Is Respawn’s first third-person action game strong with the force? Or does it need to recheck its midichlorian count? Yes, we groaned too.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order picks up five years from Order 66. The Empire has risen, the Jedi have been quashed, and former padawan Cal Kestis is hiding out as a shipbreaker for the Empire. After accidentally revealing his dormant Force powers, he’s forced on the run – and that’s all the story you’re getting from this review.
Fallen Order‘s narrative devolves into peak cinematic McGuffin-chasing, but that’s OK – because it’s still Star Wars, questionable detours and all. Cal is somewhat of a blank slate (ably, although arguably too safely, portrayed by Gotham’s Cameron Monaghan), but the supporting cast is well presented – particularly BD-1, who might just be the best droid in anything Star Wars-related ever, bought to life by expressive animations and R2D2 style tweets and beeps.
Speaking of presentation, Fallen Order sets out its stall early with some stunning vistas. Each planet offers its own personality, and Cal’s motion capture is excellent for the most part – even when spinning his lightsaber and dodging all at once. It’s a beautiful game, and aside from the occasional frame-rate stutters and texture pop-in, it proves Respawn were right to use Unreal Engine instead of EA’s own Frostbite.
Don’t tell the internet, but I’m not very good at video games. In fact, unless it’s a shooter or a linear Uncharted-like adventure, I’ll struggle. I bounced off of Dark Souls within an hour or so, likewise with Bloodborne – and I can’t bring myself to try Sekiro.
With that background in mind, I approached Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the first EA Star Wars game that hasn’t got Battlefront in the title, with some amount of trepidation. If I’m being handed a lightsaber, do I really want to learn how to dodge, parry, and counter? It’s like being given the keys to a Lamborghini and asked to drop your Nan to the shops in traffic, right? Thankfully, I was wrong.
Combat in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is EXHILARATING. I’m sure many reading this will have no doubt slain tougher foes, but I slogged through multiple encounters with but a slither of health left. That’s important, too – resting to regain health causes enemies to respawn, while dying to even the most measly of Stormtroopers will see you lose your held experience. It pays to be careful, and it pays to use everything to your advantage – like force-pushing an Imperial trooper into an endless abyss, or pulling them into a trap that you yourself navigated just moments before.
You’ll be doing a fair amount of fighting, and the makeup of every enemy squad encountered drastically affects your approach to it. Eliminating ranged combatants early is key (made easier by Force pull), but trying to get a bead on them while dancing the tango with other foes is made tricky by a somewhat troublesome lock-on system and a camera that isn’t entirely sure where it should be within confined area.
It’s not just combat that’s taken cues from FromSoftware titles, as each planet is a meticulously crafted rabbit hole of interconnected pathways. Don’t expect to explore all of them at once though – Fallen Order offers Metroid-style traversal unlocks, and is arguably the best game in recent memory to do it since Batman: Arkham Asylum. This is helped by a handy 3D map, which takes some getting used to but colour codes the accessible and inaccessible areas alike, which is a nice touch.
Third-person adventures like Uncharted or the recent Tomb Raider games use a subtle but effective visual language to convey where you can and can’t jump, while also offering small suggestions as to how to proceed in puzzle areas. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order stumbles on both of those aspirations. It can be hard to determine which ledges are climbable, and while puzzles are rarely too complex, they often take place in large areas with multiple hidden paths. It means they almost feel like putting a puzzle together but some of the pieces are under the table. Meanwhile, platforming is the biggest issue in Fallen Order.
On multiple occasions, Cal is tasked with sliding down rocky, muddy, or icy slopes. Controls here are looser than I’d have liked, but after some adjustment my main issue was simply jumping when required. Sometimes it feels as though there’s some input lag, while other times he simply floats up and over an obstacle. This inconsistency led to multiple cheap deaths, and while Cal can respawn quickly when falling to his death, it’s still very frustrating.
Dying in combat feels more justified, but it’s not without its own issues – namely glacially slow loading times. On multiple occasions I was able to reply to an email while waiting for the game to load. A patch claims to fix this, but it feels like an added punishment.
These are not insignificant issues, but Respawn actually did it – they made a single-player Star Wars game worth playing, both from a narrative and gameplay perspective.
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