Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Rating: T for Teen
As early as 2013, we learned about a deal between EA and Disney that would have the publisher in charge of the Star Wars license for ten years. In the last six years, the license seemed to be under-utilized with only two subpar Battlefront remakes and a few cash-grabbing mobile tie-ins. However, that has changed with the release of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
With EA firing Amy Hennig and shutting down Visceral Games, Respawn Entertainment was the only developer with a Star Wars project on the way. Respawn also saw great success with Apex Legends earlier this year. Let us also not forget that they are responsible for the Titanfall series, which is dearly loved by critics and fans despite its commercial flop. With all of these factors at play when Jedi: Fallen Order was announced, fans cried out, “Help us Respawn Entertainment. You’re our only hope.”
Spiritual Themes: The game includes Jedi, who are a group of people with a sort of spiritual belief system and who tap into what they call “The Force,” which gives them special abilities—players will use some of these in the game. The Jedi Order is much like a fictional religion. Throughout the game, players will travel to the ancient temples of an alien race. The beliefs of this alien race are not deeply explored. There is a group that is referenced in the game called the Night Sisters; a character calls them witches, but they also adhere to a fictional religion with fantastical abilities. The world of the Star Wars franchise is science-fiction with many alien races and creators that are non-existent in real life.
Violence: A lightsaber-wielding Jedi is the starring role of the game, meaning that players will be using the laser sword to subdue enemies. The weapon does not cut human enemies or sever their limbs, but these results do occur when facing dangerous creatures. That decision comes from the fact that the Star Wars franchise contains limited violence, so Lucasfilm wanted that to stay true for Jedi: Fallen Order as well. A scene takes place where players are given control of an Imperial AT-AT Walker and must blast away at a large number of stormtroopers. A torture scene takes place in the game, but violence is again limited here. The most we see is a bound character being electrocuted.
Language: The word “bastard” is used, but is considered to be minor foul language.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a long title, and with that colon there, I imagine that Respawn and EA plan for this to be a series. Before I finished the game, I was not yet sure how they would make that happen. Now that my time with Jedi: Fallen Order is in the past, I am still unsure where this story will go—but I look forward to seeing what can be done with a sequel. Technical issues may be abundant, but this was one of my favorite third-person action games of the year.
Taking place five years after Order 66 and the events of Revenge of the Sith, we step into the shoes of Cal Kestus. Cal is a Padawan that was displaced as a result of those events and forced to hide his abilities. This set-up was what I enjoyed most about taking control of Cal—I wasn’t some overpowered Jedi Master. The way I stumbled through much of the game was very on-brand for the character, and Cameron Monoghan of Gotham and Shameless fame played the role well.
The fact that Cal is a Padawan lends to the reason we don’t start with force powers and a good reason for the adventure to take place. Cal must re-learn how to use his force powers, which give the game a very Metroid Prime sense of exploration as you use them to gain access to previously unreachable areas. The unlocked abilities are also instrumental in combat, giving us a few different options in how we decide to handle an enemy encounter.
Jedi: Fallen Order emphasizes the use of the lightsaber, while many other games chose to highlight the force powers in the past. The combat takes notes from the “Souls-like” subgenre and does it well, though Sekiro much more inspires the parry system. Depleting an enemy’s parry meter staggers them, allowing one to do even more damage. The available force powers mixed well with the combat, especially Push and Pull, which often gave me the winning edge over my enemies.
I came into Jedi: Fallen Order with some experience in the Souls-like genre, and wanted to see if it would stack up to those standards with its difficulty. There are five different difficulties: Story, Jedi Knight, Jedi Master, and Grand Master. I played on Jedi Master to see if the game would at least hit back like Dark Souls, Bloodborne, or Sekiro are known for. I’m happy to say yes, it does, while also feeling very “Souls-lite” with patterns that didn’t take long to overcome, though I still died numerous times—even the stormtroopers have better aim than they are known for.
Like the subgenre its influenced by, Fallen Order includes Meditation Points that are very similar to the bonfires of the Souls series. While there, we can “rest,” which respawns the enemies and allows us to spend skill points on upgrades to our health, force powers, and new lightsaber attacks. Skill points are earned by filling the experience meter and aren’t lost as a result of death. When I was defeated, I only lost the experience points and had to gain them back from the enemy that defeated me. The result of the combat brought memorable boss fights and encounters. I never once felt discouraged by the difficulty like I usually feel with many other games like it, but I still got the same highs and lows that come with the experience.
When it comes to gameplay, Fallen Order is severely lacking in the exploration department mostly because the prominent collectibles are cosmetics found in crates. I enjoyed collecting different ponchos and lightsaber parts for Cal, but that was all that typically awaited me in those unexplored areas I couldn’t previously access. The other minor collectibles are the left-behind memories of events that took place on each planet, which don’t measure up to the interesting audio logs found in other games. The most useful collectibles are the extra healing charges and the force orbs that will increase your force meter. It was a disappointment to backtrack between the handful of planets and discover that what I came back for wasn’t all that interesting or valuable.
Platforming serves as a third pillar making up the DNA of the game. Respawn Entertainment takes notes from the Uncharted series and has us spending much of our time climbing, swinging, and sliding through the various planets. The sliding segments were my least favorite as they came in abundance, and it took much trial and error to get through them. One of my favorite moments was climbing a moss-covered AT-AT on Kashyyk. Cal even explores ancient temples throughout the story that contain environmental puzzles.
What threads the needle of all these elements that make up Jedi: Fallen Order is the character of BD-1. The little droid helps heal Cal with stim charges that work like Estus flasks, he shows us the map, and eventually gains new tools to help us explore. I couldn’t help myself to sometimes hit the down button on the D-Pad to “Hey there, BD-1.” and check on him to get a few beeps letting me know he was okay. A few different cute little characters are currently running around in the Star Wars universe right now, and this little droid is one of them.
On the surface, Jedi: Fallen Order shouldn’t be anything special since most of its mechanics are pulled from a variety of other games that have inspired it. However, the story and character performances along with the Star Wars universe and lore make this game an adventure that fans should experience. The two characters we spend the most time with are Cere and Greez. Cere is a former Jedi who has closed herself off from the force, and Greez is of a new alien race and captain of the Mantis. We don’t get to spend much time with other supporting characters, but Cere, who is played by Debra Wilson, is important to the story and the stand-out among the supporting cast.
The story held a steady pace for the most part until I traveled between the handful of available planets one too many times towards the end of the game. The many visits made spending extra time exploring a world unnecessary since I returned to each of them three times at the very least. This is a minor issue, though, as Cal’s journey of reconnecting himself with the force and potentially restoring the Jedi Order never got tiresome.
Jedi: Fallen Order is nearly at the top of its class, but is still a Padawan when it comes to the technical side. There were many times when I experienced a drop in framerate as the action populated my screen. There were also times when the game would stop and load as I traveled, along with occasional moments when my map would disappear. The technical problems I experienced on the PS4 don’t compare to some game-breaking bugs or glitches that others have encountered on various platforms. It feels as though the game was not well-optimized, which feels weird to say about a console game. Thankfully, Respawn Entertainment has already stated they are working on multiple fixes to solve these issues.
With the backing of Lucasfilm and Disney, the sound design was on point with all the familiar noises and music you’d expect out of the Star Wars franchise. However, there were a few pieces that stood out to me as I played the game with my headphones on, such as a track sung in an alien language that felt very in-universe, and another which played on the planet of Illium and felt like a callback to the original trilogy. Differently-colored lightsaber also have their own sound effects. The lore backs the difference because crystals that power the lightsabers behave differently. As a huge Star Wars geek, I was happy that such a small detail was taken into consideration.
All setbacks aside, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a game that fans of the franchise should not miss. The game looks visually stunning with well-crafted planets that were still fun to explore, even if that exploration was not well-rounded. At a length of 30 hours, I was able to binge through the journey as I played anywhere from 3-4 hours per session. The story feels like a “part one” to something more, and I want to see where these characters go next even though the way it ended was not what I expected. My romp through the Star Wars universe as a young Jedi does not stand among the masters of the third-person action/adventure genre, but it is my personal favorite out of all that was released this year.
The Bottom Line
Even with the technical issues that can cause a disturbance in the force, Jedi: Fallen Order is one of the best licensed Star Wars games out there and one of the best third-person action games of the year.
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