I play hundreds of video games every year, but it’s still hard to imagine how each one I play came to be a final product. The creativity and skill set needed to make the games that bring me so much joy is practically unfathomable, and I salute all the teams that come together to create countless gaming masterpieces every year. Even harder to comprehend is how a solo developer puts out a product, but Tomas Sala is becoming somewhat of a master of it. The Falconeer brought back air combat in a game that looked like it was made by a huge team of experts, and Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles is shaping up to be a really interesting take on the humble city builder.
Set in the same universe as The Falconeer, Bulwark sees you playing as one of the factions trying to thrive in this world of chaos. Building in this environment isn’t easy though, there are threats lurking in all directions and the landscape is made pretty much entirely of mountains and ocean. Fortunately the focus of the building is centred on the verticality you’ll need to make an impressive cliffside base, so get ready to gather some materials and build some towers.
Putting a base together in Bulwark is simple enough to learn. You start the game with an outpost, and as long as you have some wood you can expand in any direction by placing a tower within range of it. Your towers are instantly connected by walkways, and as long as there’s places to work nearby they’ll be automatically populated by your citizens. This is important because the more people who live around your factories the more efficiently they produce materials.
There are only three resources you have to worry about while building your settlement, wood, stone and metal. What’s interesting about how these materials work in Bulwark is that you don’t really gather these materials, and instead have a meter that determines how much of them you can use from a specific location. The tower next to the wood mill will always have enough wood to expand with towers in every direction, but as you get further away you’ll only have enough wood if your web of towers have provided enough workers to boost production. This sounds complicated, but really all you need to do is make a big mesh of towers across the cliffs to expand.
Sometimes there just aren’t enough spots of land to get to the resources you need though, and you’ll need a dock to transport your wood, stone and metal. Once you’ve placed two docks where you need them you can assign one of your boats to the route, and it’ll take a specific material back and forth. Setting up the perfect chain of resources is really satisfying, especially when more and more properties and people move into your little cliffside utopia.
If you’re still struggling to get enough people to stay in your town to boost your industry, you can start upgrading your towers. The easiest way to do this is by gathering better resources. When you upgrade a pathetic wood tower into a stone or metal one all the surrounding walkways are automatically upgraded too, so it’s worth remembering to do it. Another way you can upgrade a tower is by adding extra foundations and balconies to the sides of it. This is easy enough to do by just moving your cursor to the edge of a tower and placing these handy ledges wherever you fancy. When you combine this with the fact you can place towers and paths almost anywhere you want, it really ensures that every settlement you build feels uniquely yours.
The final upgrade to any tower turns it into a command tower, which you can place a commander in. This is important, because the world isn’t always (read ever) a peaceful place in Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles. Your commanders pretty much manage themselves, often with hordes of dragons they command flying circles around the tower they inhabit. There’s not a lot more badass than watching these mythical beasts swarming down at an enemy ship, so make sure you recruit as many commanders as you can.
Base building is definitely the focus of Bulwark, but you also won’t get far in this world without exploring. Your handy scout balloon can fly anywhere you want it to, and find new resources and events about the map. It’s always worth checking out the question marks dotted about the map, because it’s often a commander or ship’s captain that’d be willing to join you as long as you don’t mind shaking up the global affairs going on in the background.
There are five main factions in the world of Bulwark, and depending on who you take in they’ll either get stronger, weaker or become aggressive to you. Everyone is a bit testy in this wet and wild world, and it’s easy to upset the wrong people and find yourself facing some hostiles. In the preview build I played I found these negotiations pretty tricks, and often ended up with everyone hating me, but hopefully with a bit more time, and possibly some slightly adapted onboarding, this won’t happen further down the line.
One aspect of Bulwark that I should mention is how its demo is going to work. There will be a constantly evolving demo that can be played by absolutely everyone, that will update with new content and balancing as development continues. This demo will continue to showcase how development is going, but also takes away the ability to save the game entirely. It’s a really cool idea that’ll allow people to test out if Bulwark is for them, so there’s really no excuse to ignore this lovely city builder.
Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles has a lot of fantastic ideas, and it’ll be interesting to see how it develops going forward. The city building is really compelling, and every community you make feels uniquely yours. The solo Dev project is shaping up to be something special, and if you don’t believe me then get downloading the evolving demo.
Bulwark: Falconeer Chronicles is “coming soon” to PC via Steam.