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SummaryA masterful single-player adventure from a galaxy far far away
The Good* Excellent visuals and sound immerse you in the Star Wars universe
* Well-tuned combat
* Dense and compelling exploration and platforming
* A strong, well-acted storyline
The Bad* Some performance issues
* Occasionally awkward animations
The Bottom LineWhen the Mouse got its greedy paws on the beloved Star Wars film franchise back in 2012, it also spelled the end for longtime developer Lucasarts. This ended up cancelling several promising Star Wars games in production, including the infamous Star Wars 1313. As part of the deal, Disney ended up giving the license to make Star Wars games to Electronic Arts, who promptly succeeded to run the franchise into the ground with two of the worst-received multiplayer games of the entire decade. As if EA hadn’t already done enough to burn bridges with gamers who just wanted quality experiences with no season-passes or microtransactions to weigh them down.
Yet like a message stored in a wayward droid, hope has arrived from Respawn Entertainment, a studio which has been producing some of the better-liked EA games of the last few years, including the popular Apex Legends and the much-loved, if underplayed FPS Titanfall. They spent the last several years producing Star Wars - Jedi: Fallen Order, a third-person, story-driven action-adventure game set in the Star Wars universe that’s quite unlike anything they have made up to this point.
Jedi: Fallen Order follows the story of Cal Kestis, a Jedi in hiding following the events of Episode III. Five years after Palpatine ordered the Jedi purge, Cal finds himself on a planet working as a warehouse worker. After saving his co-worker from an accident while using the Force, Cal is discovered by the Inquisitors and ends up going on the run. After being rescued by a former Jedi named Cere and her four-armed alien pilot Greez, Cal goes on a galaxy-spanning quest to restore the fallen Jedi order while dealing with his own survivor’s guilt.
The story in general is quite good and actually had me invested more than I had expected. The cutscenes are well-animated, the voice acting is consistently strong, and the score evokes the films in all of the right ways. While there are times when Cal himself can come across a bit bland, he is helped by a diverse set of interesting supporting characters. There are even some cameo appearances from characters featured in the films, both minor and otherwise. Like 2018’s God of War, it does have a tendency to kind of drag out certain elements or ask you to go somewhere else before you can get to where you thought you were going. Otherwise, its a very solid adventure throughout.
Not to mince words, but Jedi: Fallen Order is hardly the most original game out there. Nearly every aspect of it has been done somewhere else. The roller-coaster ride platforming and cutscene-heavy storytelling of Uncharted? Check. The demanding combat of a FromSoftware game? Check. The physics-based puzzle-solving of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? Check. The exploration and ability upgrades of Metroid Prime? Yep, that’s here too, complete with a suspiciously similar map. Yet by synthesizing and absorbing all of the best ideas from across the action gaming spectrum, Respawn have also created a very competent game that apart from a few concessions, largely succeeds in capturing an authentic Star Wars feel, from its visuals and sound to its story and characters.
At its core, Jedi: Fallen Order is essentially a 3D platformer. You’ll jump, climb, slide, swing, and wallrun through several different worlds, while facing both humanoid enemies and creatures in lightsaber combat. While not an open world game by any means, the worlds you visit in Jedi Fallen Order are absolutely staggering in terms of their scale and complexity. There are lost of alternate passages and shortcuts to discover, and you’ll actually want to explore since that allows you to gain experience and increase Cal’s abilities, as well as find alternate clothing and lightsaber customization. Experience is primarily gained through combat, but you can also scan parts of the environment with BD-1 or collect “force echoes” to gain more lore and backstory about each area, in addition to experience. The best of these secrets will also increase your force and health meters when three of each are found, so you’ll definitely want to scour as much as you can.
Combat is based entirely around using Cal’s lightsaber and force powers. Lightsaber combat demands sharp timing with dodges, blocks, and parries. With the right timing Cal can deflect blaster bolts back at enemies. There is a surprisingly large and varied roster of enemies, including several different types of stormtroopers as well as various creatures indigenous to each of the worlds you visit.
As you progress through the game, you’ll restore Cal’s connection to the Force and thus unlock more of his abilities. At the beginning you’ll only be able to slow enemies down to get in a free hit or two, but eventually you’ll be able to push enemies off ledges, pull enemies towards you, and execute a variety of fancy and powerful special moves that can really help turn the tide of battle. While all of the “major” abilities will be granted to you as you progress through the game, you can also unlock various skills or increase Cal’s health and force meters by putting skill points into Cal’s skill tree at each rest point.
Other upgrades you can unlock as you progress through the game. These include a double-bladed lightsaber as well as special abilities for your droid companion, BD-1. BD carries the player’s stims, which are used to restore Cal’s health. You can gather more stims for BD-1 as you play through the game, allowing Cal to survive for longer between checkpoints. You’ll also unlock moves needed for platforming, including wall-running and double jumping, which help get to certain places.
It must be said that Jedi: Fallen Order is a very pretty, and extremely slick game. Developed using Unreal Engine 4, every aspect of the environments and characters just scream “Star Wars” in a very authentic fashion. From screen wipes to starships, the aesthetic has been more or less flawlessly recreated, and it will make even lapsed fans burned by the recent films giddy with excitement. Textures and lighting are high-quality throughout, though some animation during gameplay can look a little janky at times. The game also ran quite nicely on my PC apart from some minor stuttering when moving between sections of the world. This issue has been compounded on consoles though, with the game shown to be completely locking up during some segments as the game loads in new data. It’s perhaps a sign that UE4 struggles with asset streaming in games like this. The options for tweaking graphics are also surprisingly barebones for a modern PC port.
Jedi: Fallen Order feels like a throwback to the 6th or mid 7th generation style of AAA games. To a time when the biggest games were semi-linear, story-driven adventures that you could get lost in, rather than the open-world time sinks and microtransaction-heavy multiplayer titles of today. It’s honestly kind of a small miracle that we even got a AAA game like this, considering where the medium is headed into the next generation of consoles. 2019 has been a rather slow year for video games in general, but this is a nice holiday treat, and arguably a better Star Wars experience than what’s currently playing in theaters. Savor this one while you can.