It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a decade since The Force Unleashed 2, the last single-player centric Star Wars game, released. Besides the two frequently-panned Battlefront games, since EA got the exclusive license to produce Star Wars games in 2013, all we’ve gotten are mediocre-to-poor mobile titles. I was skeptical of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, not because of its developer, Respawn Entertainment, but because the publisher, EA, has failed to leverage the license in any meaningful way.
I was astonished at how much I enjoyed Jedi Fallen Order. Not because it’s a great game, it inhabits a niche that we haven’t seen much of this generation. It’s merely a good game. I ran into a ton of glitches and collision issues. Still, the overall package was entertaining enough to ignore them for the most part. It’s odd because I’m so used to games either being masterpieces or complete disasters that it took me a while to sort out my feelings on Jedi Fallen Order.
Of course, if you’re a Star Wars fan, there’s no real room to sort out your feelings. For all its flaws, Jedi Fallen Order is the only gig in town when it comes to Star Wars gaming this year. However, it is a step in the right direction. It is a far cry from the microtransaction-laden disaster that was the launch of Battlefront 2.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Review | A long time ago… (but not too long)
The Star Wars saga has been all over the timeline since Disney took the reins, and Jedi Fallen Order is no different. This time, we’re delving into the galaxy five years after the execution of Order 66 and the Declaration of a New Order that established the Galactic Empire. The Republic is still freshly dead, and the Rebel Alliance is just a sparkle in the eyes of those who would oppose Palpatine. Amid a galaxy in turmoil, you take control of Jedi Padawan Cal Kestis.
Kestis works as a scrapper on the planet Brakka and keeps his Jedi past hidden. There he and his comrades tear apart the massive capital ships of the Clone Wars so that their materials can be reclaimed to produce new Imperial warships. One thing leads to another, and the Imperial Inquisitorius learns of Cal’s existence.
Fleeing the Second Sister of the Inquisitorius, Cal is eventually saved by The Mantis, crewed by Jedi master Cere Junda and pilot Greez Dritus. Cere has lost contact with the Force and asks Cal to help open a Jedi vault on the planet Bogano. Here, he meets the droid BD-1 and learns of Jedi master Eno Cordova and his research on the planet and the vault.
The game has you solving the mystery of the vault on Bogano, and coming to terms with Cal’s past. It’s a quest that spans multiple worlds and brings you into contact with many familiar locations, characters, and concepts from Star Wars lore.
The story itself is pretty typical Star Wars fare. Cal is likable enough, and everyone has the patented tragic backstory that gives them just enough definition of character to be motivated. However, being set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope takes away some of the oomph Jedi Fallen Order could have. After all, you already know what’s happened before the game and what will happen afterward. You know that whatever happens in the game won’t have much of an impact on the galaxy; otherwise, Rogue One and A New Hope couldn’t take place. With how hard Disney is sticking to its new canon, Cal and company just don’t have any space to grow, and nothing that big can occur.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Review | Mostly space Uncharted.
In Jedi Fallen Order, you’re searching the backwaters of the universe, so don’t expect any Coruscant or Corellia here. You’ll be visiting planets like Kashyyyk and Dathomir in search of clues needed to unlock the vault on Bogano. As such, the gameplay is a lot like that found in the Uncharted series. There’s a lot of exploring wildlands and ancient temples, and there’s an Indiana Jones feel to the whole thing.
I’m of two minds when it comes to Jedi Fallen Order‘s direction. On the one hand, I feel like Star Wars has had enough jungles, forests, and ancient ruins to last the franchise a lifetime. It seems like almost every movie, game, comic, and novel has the protagonist running around some overgrown or completely barren planet looking for ancient wisdom. On the other, the sense of loneliness and danger that permeates your adventures in Jedi Fallen Order does fit the theme of the game well, and each planet has enough unique characteristics to keep things interesting.
However, Jedi Fallen Order could have been more interesting had Respawn been a bit more inventive with the scenery. After a while, it doesn’t matter if you’re in abandoned temples on Zeffo or Dathomir, it all sort of blends together. I wish we’d have spent more time amongst the derelict, grounded ships on Brakka, or the rusty, gangster-filled space station of Ordo Eris.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Review | A splash of Metroid
Most of Jedi Fallen Order‘s planets are semi-open-world affairs. You’re usually plopped down by the Mantis and given an objective on the excellent 3D map interface. After that, it’s up to you to find the correct route to your goal.
It’s easy to liken the progression in the game to a Metroid game. While exploring a planet, you’ll run into areas you can’t currently access, which will be marked red on your holomap. This means that your initial run through a location will be mostly linear, funneling you into an endpoint that will either open up another planet or provide you with a new ability that will expand your range of possible actions.
The layout of each planet is masterful, and I really loved how natural progression felt. Getting a new ability is always cause for celebration as you remember paths that were closed to you that are now open for exploration. The Metroid formula has been used time and again in many games. However, Jedi Fallen Order is proof that it’s still a great way to gate progression in a way that doesn’t feel like you keep hitting arbitrary roadblocks.
The gaining of abilities that aid in progression also does a lot to make you feel more like a Jedi. Skills like Force Push and Pull can be used for attack in addition to overcoming obstacles. So, it ends up that the more places you can go, the more powerful you are, and the more challenge the game can throw at you.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Review | A pinch of Dark Souls
The save system in Jedi Fallen Order works much the same as it does in Dark Souls. Throughout each world, there are Meditation Circles scattered here and there. Meditating at a circle saves the game, and you then get the choice to learn new skills that enhance your equipment and abilities or rest to heal and regain stims.
The only way you have to heal in Jedi Fallen Order is by resting at a Meditation Circle or by using one of your limited (but upgradable) number of stims. However, if you do choose to rest, all the enemies in the game will respawn. This makes each visit to a circle a tactical decision. Do you have enough stims and current health left to avoid respawning your foes, or are you too close to death to risk moving forward?
The combat, too, is like Dark Souls-lite. Fighting in Jedi Fallen Order isn’t quite as methodical as in the Souls series, but it is similar. Especially at high difficulty levels, blocking, parries, and timely utilization of Force powers are required to make it through alive. Each enemy you meet is a threat until you learn their routines, and even late game, you’ll run into regular grunts that can make mincemeat of you.
The challenge makes combat incredibly satisfying, and once you master it, you’ll genuinely start feeling like a Jedi. Deflecting blaster bolts, chopping giant rats in half, and downing AT-STs all feels natural, which makes one omission from the game incredibly strange. There is no dismemberment of human enemies or even blood. Not every game has to contain fountains of gore, but when I can bisect a rat, or cut a lizard-frog’s tongue off, it’s strange fighting Stormtroopers and leaving not a mark on them.
Given that within the first hour of A New Hope someone lost an arm to a lightsaber, you wouldn’t think there’d be an issue here. The odd thing is that many of the finishing move animations you can trigger on human enemies seem to be geared around dismemberment. You’ll see Cal cleave a Stormtrooper in half with no apparent consequences. It makes the lightsaber feel more like a glowing baseball bat instead of the incredibly dangerous weapon it is, and it’s evident that the move was made to get a T rating instead of M.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Review | A Bug’s Life
Jedi Fallen Order‘s most significant issue is how buggy it is. The collision detection in this game is horrible. I’ve had Cal fall straight out of the bottom of the Mantis as it leaves a planet. I’ve fallen down into death pits and respawned just far enough from a ledge to just continue falling down the hole over and over until I had to reload.
The problem, as I see it, is that most of the level’s collision geometry is made of boxes. So, you’ll often fall through what looks like solid ground because it’s jutting out a little farther than the collision box. This issue is compounded by the fact that the game doesn’t calculate Cal dying from distance fell. Instead, certain parts of the level just have a “kill zone” that you pass through that results in automatic death.
The results are that sometimes it looks like you can jump from a higher ledge to a lower one, and you’ll pass through the kill zone and die. Oddly, there’s no fall damage that I have ever run into. This results in situations where you can jump down 50 feet or more and land without a scrape, and others where a 5-foot drop will instantly kill you.
Fortunately, the above also applies to your enemies. In fact, one of the most effective ways to take out swathes of enemies is to Force Push them over ledges. This makes an intimidating battle against multiple Stormtroopers and Purge Troopers trivial. No enemies other than bosses have any resistance to the Force, so any time you find foes anywhere near a drop, your best bet is to just cheesily spam push them into the hole.
Jedi Fallen Order suffers from a general lack of polish. It’s a shame because this is the best Star Wars game we’ve gotten in years. However, instead of rigidly holding themselves to a November release date, Respawn should have taken another few months to do another quality assurance pass.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Review | One with the Force
Despite polish issues, Jedi Fallen Order is a ton of fun. It’s raw Star Wars just like we used to get with the Dark Forces series. I haven’t been very hopeful for the gaming future of Star Wars since EA took over the license, but that changed with Jedi Fallen Order. For all its flaws, it’s a game that taps into my nostalgia in a big way, and I very much hope that this is the first in a new line of games that aren’t just rabid, designed by committee money grabs.
Jedi Fallen Order isn’t perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction. The critical factor with this game is that it taps into that sense of adventure that Star Wars instills in fans. The story isn’t breathtaking, the gameplay can be buggy and repetitive at times, but for the most part, it’s a blast. There are lightsabers and Stormtroopers, and sometimes that’s all it takes.