Released: 15 November 2019
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Also Available For: PC, Playstation 4, PlayStation 5, Stadia, Xbox Series X
In 2013, Disney paid a paltry $4 billion for Lucasfilm Ltd and thus added the influential and immensely popular Star Wars franchise (Various, 1977 to present) to their ever-growing itinerary of properties and licenses. In addition to producing numerous films and television projects to expand and continue the franchise, Disney also sought to cash in on their purchase through videogames and quickly struck up a collaboration with Electronic Arts (EA) in order to facilitate this.
After their attempts to revive the Star Wars: Battlefront series (Pandemic Studios, 2004 to 2005) were met with criticism and controversy, the pressure was on the studio to repair their damaged reputation with fans and gamers. Thus, in collaboration with Lucasfilm and drawing inspiration from the “Metroidvania” style of exploration and combat, EA turned to Respawn Entertainment to further (and officially) expand on the twenty year gap between the end of Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (Lucas, 2005) and the beginning of Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope (ibid, 1977). This approach appears to have paid off as Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was largely praised and sold over ten million units by 31 March 2020 and a sequel is rumoured to be in development.
Five years after the Great Jedi Purge, the Galactic Empire has consolidated its tyrannical grip on the galaxy and driven the few remaining Jedi into hiding. Having repressed his connection to the Force and eking out a modest living as a salvager in the planet Bracca, former Jedi apprentice Cal Kestis is reluctantly drawn back into the fight against the Empire when the Inquisitors, led by the mysterious and malevolent Second Sister, arrive and he soon finds himself travelling throughout the galaxy with a rag-tag crew of misfits in a race to secure a Jedi Holocron that contains the names of potential Force-sensitive children.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is an action/adventure videogame with a heavy emphasis on backtracking, story, and learning and upgrading Force abilities using Skill Points earned from battle and finding secrets, similar to a role-playing game. Players take control of former Jedi apprentice Cal Kestis, a young man who has suppressed his connection to the Force and must rediscover his abilities through the course of his journey. However, the emphasis on exploration and searching through long-defunct Jedi Temples and the general thrust of the gameplay reminded me much more of the likes of Tomb Raider (Crystal Dynamics, 2013) than the Star Wars: The Force Unleashed videogames (LucasArts/Various, 2008/2010).
Cal has a range of abilities that are simple to learn but can take some time to master; he can jump with a press of the A button, evade with B, and sprint ahead by pressing in the left analogue stick. Although his Force abilities are quite light to begin with, they can be upgraded with Skill Points and you’ll be using the Force to push, pull, slow down, and freeze enemies and objects with the Right and Left Triggers. The Force also comes into play with your lightsaber attacks, allowing you to press Y to pull off stronger attacks in conjunction with mashing X as long as your Force Meter is full.
Similar to the Force Unleashed games, lightsaber combat is pretty simple, for the most part; you simply hit X to unleash a number of combos and mix your attacks up with Force manoeuvres and evades to avoid taking damage and deliver a swift kick or counterattack. Key to lightsaber combat is the game’s block and parry system; you can hold down the Left Bumper to automatically block incoming attacks but, with a well-timed press of LB, you’ll reflect blaster bolts back at your enemies and parry incoming melee attacks. This will leave your foe vulnerable and allow you to follow up with an attack of your own in a system that reminded me of the Batman: Arkham games (Rocksteady Studios/Various, 2009 to 2015) but it’s not quite the same in that, despite being attuned to the Force, there’s much less indication of when to parry and combat can get a bit hectic.
You can target an enemy by pressing in the right analogue stick but this only really helps in one-on-one situations; when groups of enemies attack you, you better be prepared to be attacked from behind and off-camera quite often even after acquiring a double-bladed lightsaber to help deal with multiple enemies. As you cut down enemies, you’ll build up your Force Meter but the only way to restore your health is to press up on the directional pad (D-Pad) to have your cute little droid companion, BD-1, administer you with a Stim Canister or find a special glowing meditation circle. Here, you can save your game, spend Skill Points, and choose to completely refill your health and Stim Canisters (though every enemy you’ve killed will respawn once you leave the circle).
Like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo NPD, 2017), climbing is an important mechanic in Jedi: Fallen Order; however, unlike in that game, Cal isn’t hampered by a stamina meter and you can even set up the option to auto-climb climbable surfaces from the game’s settings. Anytime you see vines or serrated surfaces or a splash of white paint on a ledge, you can usually climb up it with LT, jumping up and across to cover a greater distance (though, thanks to the game’s janky camera and perspective, you’re just as likely to leap into the void). You can also run along walls, slide down…slides…and swing from ropes, chains, and vines, and you will also eventually learn to bring these to you with the Force to swing about like Peter Parker/Spider-Man but, again, the game’s camera and wonky physics often cause you to fly past your target or ragdoll down a bottomless pit.
Jedi: Fallen Order takes Cal on a journey back and forth across a whole five planets (not counting the areas you can’t revisit from Cal’s ship, the Stinger Mantis). Once Cal leaves Bracca, the salvage planet he has been hiding out on, he travels to Zeffo and begins his quest to reconnect with the Force and recover a Jedi Holocron from a vault hidden on the planet. This quest takes him to recognisable worlds from the Star Wars saga, such as Dathomir and Kashyyyk, and worlds I’m unfamiliar with, each one with their own visual style and with secrets to uncover and enemies to fight. Unfortunately, the game loves to lock areas off from you and to send you all over the place to learn new abilities just to replay through entire sections all over again to progress further.
Don’t get me wrong, I get it and I don’t mind a bit of backtracking and the “Metroidvania” style of videogames but Jedi: Fallen Order really takes the piss with it. So, you’ll visit, say, Dathomir and be able to progress to a certain point but you’ll have to come back once you’ve learned the Jedi Flip to jump further. Similarly, the Force Push will allow you to break through certain walls and doors to explore further but the problem is that, despite the planets each looking and feeling different, many of them are occupied by the Empire and have a lot of similar-looking grey corridors and areas and, despite an abundance of meditation rings, there’s no fast travel system on each world so it’s pretty easy to get lost and turned around. You can create shortcuts and are provided with a map but, honestly, it’s not that helpful as I found it really difficult to see how the different levels of each environment connected and could have really done with an onscreen mini map to help with this.
Gameplay isn’t all combat or exploration; Jedi: Fallen Order is also very heavy on the puzzles, particularly involving giant spheres. Unlike in some Star Wars games, you can’t actually freely manipulate objects with the Force; you simply freeze them in place or push them forwards, which is not helpful at all when you’re moving spheres. At one point, Cal is captured by the bounty hunter Null Chance and stripped of his lightsaber and BD-1, meaning you have to rely on your awkward Force powers to power up generators and rescue your little droid pal. The game often encourages you to ask BD-1 for a hint but these are generally very vague and unhelpful; he does, however, help you out by “splicing” open doors and crates for you to create shortcuts and unlock additional items; you can also use him to travel across zip wires, which is especially useful once you upgrade him with a motor, and have him scan enemies so you can better prepare from future encounters.
Occasionally, you’ll be asked to perform a couple of button mashing quick-time events (QTEs), usually in boss battles, but you can helpfully turn these off from the settings if you’re not into that and they’re nowhere near as abundant as in the Force Unleashed games. There are also four different difficulty levels to choose from, with each one altering the aggressiveness of enemies and the parry system, but there are no Achievements tied to them so you may as well play on the easiest mode. Finally, while you spend a lot of time on a ship, there’s no space combat in Jedi: Fallen Order but you do get to take the controls of an All-Terrain Armoured Transport (AT-AT). You might think this would be pretty cool but it’s not that great and all too brief; the controls are a bit clunky (which I guess makes sense given the AT-AT’s size) and all the weapons come with a cooldown period so you can’t just mindlessly blast away.
Graphics and Sound:
Heading into Jedi: Fallen Order, I’d heard that it was a highly detailed and photorealistic game and one of the best games of its generation and, at first, this definitely seemed to be the case; Cal looks startling like his voice actor and likeness, Cameron Monaghan, and all of the game’s worlds and environments are full of little details such as weather effects, ships and monsters in the background, and have that lived-in aesthetic that permeates a lot of Star Wars lore.
Ships, characters, and technology are startlingly close to the source material; the many different Stormtroopers and the new Inquisitors all look exactly as you’d expect and the Stormtroopers even share some amusing dialogue that helps to humanise them beyond being mere cannon fodder. Droids, especially, look fantastic, and the game does a decent job of distinguishing its different worlds…again, until the Empire’s influence creeps into the environment. Grey is the order of the day here and, while each of the Imperial outposts and locations differs, it’s easy to get them mixed up and to get a bit lost when revisiting worlds.
Sadly, outside of the high-quality cinematics, things start to take a bit of a drop; the in-game graphics see a significant dip in quality, resulting in character models becoming noticeably low resolution. The crew of the Mantis ends up being comprised of several different races and characters, each of whom are very distinct and well-rounded in their own way, but they end up just standing around like action figures outside of cutscenes. Worst of all, the game is plagued by long load times, graphical pop up, and a whole bevvy of glitches; characters and enemies will blink in and out of existence, slide along as if on ice, ragdoll all over the place, and I even had the game crash on me on more than one occasion (usually when planning my next hyperspace jump). Honestly, it might be the most bug-filled videogame I’ve ever played; textures sometimes take a long time to load, the frame rate stutters when there’s a lot happening onscreen, voices, music, and sound effects would frequently cut off or out entirely and, honestly, I expected a lot more from a triple-A title such as this and it really lets the game down and makes it almost unplayable at certain points.
Enemies and Bosses:
As is the case in pretty much every Star Wars videogame, your primary enemies will be the Empire’s finest Stormtroopers. Regular ‘Troopers will blast at you from afar and try to bash your head in with the butt of their rifles but are notoriously bad shots and easily offed with a single swing of your lightsaber (but you can’t dismember them, unfortunately). Very soon, you’ll encounter Scout Troopers wielding electrified staffs that will require you to parry their attacks, ‘Troopers with flamethrowers, and ‘Troopers with heavy machine guns and small shields, though it’s pretty simple to reflect their shots back at them despite their rapid fire.
You’ll also come up against the much more competent Purge Troopers; these black-clad bastards make Jedi hunting their speciality and wield a variety of lightsaber-rebelling weaponry, including electrostaffs and electrohammers. Faster and much more aggressive, they’re also capable of negating or recovering from your Jedi attacks so you’ll have to weaken them a bit before tossing them off a cliff and breaking through their guard so you can deliver a swift finishing blow. Similarly, the Nightbrothers await you on Dathomir and will attack you with magically-charged clubs and arrows but the strategy remains, largely the same. Later, you’re attack by undead Nightsisters who swarm and grab at you but are easily cut down with your double-blade dlightsaber.
Each world you visit is also home to a number of creatures; Bog Rats headbutt and charge at you, Scazz’s pop out of burrow holes to attack (often shoving you off a cliff in the process), Phillaks bash you with their horned heads and will kick you with their hooves; and Mykals will swoop at you from above. You’ll also encounter some larger, more formidable enemies, with even bigger and more aggressive variants of these popping up from time to time; Oggdos will try to suck you into their jaws with their sticky tongues, Wyyyschokks pounce out of nowhere and try to either bite your face off or tie you up in their webbing, and Nydaks will thrash at you with their powerful claws. With a lot of these creatures, it’s best to wait for them to glow red and dodge out of the way and then follow up with a quick combo or to hang back and let them attack any nearby Stormtroopers to level the playing field somewhat.
Compounding matters are the presence of the Empire’s Security Droids; while the astromech droids can be simply sliced in two, you’ll need to dish out quite a bit of lightsaber damage to take out their bigger cousins but, with a later upgrade, you can have BD-01 hack the droids so that they’ll attack enemies on your behalf. You can also do this with the Probe Droids that hover throughout later areas of the game’s worlds; these little buggers float just out of reach until they’re damaged enough and then they’ll charge at you in a suicide run! Later, you’ll also find a number of bounty hunters are suddenly waiting for you when you revisit worlds; these range from jetpack-wearing Boba Fett wannabes, shield-wielding mercenaries, and large battle droids and will often attack in pairs but are, in actual fact, some of the more interesting and entertaining battles in the game.
Bosses are a bit of a mixed bag, to be honest. You’ll have to contend with a number of large ships and creatures but some are more like underwhelming mini bosses; an attack ship blasts at you at the beginning of the game and forces you to dash between cover to avoid being blasted to pieces and, later, you’ll trade shots with a shuttlecraft while piloting your AT-AT. You’ll also have to fight against All-Terrain Scout Transports (AT-STs) more than once but, unlike in most Star Wars games, these are stupidly easy to take down as you can reflect their blaster bolts, easily jump over or reflect back their electrical bombs, and just hack away at their legs or cockpit until they go down (but remember to kill the pilot afterwards or you’re likely to be shot in the back). On Dathomir, you’ll also have to fight a giant bat, the Gorgara, in the game’s most unique battle; this thing stamps around the arena to produce shockwaves and screeches at you as you attack its wings. It’s also stupidly persistent, cashing you up a wall as you frantically climb away, before you end up having to free fall through the air, cling on to it with LT, and smash it into a series of structures until it finally goes down.
The game’s primary antagonist, the Second Sister, is yet another Darth Vader wannabe, one who draws more than a little inspiration from Kylo Ren, and you’ll battle her on numerous occasions throughout the game’s story. However, in each battle, there’s no point in trying to defeat her as she’s not only more powerful than you and incredibly aggressive, but the game is programmed in such a way where the point is that you’re not supposed to win; you simply have to knock her health down enough until a cutscene plays, which gets really old after a while. Eventually, you will battle her in a proper, no-holds-barred boss battle right at the end of the game; she’s faster and more aggressive than ever, tossing flashbangs and dashing around the arena, but isn’t too difficult to best if you watch her attacks, dodge, and parry properly.
You’ll also engage with the Ninth Sister, a ridiculous and cartoony-looking member of the Second Sister’s group; after quite an intense chase sequence on Kashyyyk, you’ll fight her one-on-one in a battle that sees you parrying her lightsaber attacks and leaping over the shockwaves she produces. The fight is also split into stages that are separated by QTEs and cutscenes, which can get a bit distracting. Later, on Dathomir, you’ll also have to battle the fallen Jedi, Taron Malicos; Malicos dual-wields his lightsabers, tosses boulders at you, and leaps in to attack. The gorgeous Nightsister Merrin helps even the odds in this battle, however, allowing you to easily break his block and cut him down with your more powerful attacks so neither of these battles are particularly difficult.
After defeating the Second Sister, Darth Vader comes in and kills her with absolutely no effort at all and completely robs her of any menace and steals the show for the last part of the game. You can battle with Vader but, again, it’s a fruitless endeavour and basically an interactive cutscene prior to you having to madly escape from the Fortress Inquisitorius as Vader tears it apart with his Force abilities. It’s an intense end to the game, one that sees you having to quickly jump across floating platforms and run across walls as Vader pursues you, but it’s a bit of a shame that the game spends so much time building up the backstory between the Second Sister and Cal’s crewmate, Cere, only to have Vader come in and undo it all with his presence.
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As you defeat enemies and scan your environment, you’ll acquire Skill Points that can be used to purchase new Force abilities; you’ll unlock more as you play through the game’s story mode and also be able to upgrade existing ones to extend your health, Force Meter, increase the range and power of your push, and learn new combat moves that see you throwing your lightsaber or performing more powerful melee attacks. Be warned, though, as these will expend your Force Meter but you can extend this, and your health, by finding “essences” hidden throughout the game’s environments.
Similarly, BD-1 can scan enemies, plants, and other notable parts of the environment to add to your various databases and earn you more Skill Points and Achievements so, if you see him hop off your shoulders, be sure to stop and let him scan whatever’s caught his attention. This will also allow you to grow plants in the Mantis’s terrarium and open up better crates to acquire more Stim Canisters and find new materials for your outfit, lightsaber, BD-1 himself, and ship.
Each of these can be customised with a variety of colour schemes; for BD-1 and the Mantis, this is sadly just a series of palette swaps and, unlike the Force Unleashed games, Cal’s wardrobe is depressingly light on options. Cal’s under outfit can be customised with a handful of colours and you can choose to garb him in different poncho designs or a jacket but none of them are that interesting and this feature disappointingly lacks options for other skins or recognisable clothing from the saga. Similarly, the various elements of Cal’s lightsaber can be customised to your liking; you can change the blade’s colour (initially, you can only pick from three colours but you unlock more later, though the options are still surprisingly limited) and equip different materials for the hilt and switch and such but, honestly, you rarely notice these changes when playing the game and they add nothing to your attack power or prowess.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has thirty-nine Achievements for you to earn; most of them are tied to the main story campaign and unlocking the Skill Tree and, as a result, are quite time consuming to achieve. You also get Achievements for parrying attacks, taking out certain monsters, offing enemies in certain ways, and scanning everything in sight and opening every chest. Others are slightly more obscure, requiring you to kick a Phillak after it’s kicked you, defeat a Stormtrooper with their own slowed blaster bolt, cut out an Oggdo’s tongue when it grabs you, and recruit an elusive animal on Zeffo to join your crew.
After you finish the game, you’ll unlock “New Journey+” mode which, as you might expect, carries over most of your unlocks for your next playthrough; you also unlock a bad-ass Inquistor outfit and red lightsaber for Cal and gain access to “Meditation Training” from save points. These are kind of like the challenge maps in the Arkham games and allow you to take on a pre-set or customised series of challenges against a variety of enemies but, while you can use this as a good excuse to quickly mop up any combat-related Achievements you’re missing, there aren’t any Achievements specifically tied to these modes, which is a bit of a missed opportunity and, while you can return to your save file to mop up anything you’re missing, the New Journey+ cosmetics can’t be used in your old save file.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has a lot going for it; it may be, on many levels, the best and most impressive Star Wars game I’ve ever played thanks to how large and fitting its scope is compared to the movies. The attention to detail is impressive and the sense of immersion is fantastic; the decision to slowly integrate Cal into the ongoing battle against the Empire helps to keep things grounded and build up towards the more elaborate and intense moments as Cal’s skills in the Force are reawakened.
Unfortunately, it’s also a glitchy, bug-filled mess of a game full of graphical errors, instabilities, and frustrating moments that, in just as many ways, place it on exactly the same level as the Force Unleashed games. Add to that the abundance of backtracking and how poor the map and level layouts are and Jedi: Fallen Order is a chore to get through sometimes. When the game shines, it shines brightly but, at the same time, the good moments only serve to highlight how disappointing the game’s flaws are. I feel like a bit more cohesion, a bit more focus on travelling to distinct worlds or ships, and a bit more time testing would have greatly benefitted the game but the lack of unlockables and customisation features, combined with the unpredictability of the game’s performance, result in an underwhelming experience overall.
Could Be Better
Are you a fan of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order? Do you feel EA redeemed themselves or were you also put off by the amount of bugs and glitches in the game? Perhaps you played on an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 and never encountered these issues; if so, what are your thoughts on the game’s stability and performance? Were you a fan of the new characters introuced in the game and, if so, which was your favourite and why? What did you think to the Second Sister and Darth Vader’s sudden appearance at the end of the game? Were you also disappointed by the customisation options available or did you enjoy cobbling together your own unique lightsaber? Which Star Wars videogame is your favourite? No matter what you think about Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and Star Wars videogames in general, drop a comment down below and check back in for more Star Wars content in the near future.