Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – The Force Is Okay With This One
Star Wars has had a pretty rough road throughout the last decade. Both in the movie space and video games. With Battlefront 2’s disastrous launch in 2017, EA basically proved they had no business making Star Wars games. And Disney themselves weren’t fairing much better with the movies. EA crushed thoughts of a single-player Star Wars game in the past. So it’s hard to believe we currently have one on our hands now. Even more so when considering that promises of a wholly single-player experience with no microtransactions were practically some of its main marketing points. It’s refreshing in this current climate, but aren’t the be-all-end-all of a good game.
While Respawn Entertainment has a very good track record, going from first-person shooters to third-person character action games isn’t a simple feat. Add the fact that it’s adapting one of the biggest IPs known to man, and you’ve got quite a task on your hands. So, does Respawn Entertainment finally bring Star Wars some long-overdue justice with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order?
I’m happy to say that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order does deliver what it promised at the very least. It’s an exclusively single-player game with no microtransactions. You never know what EA might do in the future. These days it seems like you can monetize any and every game. As it stands right now though, Fallen Order is microtransaction free. So, already we’re starting off on the right foot when it comes to actually delivering on promises.
As for that single-player campaign; it’s solid. It won’t exactly Force push you away or anything, but it’s definitely better than the shallow campaign of 2017’s Battlefront 2, that’s for sure. The story follows a Jedi padawan named Cal Kestis. Cal starts as a young and understandably hyper-vigilant scrapper on the planet of Bracca. It doesn’t take long for the Empire to figure out who he is and the story gets rolling. The story is a fun and enjoyable ride. I appreciate the fact that the writers aren’t pigeonholing themselves with the incredibly gimmicky and shallow choice of ‘choosing between the light or dark side’.
Although, I do think that a lot of the concepts explored are ones that we’ve seen done before in many other Star Wars stories. I won’t get into the details for those that want to experience it themselves. Just be aware that if you’re familiar with other Star Wars stories featuring a surviving Jedi after the events of Order 66, you won’t find too much new here. The story plays it pretty safe for the most part. Cal’s character isn’t nearly as complicated as Starkiller or even Ahsoka for that matter.
Presentation-wise, Fallen Order gets the Star Wars look down to a tee. The menus aren’t anything to write home about and I did run into some muddy texturing in small spots, but the moment I took control of Cal, being surrounded by clone war-era vehicles and ships, seeing a star destroyer’s wing being removed and salvaged for parts in this giant scrap yard, and feeling the sense of scale from that moment was pretty euphoric. Star Wars fans will feel right at home from the first few moments of the game alone.
That sense of immersion holds true for any of the other planets you visit along your journey as well. Just the sound of your lightsaber igniting will put a smile on your face. The soundtrack too, though not very intrusive during gameplay, had me humming those Star Wars notes whenever I heard them. I do wish that the locales felt as lively as Bracca does though. But the look and feel of the game is certainly something that any Star Wars fan can appreciate.
It’s here on Bracca that you’ll familiarize yourself with Cal’s controls. You can execute standard actions like moving, jumping and climbing. Additionally, the level also introduces you to sliding down set-piece surfaces similar to something like Tomb Raider. This sliding mechanic does tend to be a bit overused in the level design though. Later on, you’re also shown your controls in combat as well. This is where the meat of the game is. I appreciate that the combat controls are forgiving enough to invite a bit of button-mashing while also strict enough to punish you for it if you mash too much.
One thing I will say is that the lock-on mechanic can be a little wonky to use. It’s great when fighting one enemy, but when fighting a group, I found myself constantly deciding whether I wanted to lock-on or not. It was most apparent during fights against multiple troopers. When locked-on, I had better control over who I wanted to focus on, but I felt like it limited my crowd control potential. Getting hit by things from off-screen or dodging in a direction I didn’t want to was also more common. When choosing to not lock-on, it made it easier to respond to incoming threats from different angles, but I also found myself whiffing attacks more often. There’s a middle-ground there, but the lock-on mechanic doesn’t feel as intuitive as, say, a Devil May Cry’s when juggling between one too many enemies at a time.
The combat itself is handled in a very Souls-like fashion and can be pretty challenging as a result. Of course, it rewards you for learning and understanding every opponent’s attack patterns and looking for opportunities to strike. Don’t let this scare you away though. The game does feature multiple difficulty modes. You certainly won’t find yourself dying nearly as much as you will in a Souls game as long as you just stay patient and watch your opponents.
In combat, the player has several resources to keep tabs on. The first and most obvious one is your health. The next is your defensive meter, which drains as you block attacks. The last is your Force meter, which drains when using Force-intensive moves. Your block stamina refills over time when not blocking while the Force meter rebuilds in chunks when killing enemies. BD-1, Cal’s droid companion, provides you with stim canisters when you need more health. Combat is about efficiently managing all of these resources to give yourself the best chance for success.
The player is free to get as fancy as they want with every ability. Though, utilizing them made some fights trivial. Force pushing enemies off of a ledge leads to instant kills. Force slowing enemies make unblockable moves more manageable. And Force pulling low-tier enemies sets them up for one-shot kills with the appropriate upgrade. You can kind of feel helpless in some fights without these abilities. On the same token, one-on-one fights against larger enemies never feel like you need them at all. This is especially true with bosses. At most, Force slow came in handy for unblockable charging moves. Other than that, not only does the combat system feel more suited to one-on-one fights, it’s also when it becomes the most fun.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order feels very much like a fighting game. Reading your opponent, reacting to attacks, playing footsies, etc. Every enemy in the game has moves that are heavily telegraphed as well as ones that aren’t as apparent but can be baited out. It pays to keep your guard up more often than not while dodging around moves you feel comfortable evading. While fighting against a group can feel a little frustrating at times without the use of your Force powers, winning one-on-one fights feels very rewarding with little use of them whether it’s a boss or higher-tier enemy.
Cal’s moveset isn’t exactly the flashiest for a game like this. Outside of his Force powers, he has a basic, three-hit combo, a grounded dodge, and a jumping dodge. Later combat skills are acquired through the game’s skill tree. The player gains skill points by defeating enemies and finding collectible items in the world. These skill points allow you to buy upgrades to further help you in combat like a larger life bar and extra combat maneuvers.
The concept is nice but its implementation feels a bit weak. Few upgrades feel incredibly significant while others feel like basic skills the player should have by default like the basic heavy attack or delayed attacks. I’m also not a fan of the heavy attack using Force power. It feels weird, and I never found myself dedicating Force energy to it very often. It’s a slow move that needs to be timed and the basic attack works just fine up close. The double-bladed lightsaber version brings a little more utility, but it just seems silly to waste Force energy on a heavy attack. Your other abilities accomplish the same things just as efficiently, if not more. The combat has its high points and low points. Unless you’re someone who likes to practice and experiment in games like this, the combat is overall average.
Outside of the upgradeable abilities, you also unlock skills through normal progression and acquire a few pieces of gear continuing the Tomb Raider feel. These abilities are also used to further help you traverse through the Metroidvania style level design of the game’s planets. Some of them feel a bit underwhelming like the breather and the wall-run. The former of which allows Cal to dive underwater since he apparently can’t hold his breath to do so. The latter is only utilized on specific surfaces in the game and feels awfully limiting as a result.
Exploration is another large aspect of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. When you aren’t bopping troopers or slaying wild beasts, you’re adventuring through the semi-open and at first confusing world maps. Doing this often treated me to a trek around the map that I wasn’t fully prepared for which was pretty nice.
Each planet features save points at several spots, but there is no fast travel. Fallen Order treats every planet as its own level of sorts, so I didn’t find this to be a huge issue. It would somewhat defeat the purpose of the respawning enemies when choosing to rest at a save point or not. It does make searching for collectibles a bit of a chore when returning to planets though.
The in-game map can also take a bit of adjusting to when trying to plan out a route to different locations. But once you’ve got a grip on it, it can be quite amusing for those that like the freedom of planning the best route without the game explicitly telling you through a mini-map GPS. Map design is pretty corridor-driven, so you’ll still be following a set path anyway.
I do wish there was more to do outside of just scrounging up collectibles though. There isn’t exactly a ‘hub’ of sorts on every planet unless you want to count the ship’s landing pad. So, there’s very little allied life to interact with outside of the Mantis crew and other very conditional events. Even though the conversations Cal and other characters share are amusing, it’s all wholly superficial and doesn’t really add much to the gameplay. No side missions, no extra objectives to complete, no optional challenges to do. I can’t help but feel that Respawn missed an opportunity here to create a more organic world for the player to explore besides just fighting enemies and watching semi-scripted events for the 100th time.
Also, the items you’ll be collecting are world-building at best with some even helping to increase your health and Force meter, and blandly cosmetic at worst like different poncho colors and lightsaber parts to customize the look of it, Cal, BD, and the Mantis. Free customization in this day and age of gaming is good, but it’s disappointing that it doesn’t really go any deeper than alternate colors. It would’ve been nice to see totally different outfits for Cal and the rest of the Mantis crew to wear or different accessories for BD and the Mantis to sport. This along with different ways to unlock said items outside of just opening chests would be beneficial.
Fallen Order‘s replayability is also worth mentioning in this regard. After beating the game, there isn’t much to give most players a reason to return to it. There’s not even a new game+ mode or even a chapter replay feature. There are bounty hunter mini-bosses that start to pop up about mid-way through the story. They do get old fast though. After having spent more than 70 hours in the game, I stopped running into them as well.
There just isn’t much to do in the end-game besides fight continually respawning basic mobs. I even maxed out all my abilities well before the end of the game. The only other thing you could do is play again on a higher difficulty. Even that’s not an option if you’re someone who likes to knock the highest difficulty out on the first playthrough. It’s certainly a game I see myself returning to down the road just to experience it again. For others, though, I imagine they’ll only give it a one-and-done playthrough. It doesn’t even give you a payoff for 100% completing it either.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is definitely a good Star Wars game. It’s certainly the best Star Wars game we’ve received in a complete package in a very, very long time. With that said, I think the game’s biggest fault is how incredibly safe it plays it. It doesn’t really take any risks with its gameplay or story. The world itself, while immersive for a Star Wars fan, can probably be rather bland to anyone else who’s just looking for a good character action game and doesn’t really care about the expanded lore.
As a character action game itself, the combat is solid, but I can’t say that it’s as fun as a game like Devil May Cry 5 or even The Force Unleashed when it comes to just pure enjoyment. Learning its intricacies can be entertaining, but since the combat isn’t as universally demanding as a Souls game or a Ninja Gaiden game, there isn’t as much incentive to experiment with the depth that the game is boasting to keep most players coming back for more.
Without a new game+ mode or chapter replay function, I’m not sure if most fans of third-person, combat-focused character action games will want to stick with this game for a long time either. The game also fails to make up for this through other features like more robust customization or a world that feels more organic and rewarding to explore for both fans of the IP and other parties.
For what it is and what it’s trying to accomplish, which is to bring an actually good single-player experience to Star Wars fans, it succeeds. But it ain’t exactly great either. It could be so much more. And in a world where most people see Star Wars games as a complete joke, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order will have to satisfy for now.
You can play Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order now on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC now.
What did you think of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order? Leave a comment below! And while you’re at it, check out my last review on Gears 5!
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