Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order $59.99
Now thats What I call a Star War
We live in a time where Star Wars media has never been more plentiful and varied. Novels, comics, movies, and shows all come out with such regularity that you’ll rarely be left wanting for more. Somewhat oddly, however, video games have failed to capitalize on Star Wars fever this decade. EA has had the exclusive license for the past five years and has seemed unsure of what to do with it. They revived the Battlefront franchise to mixed success and have started and canceled more projects than you can shake a stick at. And yet, somehow, Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order made it to market, as a single-player action-adventure game. The kind of game EA said the world was done with.
Respawn is known for their pioneering work in the FPS genre, revolutionizing games back in the Xbox360/PS3 era with Modern Warfare, and then splitting off from Infinity Ward to create Titanfall, and Apex Legends in the current generation of consoles. That made the reveal of Jedi: Fallen all the more surprising when we realized the game was an action-adventure game, unlike anything Respawn had made up until this point. While not wholly successful, Respawn shows that they’re not a one-trick-pony and that they’re one of the top studios making games right now.
Jedi: Fallen Order is a lot of things. It’s an action-adventure game, a-la Uncharted. It’s a Metroidvania, and it’s also got some From Software DNA in there as well, by way of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Though Sekiro released recently enough that it’s hard to say how much of an impact it had on Fallen Order. But its other inspirations are clear as day. For example, the combat tutorial at the beginning of the game is a recreation of Uncharted 2’s famous train sequence. This follows a runnin’ around tutorial that introduces the game’s Uncharted-esque climbing mechanics. You’ll be scaling a lot of walls and walking along narrow pipes and branches often throughout your interstellar adventure.
The game handles these moments well enough. Unlike Uncharted, the game is more forgiving if you fall into some sort of chasm and quickly pulls you back to a safe spot with only a small bit of health missing. Uncharted would do well to remember this. Our protagonist, Archie Andrews Cal Kestis, sometimes doesn’t grab on when he should, or a poorly timed jump can send you plummeting, so the quick respawn is much appreciated here. On the PC version, loads are not overly long, so even death doesn’t leave you out of the action much longer than it takes to google some Baby Yoda memes. From what others have said, the console load times are much more frustrating and detrimental to the overall experience. Turning your difficulty down may be worth it to avoid the extra deaths and loads.
Depending on how strong with the Force you feel, you can adjust the difficulty in some neat ways. The main adjustment that you’ll be making is the window within which you can parry enemy attacks. On the lowest difficulty, you can eat a snack during the parry window, while at the highest you’ll be testing your reflexes. While playing on a Steam link, I found the hardest difficulty to be just too unforgiving. Certain enemies felt like their attacks were heat-seeking and would hit me no matter where I dodged to. After dropping the difficulty down a notch, I felt far more capable but still felt that many enemies were far far (away) too resistant to a lightsaber. But that’s kind of par for the course with games about Jedi. While basic Stormtroopers and other small fodder enemies will fall with a single slash of your blade, as soon as they don a pauldron – WATCH OUT – they’re gonna take at least two strikes to slay.
Paired with the array of Force powers you unlock through the game, it feels a little silly to slow an enemy to the point of being nearly frozen, and then to hack at them and have to hit them three-plus times in order to cut down. Alas, the same could be said about nearly any game that features weapons. Not every game can (or needs to) be Bushido Blade. When you’re able to get a handle on the combat and parry enemies reliably and have unlocked a few Force powers the combat makes you feel powerful until you reach enemies that seem unphased by your attacks. I’m hitting you with a lightsaber, at least pretend it hurts.
Outside of combat, you’ll use your Force powers to open up pathways and shortcuts around levels that will advance your journey. They’re basic object manipulation abilities you expect a Jedi to have, so there isn’t much surprise to be found in the upgrades themselves. Each world you visit has a distinct look and feels like a distinct place with its own history or story. For those enamored with that far far away galaxy, I’m sure it’s an absolute treat to explore and find bits of lore scattered about. For me, as someone who checks in on the occasional game and only watches the movies, I found myself bored with the exploration and the items you find scattered about to be unrewarding. If the game had a fast travel system then I may have been more inclined to go back and explore more, but traversing the same climbing and sliding puzzles multiple times isn’t an exciting proposition.
And how many ponchos does our boy need? Not to mention that I basically found one poncho an hour into the game and then never changed out of it because I didn’t find the rest to be that interesting. You can find paint jobs for your ship, but you rarely see it, much like the lightsaber components. You can customize the appearance of your lightsaber with a wide variety of parts, to make a lightsaber that is uniquely you. And then you’ll barely be able to see it hanging off Cal’s belt as he runs around and fights. Eventually, I started asking myself why I was opening chests because they only contain underwhelming cosmetic items. If you’re someone who likes opening chests (non-microtransaction variety) and seeing a completion number creep upwards, then you’ll probably have a good time hunting down everything. That’s not to say you shouldn’t explore though. There are upgrades that will give you an extra healing item scattered about, as well as upgrades for your force and health meters. You’ll pick up far fewer of those than you do lightsaber buttons, however.
Up until this point, I’ve been pretty hard on Jedi, but there is one thing that stands out and above from the rest of the game. Droid companion BD-1 is a joy to spend time with. He is stupidly cute and incredibly useful in your journey; overflowing with character much like an R2-D2 or BB-8. Cal spends most of his journey alone, only joining up with the crew when he returns to the ship, but BD-1 is always there on Cal’s back ready to pass a healing stim or a cheerful chirp of encouragement. I’d say BD-1 is surprisingly deep as a character, but that would be doing a disservice to the many great droids that have existed in the Star Wars universe before now and to BT from Respawn’s Titanfall 2.
The other characters are where the game shines as well. The plot of the game doesn’t serve to alter or push the fiction of Star Wars forward, but it does provide room to tell smaller more personal stories and develop some fantastic characters. Cere and Greeze are your crew and guides through the galaxy and are usually down to chat. Don’t expect Mass Effect style dialogue trees and depth, but the dysfunctional family you build throughout the course of the game do feel like a family by the end as you get to know each of the characters.
I look forward to what Respawn is able to do with a sequel to the game, as I think this attempt at something outside of their shooter-comfort zone shows promise but lacks a certain amount of polish. Those who are invested in the Star Wars universe outside of the movies will find a lot to latch on to and enjoy in the story, lore, and characters. The game captures and blends the spirit and mechanics of so many games before it, and combines them well, but doesn’t do any one thing better than the games it borrows from mechanically.
- Gorgeous visuals
- Force powers provide a lot of options
- Great characters
- Customizable difficulty
- Odd animations
- Platforming/Climbing sections are not fun
- No fast travel system
- Collectibles are dull