Fans finally got a glimpse at Respawn Entertainment’s Star Wars game yesterday at the Star Wars Celebration. Despite publisher Electronic Arts being heavily criticized with how it has used the license thus far, is was saying all the right things. However, the publisher didn’t actually show them during the reveal. There was plenty of talk about how Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order was a robust single-player experience that prioritized gameplay, but all we saw was a glimpse at the story. These cutscenes gave zero clues as to how the game will actually look and play while it’s running. The Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order reveal was an underwhelming way to show that the company was doing the right thing for once.
Before the unveiling, the company tweeted out a message to relieve fans that were worried. “No microtransactions,” wrote the company. “No loot boxes. And no, we won’t be adding them. A single-player Star Wars story for those of you who are ready to become a Jedi.”
The messaging here was clear and it was that EA had heard the complaints levied at it for the last two Star Wars Battlefront titles and that it was looking to learn from them. This is clearly a company that spent a lot of time reflecting on its high-profile failures and is looking to right the ship in term of public opinion.
During the early portions of the reveal, director Stig Asmussen of God of War 3 fame went on and on about how he prioritizes combat. Instead of any button mashing, the game will have what Asmussen and the team call “thoughtful combat” that will require players to size up enemies and use their Force abilities to exploit weaknesses. Similarly, Respawn Entertainment CEO Vince Zampella discussed the importance of controls feeling natural.
“[Fallen Order] has to feel good,” explained Zampella. “The way things interact is so important. It was a natural fit to bring that feel from the first-person to the third-person. It’s really important.”
Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order sounds great but let’s see it
Everything that Asmussen and Zampella said is exactly what fans want to hear from the team, but it all comes across as rather shallow and weak when the talk isn’t followed with some actual gameplay. If you’re truly confident about it not being a button masher and how great it feels, then actually practice what you preach and give a live demo presentation. For as much as the lore of Star Wars is important, it became so beloved in the first place because Luke Skywalker looked awesome wielding a lightsaber and getting into epic battles. That’s what fans want to see, so going into all of the story elements of a game we haven’t even seen yet isn’t the best way to present a new title.
There have been so many middling Star Wars action games over the years and even the best of them never nailed what it feels like to be a Jedi. However, when marketed, The Force Unleashed and other action titles promised the same exact spiel that EA is giving right now. It’s exactly because of these inflated promises that Respawn needed to double down on a live showing as fans will be skeptical since they’ve been sold this bill of goods before. The publisher simply isn’t in a state of good will right now. And even with the development team’s great track record, fans are not going to believe anything said until they can actually see it in action.
You don’t have to look further than Asmussen’s previous beloved franchise to see an example of a game reveal done right. The God of War series had gotten stale over the years, even if they were never bad games, and the PlayStation 4 installment delivered a much-needed shake-up. Introduced with an uncut gameplay demo, players were treated to a drastic shift in camera and combat. Gone were the button mashing combos of previous games and in their place were a much more methodical system of axe throws and melee attacks.
It was a phenomenal way to sell the game instantly to everyone watching the presentation. It was basically the polar opposite of what EA did here. No backstory was given as to why Kratos was suddenly in a Norse environment, nor were the gameplay changes talked up or explained. Instead, the demo just spoke for itself because it was that powerful.
Staying optimistic for Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order
Despite being rather unimpressed with how Electronic Arts constructed the Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order reveal, there are still plenty of reasons to be excited about the November release. The focus on storytelling was a refreshing change from EA, as Battlefront 2‘s story mode failed to impress. It became clear from the presentation that Respawn is dedicated to telling a meaningful tale and that it has seemingly spared no expense in doing so. Getting talented actors like Cameron Monaghan and Debra Wilson is a great start and they’ve even retained the services of Star Wars sound guru and Academy Awards winner Ben Burtt.
Additionally, the story that they are selling us on sounds quite interesting. The original film trilogy dealt with Jedi being hunted and killed, so it gives a chance to recapture a lot of that original spirit. The protagonist Cal is an instantly likable character and it’s an exciting prospect to see what his journey of personal growth looks like.
Most importantly, though, is that Respawn Entertainment has a résumé that can’t be ignored. The studio hasn’t put out a single bad game and Titanfall 2 showcased a penchant for creating great single-player moments. This is poised to be a different experience from the first-person shooter, which is why it should have been actually shown at the Star Wars Celebration, but the most talented developers tend to be versatile. So, it’s far from irresponsible to be excited about what both Asmussen and Zampella said. It’s just disappointing that we only got to hear about it.