Come fly with me.
It took me a little while to get Fugl. Described as a flying simulator with “no time constraints or set goals”, you simply take the form of a shape-shifting bird, flying across an endless voxel world. The lack of direction was initially mystifying, but after spending time in the eight infinite biomes, soaring through canyons and above tropical treetops, I found a quiet, meditative experience which grew on me with every minute.
One thing I’ll say at the start: Fugl should be played with a controller. I put much of my immediate befuddlement down to poor keyboard controls. Mouse-guided flight feels either unresponsive or arbitrarily sensitive, depending on the avatar you’re controlling. But as soon as I plugged in a controller, swift gliding through procedurally generated caves and treelines came easy.
It was soon after this point that I felt like I got Fugl. The meditative approach to its gameplay, the surreal audio cues from passing animals, the Minecraft-esque fleeting bars of a minimalist soundtrack; as a singular experience Fugl can end up feeling quite special.
Much like Proteus, just exploring and seeing the sights is the main draw. But the expanded movement, which naturally comes through flight, opens the world up significantly. You can switch to a new biome with a quick restart back at the main menu, instantly generating new scenery in which to pass a few minutes, and if you happen to get stuck ricocheting off trees, you can quickly start over from a mountaintop. No repercussions, no penalty for failure – no failure whatsoever – just free-flying freedom all around.
As you fly, your bird avatar can take the form of any other living being you come across. From other birds and butterflies to mountain bears, dolphins, snakes and more, seeing your avatar morph from one form to the next feels rhythmic – and seeing a graceful winged-shark is a sight to behold. There’s also word that mythical creatures roam the random worlds, but I’m yet to see how they affect things.
The lulls and peaks of Fugl are your own to craft. I found myself switching between calm, slow glides over rivers to thrill-seeking soars against mountainsides and tight squeezes through naturally formed loops. The world unfurls as you fly through it, and the lack of direction, objectives or plot is liberating.
Currently in Early Access on Steam, it’s not completely clear how Fugl will shape up in the future. It’s already gone through some major changes; previous versions saw all biomes available as one seamless world, and the current graphics are the result of a large overhaul. Speaking of graphics, in motion, Fugl surprises you with its beauty, but it can look muddy in places; your avatar can feel indistinct against the blurred background. I definitely wouldn’t say no to sharpening things up a tad.
Right now, Fugl presents a welcome breather from demanding survival games, frantic shooters, punishing rogue-likes and pixel-perfect platformers. There’s an extensive avatar editor with Steam workshop support so players can share their own unique creations for others to fly, and a level creator to boot. And while you might, like me, find yourself only dipping in and out for ten-to-twenty minutes sessions, Fugl is a pleasant experience that will stick with you if you let it.
It’ll be interesting to see how Team Fugl move forwards. Will they stick to the focus on unpressured aerial exploration? Or will they think up a way of adding progression, objectives or some kind of overarching story to pad out the package? Whatever the future of Fugl, it feels like a journey worth taking.