Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC
Although Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was officially announced during E3 2018, it was a well-known secret that Titanfall developer Respawn Entertainment, under the EA Games umbrella, was working on a single player Star Wars game for awhile before then. Coming off the positive reaction to the gameplay of Titanfall 2’s solo campaign, expectations were high, especially after the microtransaction drama surrounding EA’s Star Wars Battlefront 2 and EA’s cancellation of a story-driven Star Wars game earlier this year.
Now that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is finally here, does it live up to the hype?
At first glance, Fallen Order may seem to have mostly been inspired by Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, the 2008 third-person action game developed by LucasArts (along with its 2010 sequel) but it’s definitely more than that. While it is a linear, third-person action game, it feels inspired by elements of the Uncharted series, the rebooted Tomb Raider franchise, and of course, Titanfall 2’s solo campaign. There’s plenty of exploration, wall-running, jump-flips, climbing, swimming, platforming, puzzle-solving, and a variety of enemies and creatures making the game feel like a true adventure.
In a Galaxy Far, Far Away…
Star Was Jedi: Fallen Order takes place after Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (Episode III) and before Star Wars: A New Hope (Episode IV). The game follows Cal Kestis, a former Padawan who at the start of the game is living that blue collar life scrapping a wrecked Star Destroyer above a Sarlacc Pit. During a traumatic workplace accident, Cal is seen using The Force and finds himself on the run.
Keep in mind during this time, Order 66 is still in effect and anyone exhibiting Force powers is a target for The Empire. Along with a number of clones, The Empire sends the Second Sister, an Inquisitor, to hunt down Kestis. For those unaware, an Inquisitor is a Force-sensitive assassin trained by Sith Lords in the ways of the Dark Side of the Force. They’re not as powerful as Sith Lords, like Darth Vadar, Darth Maul or The Emperor, but they aren’t slouches either. They’re tasked with hunting down the remaining Jedi and any children with Force sensitivities.
Luckily, Cal is rescued by Ceres, a former Jedi Knight, and Greez, captain of the Stinger Mantis. They make their way to Bogano, a planet that has yet to be discovered by The Empire. While there, Kestis meets a droid, BD-1, and learns of his purpose – to restore the Jedi Order.
The all-around story is fun, intriguing, emotional, and has that Star Wars spirit. Although the game has new characters, creatures, and planets created just for the game, there are familiar faces and planets that help the story mesh well within the Star Wars universe, which I think die-hard fans will appreciate. The game does a good job of exploring the backgrounds of the main characters and what brought them to the point where they are now.
While the game attempts to tug at emotional heartstrings, we get a good sense and understanding of why Cal is haunted by his past, why Cere feels the responsibility of helping bring back the Jedi Order and why the Second Sister chose the path she took. In addition there’s some enjoyable lore around the Nightsisters, Nightbrothers, and another former Jedi on the planet Dathomir.
The story is an enjoyable adventure that feels nostalgic to those of us who grew up watching Star Wars movies and new and exciting for players who have a tertiary interest in the universe.
Combat in Fallen Order focuses on lightsaber and Force abilities. You have your basic light saber attack, a powerful light saber attack, dodge/roll, jump along with block/parry, Force Slow, Force Push, and Force Pull. Like many third-person AAA hack-n-slash action games, combat is all about timing. When to block and parry, when to counterattack, when to use a Force power. Now Fallen Order isn’t as intuitive or as tight as say something like God of War or the Batman Arkham series, but it’s fun and takes some trial and error to get used to.
I have to admit I started the game at the Jedi Master difficulty and became frustrated when I kept getting my butt handed to me by low-level clones with batons. It could be I just needed to “git gud,” or my response time isn’t as precise as I wanted it to be. Either way, I lowered the difficulty to Jedi Knight, which is the standard difficulty, but even then, it took me a few tries to defeat some of the major bosses. My strategy for some of them included a lot dodging and rolling, Force Slow, and attacking. Button mashing will not work here. You have to stick and move.
And while I experienced some frustration while taking on these bosses, it’s pretty exhilarating when you finally figure out their attack pattern and finally defeat them. The fight animations make every battle spark with intensity, and increase the excitement… or anxiety when you have no health left. There was a mix of cursing and cheering throughout my playthrough.
We’re also not only fighting clones and Empire lackeys here either. There are numerous monsters big and small that inhabit each planet that you have to get through during missions in addition to random pop-ups of Bounty Hunters, who are the equivalent to bosses themselves. Yes, Cal also has a price on his head.
Over the course of the game you earn XP – defeating enemies, opening crates, discovering secrets, finding seeds to plant on the Mantis, all earn you XP. Once the XP bar is full you earn a skill point to use on Cal’s skill tree. You can increase your health bar, your Force power bar, learn new Lightsaber or Force skills, and just become a more all-around powerful Jedi. Once you start to gain more powers, it gets pretty fun to instead of having to go one-on-one with an enemy, you can Force Push them off a cliff to their death, or Force Pull them toward you and stab them in the gut with your lightsaber.
Speaking of health, it’s part of the reason for the frustration at the beginning that I came to appreciate later. BD-1 is Cal’s droid who serves a multitude of purposes from displaying maps to unlocking doors and crates to hacking droids. BD-1 also carries Cal’s health canisters and at the beginning of the game can only carry one, after meeting BD-1, you get a second one. Once you use them, that’s it. To add more canisters (you'll be able hold a max of 10), you’ll have to find them in secret locations on different planets. There’s no health regeneration or any health pickups, like orbs or packs laying around the environment.
To refill your health, you have to find a Meditation Circle (save point) and “Rest.” The thing is, when you choose to rest, it respawns the enemies you just defeated in the area. If you choose to move forward without resting and are killed, you respawn at your last save and all the enemies you defeated also respawn. In addition, when you are killed, you also lose the XP you gained after the last save point, however, if you get a hit on the enemy who killed you, you get it all back. Got everything?
It’s a health system that, at least for me, encouraged me to not waste health and strategize using a combination of Force Powers and Lightsaber skills. Using Cal’s wide range of abilities made the game that much more fun.
As mentioned earlier, there’s a handful of planets you travel to throughout the game and the art and design for each of them are top-notch. Each planet has its own personality, its own monsters and creatures, along with signature customizable items found in crates across the maps.
Dathomir is a desolate barren planet inhabited by insect-like creatures tossing poisonous projectiles toward you while Kashyyyk is very green with forests, lakes, and waterfalls plus giant spiders trying to snatch you up for a tasty meal. The environments are alive too, with spiked plants popping out to stab you if you or your enemies get too close or living vines that chase you while scrambling up a cliff.
Each planet is vast and encourages exploration, with a number of secrets, including lore, Life and Force increases, and health canisters. There are tombs to raid, puzzles to solve, and areas to traverse that make use of your physical and Force ablities, and many times you don't solve things on the first try. Fortunately, when looking at the mini-map, the game lets you know if there are any unopened chests, undiscovered secrets, or unexplored areas and gives you a bit direction on where to go next. It doesn’t tell where those things are, but at least you’re aware that there’s still some work to be done. And if you don't have access to a certain area, you'll most likely need a new ability or BD-1 needs an upgrade, but you'll always be able to come back. Unfortunately there isn’t any fast travel in the game to spawn at other save points, but during exploration, you’ll find shortcuts to get you back to previous areas quicker and without having to go through a crowd of enemies again because you decided to rest at a Meditation circle.
When it comes to the customization, I was a bit disappointed. Hidden in the planet chests are new clothing options for Cal, new paint jobs for BD-1 and the Mantis, and materials for your lightsaber. Sure, the idea of being able to build and construct your own lightsaber is fascinating, but it doesn’t make a difference in the game. It’s all cosmetic and has no impact on the game at all. I would have liked to see some perks or something, at least with the lightsaber parts. Maybe a 5 percent attack increase with this Lightsaber switch, or a 7 percent increase in defense with this saber emitter, or maybe an XP boost with a specific Lightsaber sleeve or material. Plus, you really don’t get to enjoy the look of your lightsaber anyway when you’re busy cutting down enemies.
Oh, one more thing, for a lot of the game you’ll be playing with a blue or green lightsaber (unless you pre-ordered the game and got an orange one), and won’t be given the option to choose a different color until way later in the game. Fortunately, after reaching that specific point, you can change the color any time at any workbench.
The cool thing about any officially licensed Star Wars game is the music. Fallen Order is bursting with the classic Star Wars score that you know along with new music that mixes well with the experience. Everything fits seamlessly together musically and it just further immerses you into the universe. In addition to the music, the sound effects of the lightsabers are pretty much ripped straight from the movies and sound pretty good.
I also have to give credit to the voice cast with Cameron Monaghan (Cal Kestis), Debra Wilson (Cere), Daniel Roebuck (Greez) and Elizabeth Grullon (Second Sister) being the standout performances for me.
Overall, I don't think I'd be out of line by saying Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the best Star Wars game since 2003's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and stands as one of the best Star Wars games ever made. I'm ready to start the adventure all over again and I'm looking forward to more Star Wars games from Respawn Entertainment.