors, but once you place them workers will build houses or industry around them. The building then is quite simple, you stretch out a line from your outpost (or other building) and if the cursor is close you get a foundation, is it far and you get a new tower and a walkway or wall that connects it back to your current selection. The procedural system decides how that wall looks, which foundation is possible over a certain angle or cliff. So you have some powers to steer things, and you can upgrade towers with resources (if they have access) which gives you fancier foundations and walls between towers.

There is a sort of balancing here I’m trying to achieve, where it’s more that you paint over the landscape and your settlement literally grows out from that core infrastructure you lay down. It is really satisfying to see your settlement grow as you drape it across some brutal cliffside while you upgrade the towers to massive fortresses, but it does require you to let go, relax and go with the flow. I find some people’s first question is always “but how do I decide what I build”, and for a part you don’t, you discover what can be built. It’s a game about exploration as a creative force.

bulwark falconeer chronicles

"There is a sort of balancing here I’m trying to achieve, where it’s more that you paint over the landscape and your settlement literally grows out from that core infrastructure you lay down."

How much will Bulwark overlap with The Falconeer in terms of its gameplay mechanics?

Very little, you have a surveyor airship to fly around the same world and interact with other factions and people, to explore new places and drop down some starting buildings to get the ground building going. But even that has a more cursor centric control system. But you will recognize the Ursee, but then 40 years later, some places flourished, others destroyed after decades of war, and the factions and units will also largely make a return. Though with some evolution.

Do you have plans to add multiplayer support to the game?

I am not a multiplayer focused designer, and technically it requires a much larger team than myself. So for now no.  But I have been toying with the idea of having some way for people to share their creations, perhaps via modding or something related, but that is in its infancy and won’t be in the release version.

Roughly how long will an average playthrough of the game be?

This one is tricky, it’s a sandbox and not a linear campaign. I can tell from the testing so far it’s a game that will eat up the hours quite quickly. There will also be some more conventional goals, where if you fully align with a faction you will gain a ‘wonder’ for your settlement, I suspect it will take more than a few hours to unlock such a wonder.

As a solo developer, what sort of challenges have you faced with Bulwark’s development, especially given how different it is from The Falconeer?

I think the main risk for a solo developer is staying stuck on something for too long, but related to that is not getting enough feedback. Covid was quite damaging in that regard, no shows and places to watch people play your game. For Bulwark I’m using demos and public releases as a way to get lots of feedback in a short time and do high pressure update cycles live, so while people are playing try to address their issues and feedback and improve the game. So that’s something new for me and quite a challenge but also already quite fruitful. Without team feedback you have to make the gamers your team as it were.

bulwark falconeer chronicles

"I think the main risk for a solo developer is staying stuck on something for too long, but related to that is not getting enough feedback."

Can fans expect more games in the future set in The Falconeer’s world that offer different kinds of experiences?

I have plans for at least one more game in the Falconeer Chronicles series. At the moment the idea is to make a sailing game , either a chill trader set in an earlier version of the Ursee (the world of The Falconeer). Or make a tugboat/pilot game where you are a captain/pilot that pilots giant trading and warships into safe harbour and while the world devolves into war you learn that small acts of resistance can have a great impact. These are just ideas at the moment, but definitely something nautical. There are also plans to get into animation and other forms of storytelling focused on this universe, but more about that in the future.


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