Edited by: Jade Swann
A Long, Long Time Ago…
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, developed by Respawn Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts, is a third-person action RPG based in the Star Wars universe. You play as Cal Kestis, an exiled Jedi survivor of Order 66. After narrowly escaping the Empire's Inquisition, Cal teams up with two fellow outcasts, Greez, Cere, and their droid BD-1. Together, they must follow the footsteps left behind by Cere's former master, Eno Cordova. With his clues, they may just be able to restart the Jedi Order.
A New Hope Against Hope
It feels odd to say, but EA kind of needed a win with Fallen Order. With the ongoing struggle with Anthem and the backlash against Battlefront II, I didn’t have a lot of hopes going forward with this title. I remember booting up the game, watching the various logos fade in and out of the screen, chanting, “Please be good. Please be good.” Thankfully, it is good, not just mechanically but narratively as well. Without going too far into spoilers, it feels tonally similar to Rogue One. Indeed, there’s at least one cameo by a Rogue One character that I noticed. Cal and company have a lot of ground to cover in the face of the crushing grip of the Empire. Even Greez, the only non-Jedi of the group, has his own share of skeletons that come jumping out of the closet.
Fallen Order conveys its narrative through intermittent video logs from Master Cordova found on BD-1's hard drive. Occasionally, Cal will have a flashback to his padawan days when he was still trying to learn the Force. These flashbacks not only help the player step more into Cal's shoes, but also unlock new Force abilities that open up new routes for you to explore. However, the meat of the story is delivered through small interactions between the ensemble cast. BD-1 rides on Cal's back during normal gameplay, so you're never alone. Longer climbing and jumping segments are broken up by snippets of dialogue between Cal and the droid, sometimes acting as puzzle clues and other times working as narrative fluff. During travel between planets, Cere and Greez will get in on the action as well, taking lighthearted jabs at each other or just commenting about the latest goings-on in the plot at large.
Jedi: Orders Fall Twice
I’ve seen a lot of reviewers refer to Fallen Order as a Souls-like. While I understand where they're coming from, I would disagree, if only a little. It feels more similar to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice rather than Dark Souls. For starters, you have no stamina bar or at least one that doesn't deplete when you swing your weapon. Instead, your stamina is only used for blocking. Block enough times and your guard breaks, leaving you open to attacks. There's also a greater emphasis on platforming and level traversal than in Souls games. Most of the powers you get are different modes of interacting with the environment. While some do have combat applications, they are mostly for exploration.
The combat, however, is very tight. The natural story progression sees Cal upgrading his lightsaber a few times, each time allowing for more versatility in combat. You start with a simple, single blade and a simple three-hit combo. By the end, I was throwing my lightsaber while switching from single to double-bladed, deflecting Stormtrooper bolts and generally causing havoc on the battlefield. That isn't to say combat is easy, at least not on the harder difficulties. You will die, especially early on. When you do, you lose all experience gained up until your most recent skill point. To retrieve it, you need only to land a hit on the enemy that killed you. This will restore your health, Force power, and lost experience. This serves two purposes. For starters, it makes dying to a boss less painful compared to the Souls games. If you're finding the run-up to a boss difficult, this one-time heal allows you to face them at full strength without having to spend one of your limited healing items. Second, it can operate as a jumping off point for level exploration. If a particular segment kills you, having this spot heal might be just enough to get you through the fight and to the next checkpoint.
A Living Galaxy
One of the best aspects of Star Wars as a whole is how it can go from natural, wild landscapes to industrial sci-fi buildings pretty seamlessly. Fallen Order captures this dichotomy wonderfully. Most of the planets you visit are wilder, untamed ones with an Imperial presence somewhere on them. Lush, green mountainsides crash into grey, metallic catwalks that feel appropriately intrusive. Serene lakes give way to massive sunken derelicts beneath their surface from as far back the Clone Wars. Stormtroopers, gleaming in their white plastic shells, square off against monstrous wildlife. Nothing feels out of place.
Sound has always been key to Star Wars, mostly owing to Skywalker Sound composer John Williams. Skywalker Sound brought their talents to bear on the post-production sounds of the game, and it shows. Laser blasts are crisp and clear, your lightsaber hums with a warm glow, and TIE fighters scream across the stratosphere. John Williams, however, was not a part of this production. Instead, composers Stephen Barton and Gordy Haab do their best John Williams impression. The music is suitably epic, swapping between intense, orchestral scores for fights to the softer, more melodic background music while you're exploring planets. Had I not looked it up, I probably would have believed someone if they told me Williams composed the score for this game as well.
The Dark Side
While none of these are game-breakers — indeed, I ran into few if any glitches during my playthrough — there are a few things that were conspicuous by their absence. While all five planets you venture to are giant and lush, none of them are the iconic city planets like Coruscant or Nar Shadaa. While the former makes sense, I would expect a story about being on the lam would have benefitted from this particular hive of scum and villainy. Moreover, the breadth of traversal skills Cal has at his disposal would have really shined in a cityscape. Further, being forced into more tight areas, like a back alley, would have made for some more exciting encounters. While circle-strafing isn't always the answer to enemy attacks, taking that away from the player for a battle or three would have been a nice change of pace.
Fallen Order provides a myriad of customization options for how Cal, the ship, and BD-1 look. However, I found the options for Cal's poncho to be quite lacking. I, personally, didn't like the poncho look and spent most of the game without one. Whereas the poncho itself comes in upward of twenty designs, the color options for his regular clothes are sorely lacking. While I understand that it was meant to be complementary to the poncho and not stand on its own, the lack of customization here is disappointing. Conversely, the amount of customization you can do for your lightsaber is astounding. Sadly, most of the time, your focus will be elsewhere. At least there's an option to turn off the HUD in the customization menu so you can take a screenshot if you really want to.
The Verdict: Excellent
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is an all-around solid game. Providing hours of finely-tuned gameplay with plenty to explore, I honestly couldn’t find any meaningful criticism to level at it. Fans of Metroidvanias and Sekiro should definitely give it a try, and fans of Star Wars owe it to themselves to pick it up.