How Jedi: Fallen Order makes Star Wars games even more authentic

The word is out. Respawn Entertainment seemingly has a hit on their hands with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Having recently played it myself, I can confirm that it successfully finds the sweet spot between Souls-like difficulty and lightsaber fun, at least in its pre-release state. However, perhaps even better for current fans of the franchise, Respawn has created a truly unique window into that galaxy far, far away. Star Wars games used to be a dime a dozen, as did Expanded Universe stories that are now deemed noncanonical. Since Disney took over, we’ve had very few official additions to the lore outside of new films. More importantly, we’ve had few opportunities to see what a truly next-gen single-player Star Wars game looks like. Fallen Order looks to buck those trends and even be more authentic in the process.

As a mostly lapsed fan of the franchise myself, these moments brought me back to a time when I was geeking out over every different starship and droid design in Episode 3. Even in just my brief time on Zeffo, I saw plenty of examples that will have fans new and old smiling from ear to ear. Revealing them will ruin some of that surprise early on, so turn away if you’d rather not be spoiled.

What are you, chicken?

One of my favorite aspects of the classic Star Wars films is the AT-ST. Also known as the “chicken walker,” the combination mech/tank wowed me when I saw it on Endor’s moon in Return of the Jedi. In video games, the AT-ST and any other tank-equivalents are your typical gaming vehicles. It’s just another mid-boss level enemy to blow up, or a vehicle to use in Battlefront.

ALSO: The Souls is strong with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Just like Shocker always shows up in Spider-Man games for some reason, the AT-ST blocked my path towards the end of my time on Zeffo. It was novel to take it on as a single Jedi warrior, much like Luke cut apart AT-ATs in Empire. You could deflect its lasers back at it, force push its missiles away, and nip at its heels with your saber. Once you get your bearings, it’s not a hard fight, and the chicken walker falls on its side. I turned away, ready to continue my journey, only to feel the sting of a laser in my back. The AT-ST pilot had climbed out of its vehicle ready to challenge me and inevitably die for the Empire.

Jedi! Blast ’em.

It’s a moment I can’t stop thinking about because of just how simple it is. The AT-ST has always been a tank, and the pilot has always been there. It’s just that no game has thought to have the pilot seek revenge in this manner. The pilot can’t even put up a fight, he doesn’t have armor or a shock stick or anything that could challenge you. He goes down in one saber slash, but just the fact that he appears and tries to take you down makes this Star Wars universe closer to the movies than any other rendition.

This realism stretches out to the rest of the Empire’s foot soldiers as well. You get the expected ambient guard dialogue as you sneak around them, which is always good for a laugh. What’s surprising is that they don’t stop talking once the battle is on. Each trooper tries to coordinate with their team to take you down. They’ll revel in the thrill of landing a shot, call out when you roll away or use a stimpack, and even try to talk tough when they’re the last man standing. The only thing missing is a Wilhelm scream when you push them off a cliff, although hopefully that is somewhere in the final release.

My favorite cantina on the Citadel

Traveling to other planets, which is usually a menu-driven process, is also from titles that took heavy inspiration from Star Wars. You get on your spaceship, maybe log a few conversations, and pick out a destination. The game takes care of the rest, either via a cutscene or a loading screen. Like blowing up chicken walkers, this process has worked fine for years and years. It’s a tiny detail, and that’s why Respawn’s tweak works so well.

In Jedi: Fallen Order, when you go through the process of traveling, you’re not just navigating a menu, you’re actually setting a course. Your pilot (a stout four-armed alien with a love of space botany) starts flipping switches as he chats about where he’s flying you to. You can freely wander around the cockpit as you travel, and you get to take in the jump to lightspeed just as Luke does in the Falcon in A New Hope. It takes what was once purely mechanical and injects story and meaning into it. It’s one less time you think about playing a game and one more instance that Respawn can set the table for its take on an established universe.

Worth the wait

None of this is necessarily new to gaming in general, but it just goes to show how long its been since there was a new single-player adventure set in this universe. Star Wars still lives in an Xbox 360 frame of mind because of cancellations, delays, and the general failure of Battlefront 2‘s unimaginative campaign. It’s similar to the generational leap seen by Doom earlier in this generation. The good developers take the best innovations from around the industry and mix them with a proven formula. The best developers do all that and then add in a sprinkling of surprises that tie everything together.

These small touches truly seem to bring Fallen Order to the next level. You need moments that bring you back down to Yavin 4 after a bombastic lightsaber duel. It’s the music cues, the sound effects, the unique references to the most obscure corners of Disney’s Star Wars canon. After my demo, I can confidently say that Respawn’s new project has all that and more. Unlike some other side projects in recent times, this could be a new Star Wars story worth hearing.