I’m far from a huge Star Wars fan. I enjoy the movies enough, even though the dreadful Episodes I and II are time I’ll never get back. I even like the new trilogy so far, despite A Force Awakens playing it far too safe. It seemed like movies that released around that time were just trying to re-establish a foothold (I’m looking at you Jurassic World). Granted, it wouldn’t take much from a new Star Wars movie to get audiences to flock to theaters. After several terrible games, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order steps in to remind franchise fans that developers are still capable of making good Star Wars games, even after the sub-par Battlefront titles.
Really the thing I appreciate the most out of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is that it’s a single player experience. There’s no multiplayer modes, and instead a mostly linear narrative awaits, with lots of exploration and Metroidvania like design choices. Sure, it’s a hodgepodge of mechanics and gameplay from other games that do it better, but Fallen Order still manages to bring those things together to create a memorable experience.
From the outset, it’s clear that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order takes inspiration from several games: Uncharted and Tomb Raider, as well as Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. With the exploration of the former, and the combat of the latter, Respawn Entertainment has a winner on their hands, that has the potential to fall flat in sequels. For now though, what we have is a ton of fun.
Players take control of Cal, a young Jedi who has been hiding out on a salvage planet in order to conceal his identity as a Jedi. Things pick up five years after Revenge of the Sith, and the Empire has eradicated almost all of the Jedi. After using his force powers to save a friend, Cal’s abilities are uncovered, and his resistance against the Empire begins. Most of the cast here is new, save for Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera, and a lot of them are really great. The cast is funny and entertaining when they need to be, especially pilot Greez.
Greez’s lighthearted humor is a foil to the game’s overall darker storyline, and works really well. I just wish that Cal’s performance was as good as the rest of the supporting cast. It’s not bad, but it really isn’t all that memorable, and I looked forward to cutscenes that involved more of the supporting players than the main one.
To be honest, in the weeks leading up to launch, I had very little interest in Fallen Order. I know Respawn knows how to make a good multiplayer game, but I just didn’t think between EA and the development team they’d be able to pull it off. I’m glad I jumped in though, because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have met my new favorite droid: BD-1. The story of Cal’s journey is great, but BD-1 helps to give it heart. I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed my time nearly as much if BD-1 hadn’t been introduced.
The immersion of Fallen Order is helped immensely by stunning visuals. Character models are meticulously detailed, and the world is incredible to look at. Each planet that Cal explores differentiates itself from the last, and they are a sight to behold. It doesn’t matter that the storyline generally funnels you from point to point until you’re done at each planet when the world looks this damn good.
I had a couple of visual issues though, and one is more of a complaint. Everyone’s hair in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order looks great. Cal’s hair, Cere’s hair, everyone. Except the Wookiees. They’re literally encased in hair, so why does there’s look so much different? Instead of looking like Wookiees, they look more like Ents from Lord of the Rings, and it’s a bit jarring when I know what they should and could have looked like. My other issue was with performance.
I was playing on a PS4 Pro, and when I started up the game it ran okay, so I switched it over to performance mode. Performance mode locks Fallen Order to 1080p in order to increase framerate. However, even while doing so, framerate still falter quite often. It’s weird though, because it often happened during times I was out exploring, instead of when I was in combat. I’m glad that things in combat remained constant, but I still wish things were a bit smoother outside of it.
Which means you’ll encounter framerate issues quite often, with exploration being such a big component in Fallen Order. The worlds are quite large, with interconnected corridors, and areas that won’t be available until you’ve unlocked new upgrades. There are lightsaber parts, poncho variations, BD-1 color schemes, and spaceship customizations hidden in chests around each planet to track down (we’ll get to this more a bit later). There are even health and force items hidden in harder to track down locations to encourage really digging in to each area.
This is an action RPG though, and players should expect to spend a lot of time in combat. Fallen Order takes its combat inspiration from Sekiro, and the parry dance we did earlier this year. The core combat system is mapped to just a few buttons: attack, parry, and dodge. Early on players should get used to a general flow of parrying into attacks, but as you progress and level up Cal, new combos and abilities are unlocked making things a bit quicker.
The force abilities helps give some variation when utilized. Force slow can open up some faster moving enemies to attack, while force push can knock down slower, more heavily armored enemies. Cal takes a lot of damage from enemy attacks, and BD-1 has limited health kits at his disposal, so it’s important to use them when necessary. As players defeat enemies and earn skill points, they can rest at checkpoints and sink their points into a skill tree to unlock new abilities. These abilities are separate from the exploration skills that Cal learns on his journey, and almost entirely relate to combat, health, or force.
Something Dark Souls and Bloodborne players are used to are enemies respawning when they rest, and it’s present here in Fallen Order. Luckily, There are a ton of different enemy types that all need to be handled differently to dispatch. Yes, you will slash your way through a ton of normal Stormtroopers, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg, and you’ll quickly find yourself embroiled in a battle with three or four different enemy types.
It’s important to note though, that this isn’t nearly as difficult as a Dark Souls title. You’ll lose your experience when you die, but you can get it back after attacking the enemy that defeated you. It’s not as punishing or rewarding, but other than that, the mechanics are the same.
I wish the skill tree felt a little more consequential though. Experience isn’t hard to come by, so most players should unlock most of the abilities by the time they’re finished, making it unnecessary to focus on force abilities or combat abilities. Additionally, all of the customization items you’ll find around the different planets don’t actually do anything other than customize you or your lightsaber’s appearance.
I get it, it’s meant to keep things even throughout, much like Sekiro did. Instead of finding powerful items, you’re meant to defeat tough enemies using just your skill, but in an action RPG it feels like a missed opportunity. This feeling is exacerbated by all the time you’ll spend hunting for chests, making this time seem trivial.
All in all, it feels really great to have a good single player Star Wars title again though. We’ve only seen two Star Wars: Battlefront titles since EA acquired licensing rights, and obviously neither of them have come close to recapturing the magic we’ve seen since Knights of the Old Republic or Jedi Outcast. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a great game, one that I hope we’ll see Respawn do more with in the future. I just wish there had been more risks taken here, instead of the biggest risk being “it’s a single player game.”
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher. Purchases are available here.