Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order makes EA skeptics (including myself) eat our words, providing fans with a brand new Star Wars video game developed by the Titanfall and Apex: Legends creators: Respawn Entertainment. That makes this the studio's second critically acclaimed title this year alone!
Not only is this game the first of a very popular genre of game for an even more popular IP in nearly a decade, but it’s also an incredible title in its own right. Needless to say, the game has received high praise from critics and the public alike, regardless of its multitude of bugs and unpolished elements — which should speak volumes to you about how enjoyable the game is to play.
The game is far from flawless— but it delivers exactly what you’d want in an interactive Star Wars story/adventure. The visuals of the planets you visit are stunning, the story is linear but compelling, and the game’s cast of protagonists and antagonists are detailed and genuinely interesting— which coupled with commendable performances by their actors makes for some really great characters. It also delivers exactly what you’d expect from a ‘hack-and-slash’, action/adventure game — if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right? The movement and combat controls felt quite responsive and satisfying also — the ever-changing cast of enemy classes/species and maneuverability options keeps these two gameplay aspects from becoming too stale before the end credits roll (which is usually a major flaw with this genre of game).
The game doesn’t run particularly exceptionally, but it plays fun nevertheless. The campaign will have you galloping from planet-to-planet, scouring each level to find all of their quirks and secrets, even if it does feel a little forced at times. Star Wars fans will rest easy after being spoon-fed the copious amount of fan service in-store for them, and those new to the franchise will be equally satisfied with this story as a one-off experience. In short, the game is worth playing — but I don’t think many people would describe this game as anything close to a perfect one.
Action & Combat
Combat in Fallen Order doesn’t stray far from the “hack-and-slash” genre norm. Those familiar with and well-versed in games like Dark Souls and God of War will feel right at home with what this title brings to the table in terms of moment-to-moment gameplay —but they might feel underwhelmed by the low number of boss fights and their difficulties.
Those, like myself, who aren’t super into this genre of game will find the transition into this type of gameplay challenging at first — but it never felt annoyingly unfair. The game’s challenge always felt balanced, and despite a scarce few bugs that led me to the respawn screen I always knew what I had to do next time to get that bit closer to beating a boss.
If challenging gameplay is something you find unpalatable then switching the game’s difficulty setting to the “Story” mode will leave you with a game void of struggle while still keeping most of its boss fights’ intensity and weight — but you’ll likely not need more than a single attempt at challenging them. I commend the game’s suitable difficulty settings.
Moreover, the game’s character progression system allows its players to unlock more and more moves as they progress through the game to utilise during combat. This kept battles from repeating themselves too much, which is usually a big problem I have with these types of games.
Adventure / Exploration
The lands are bountiful with crates full of custom lightsaber parts, clothing and paint jobs that provide the player not only with an opportunity to differentiate their character from other players but also the invitation to explore the Star Wars universe and all its nooks and crannies. Not to mention, your droid companion, BD-1, will also jump over to something it finds interesting to scan for you — literally unlocking the secrets of the galaxy for you.
By creating levels around the various movement options that the player has, each planet is full to the brim with puzzles that can only be solved by looking around and recognising what you can climb, wall-run across, swing from, jump to or force-pull/push. And the further you progress into the main story, the more of these movement mechanics become unlocked for the player, which then encourages them to go back to previous levels to find what was previously locked for them. This makes first encounters on planets more mysterious and opens the door for revisiting old levels for more content — which bolsters the game’s replay value. Essentially all this boils down to is that the game provides players with positive-reinforcement through items and extra lore, which is a fantastic (albeit common) way to encourage players to get the most out of an adventure game.
Visuals & Audio
I can best describe these areas of the game as “classically Star Wars”. The environments on each planet breathe life throughout the game’s worlds, accompanied suitably by a beautiful soundtrack befitting of the movies themselves.
Occasionally models will glitch and the music will climax before you reach the point it was clearly intended for (likely because it was set on a timer rather than activated when you reached said point), but overall there really isn’t anything else to critique here.
Navigation prompts are smoothly sunken into the objects on each world that are clear enough to recognise when you’re looking but not so obvious that you can spot them with no effort at all — and the blue outline around the objects that you can use the force on is a nice touch. Moreover, the music evokes just the right kind of emotions at each of the narrative's different stages. Bugs aside, if this game were to be judged on its audio and visual elements alone it would fair extremely well.
Worldbuilding & Storytelling
The story is best described simply as: ‘classic Star Wars storytelling’. Drawing from perfectly-captured elements of the Clone Wars and prequel trilogy as well as the original trilogy, the game harmoniously blends the two together to paint us a picture of the state of the universe and the series canon between the two time periods. The adventure wraps itself in the conflict between the rising Galactic Empire and the fallen Jedi Order — mirrored poetically by the interpersonal clashing of the light and dark sides of the force within the main cast of characters.
The main story is linear, but that in itself isn’t a bad thing. In fact, the game never felt watered-down or drawn-out. Everywhere you go and everything you do feels like a means to an end. A big pet peeve I had with 2018’s God of War that I forgot to mention in my review was that there was always a setback in the story to make it last longer. It felt like one step forward, two steps back. Back in this game, I actually felt like with each cleared objective I was getting one step closer to my goal.
And the characters… oh yes, the characters! I loved how they interacted with one another while traveling in hyperspace, and how they bantered with each other in cutscenes. They had their place in the story, but then they also had personalities — especially Greez (who was my favorite character). They had likes, dislikes, attitudes. It’s fantastic! Many optional additional conversations can also be initiated between the player’s character ‘Cal’ and his crew that further flesh out their relationships and their thoughts on the current state of their mission. This is perfect for those who crave that extra level of narrative in their playthrough.
The game doesn’t do a great job of making exposition exciting to listen to — but it does give the player the ability to overlook it and then receive a condensed explanation at a later time. Whilst exploring worlds, BD-1 will scan nearby points of interest which will submit a new data entry into the player inventory screens. This is commonly used as a significant storytelling device, but actually opening it up and indulging it is completely optional — hence why the game will often catch the player up in character conversation later just in case they’re not up to speed. This might seem counter-productive, but as one of the people who did choose to open these entries, I must say that it was a quite creative way of explaining plot points to me. It really made me feel like I was discerning this information for myself, rather than having the game dump it all on me in each cutscene *cough* Kingdom Hearts III *cough*.
Moreover, more information can be unlocked in a similar fashion by being more diligent with your exploration around a given planet. This information informs the player of so much extra detail that they wouldn’t have found by just looking at the world’s visual exterior. From events that had happened in the past to detailed information on inhabitance, the game offers banks upon banks of rich worldbuilding text entries. My only critique is that having to read through paragraphs of text is probably not the most exciting way to experience worldbuilding — but it did feel like the most realistic. I mean, that’s how your character would be learning about it. He can’t go back in time; he’d have to read if he wanted to learn about old stuff. But alas, overall I think the storytelling and worldbuilding elements were definitely the game’s greatest strengths.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was far better than I could ever have foreseen. EA seem to have finally learned their lesson, and successfully got out of the way and let Respawn do what they do best: making great games.
It wasn’t my favorite game of 2019, but it was certainly worth picking up. With a strong story and cast of characters, sound gameplay, impressive visuals, and a pleasing score, it was easy to overlook the game’s bugs and occasional dodgy performance.