Star Wars is a franchise everyone knows, it’s been around for over forty years and expanded into comics, cartoons, spin-offs, TV shows, merchandise and of course, Video Games. I wouldn’t say that I’m the biggest fan of the franchise, having skipped the last few movies, the animated series, all the comics, and the spin-off movies due to lack of interest in the stories they were telling, but I do have fond memories of the ‘Unleashed’ games from the last generation. As such, I was keen to get my hands on Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, a new single-player narrative-adventure where you get to play as a Jedi whilst using the Force to beat up creatures and the Empire – it has to be better than the very pretty but incredibly boring Battlefront games…
As we received a review code about a week after the majority of reviews had come out, I’d heard quite a bit about the ‘issues’ with the game which allowed me to go into it with lower than usual expectations just in case I encountered the same disappointments and flaws. With that in mind, I came out pleasantly surprised although there are a few things I really didn’t like about the game and some design choices I didn’t agree with. However, I imagine I’ll be in the minority with these opinions because the ratings and praise the game has been getting simply speaks for itself.
Let’s see what I think of the latest game from Respawn Entertainment…
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order takes place five years after the events of Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith, yet before any of the spin-off titles like Solo and Rogue One, in the wake of the Jedi Purge. Our protagonist, Cal Kestis, was a Jedi Padawan when the clones turned on the Jedi, forcing him to flee and go into hiding so that his true identity isn’t discovered by the Empire. However, despite successfully remaining incognito for a while, working as a salvager on the planet Bracca, he is recorded by an Imperial Probe Droid whilst using the Force to save his friend from dying whilst salvaging.
After being engaged by two Inquisitors known as the Second Sister and the Ninth Sister, Cal makes his escape by boarding the Stinger Mantis, a ship under the control of Cere Junda, a former Jedi Knight. Cere asked for Cal’s help in opening an ancient sacred vault, a vault which holds vital information which she needs to get her hands on before the Empire figures out it’s there and finds a way in themselves. This is where Cal meets up with his new droid buddy, BD-1, a small droid which once belonged to a Jedi Master. BD-1 chooses Cal to be his new master and tags along for the ride as you head out on your multi-planet adventure.
In order to open the vault, you must travel to other planets, meet up with humans and familiar species, find new abilities for your droid, and remember the teachings of your former Master in order to follow the clues left behind by BD-1’s former owner. Your ultimate goal is to rebuild the Jedi Order by utilising the item which is hidden deep within this sealed temple, an object which in the wrong hands would result in the destruction of every single Jedi in the universe. As such, you must grow as both a man and a Jedi on this journey otherwise it’s not only you who’ll fall at the hand of the Empire.
Jedi: Fallen Order is a strange game, it’s a mix-up of a number of genres and gameplay mechanics which has been muddled together and then re-painted with Star Wars colours. Whilst playing, all I could think about was Tomb Raider, Uncharted 4, Dark Souls and your standard Metroidvania game. As a 3rd person action-adventure, there’s bound to be similarities with other franchisees and their mechanics, let’s see what I mean by the comparisons above…
First of all, Uncharted 4 and Tomb Raider – Jedi: Fallen Order basically has you travelling to a number of planets which are all very different from one another with unique visuals and enemies. The purpose for visiting these words is to enter tombs and secret areas and solve simple environmental puzzles by climbing, using various Force powers to operate mechanisms, and perform a lot of jumping followed by grabbing walls and climbing as we saw in ‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’. In ‘Uncharted 4’ there’s a lot of segments where you slide down mud trails – a mechanic which is overused in Jedi: Fallen Order. Seriously, there are at least three or four sliding segments on every planet!
In terms of the Metroidvania reference, when you enter a planet for the first time you can hardly do anything – maybe explore for about thirty minutes until you’re asked to return to the ship. Whilst exploring, you’ll find a lot of doors, switches, lifts, and objects that show up on your map as red, meaning you can’t do anything with them… yet. Cal is like Samus, you were once a Jedi with all your abilities but they are stripped from you as you forgot your teachings, just like how Samus usually gets all her abilities taken off her. As the game progresses, you recall your teachings and fit new parts to BD-1 which allows you to now overcome the obstacles which were once red (now turning green or yellow). This means there’s a lot of backtracking on each planet once you’ve finally awoken all of your abilities.
Finally, the combat. If you like games such as Sekiro, Dark Souls or The Surge, you’ll love the combat in Jedi: Fallen Order as it’s practically the same, only a little more fantastical. If you wish to stay alive more than five minutes when playing on Medium difficulty or above, you need to master blocking, dodging, force jumping and judging when to attack, as well as correctly using either Force push or pull (depending on the enemies attack) and remembering the various special moves you can unlock on your skill tree. Unlike the ‘Unleashed’ games, you can’t just rush in and become a God as you pick everyone up with the Force and throw them all over the place, the combat is much more strategic and slow-paced.
I’m not a massive fan of this style of combat, especially in games where the gameplay feels like it would be more suited for more of an arcade and fast-paced combat mechanic. However, unlike other games which utilise this style, Jedi: Fallen Order allows you to actually pick the difficulty of the combat so that if you’re having issues, you can lower it and then raise it again once you’ve overcome the part you were having trouble with. I know that some people have been telling everyone on Twitter how they completed it on the hardest difficulty and that’s great, I was hovering between Medium and easy at times simply because these mechanics easily irritate and annoy me personally. It’s strange because I loved Darksiders III and Vampyr, both of which using a similar combat style, yet this game had a few moments where I just couldn’t react fast enough – it’s probably my old age!
As well as the combat, the bonfires are also present from the Souls games (well, mystical symbols on the floor). If you wish to spend skill points on unlocking new skills, you must find one of these checkpoints and meditate at them – allowing you to choose from a rather big selection of new abilities and attacks. Also, you can choose to ‘rest’ in order to restore your health and the number of health restorations BD-1 can give you before you have to restore them again, but this comes at a price. Just like the Souls games, if you choose to restore your health, every single enemy (bar the bosses) will be instantly revived. Again, this isn’t a mechanic I’m too fond of but it didn’t really bother me too much because as you progress, you unlock doors and passages which work as shortcuts so you can bypass a lot of the intense areas when returning after getting a new skill or ability.
The universe created within Jedi: Fallen Order is really impressive. Each planet has its own distinct look and atmosphere about it from desert-like rocks to ice and snow, the colours are all very bold and the game looks beautiful within the Unreal Engine 4 (rather than Frostbite). My only complaint about the planets would be the level design. Each planet has a map which is drawn as you explore, with yellow markers meaning you can go in a certain place, red meaning you can’t go there yet, green meaning it’s a shortcut, and flashing yellow meaning that’s your destination. However, trying to navigate is a bit of a pain due to having no on-screen prompts or mini-map on display at all times.
Due to the nature of the game, with its strong emphasis on going back on yourself in order to use your newly obtained skills so you can progress further when you return to a planet you had been on previously, there’s a lot of backtracking. Not only to get to the door or passage which is now open but once you’ve seen the new places then you have to find your way back to your ship. I’m not going to lie, I found myself getting lost a number of times until I had become accustomed to the layout of each planet and could find my way around as if I’ve lived there for a few years. This is why I loved the shortcuts you can activate, such as lifts and doors, as it meant you could easily return to your ship without going the long way around as you’ve just had to do initially.
Although a lot of the mechanics are utilised on every planet, such as the overused sliding, wall running, balancing, swinging, climbing, and sneaking through very thin holes in the wall, each of the locations tends to have its own set of puzzles which are created specifically around the abilities and Force powers you’ve just learnt – just like how you’d find an item in a dungeon in The Legend of Zelda then use that to solve puzzles and kill the boss. I wish there were more of these unique mechanics and puzzles as they were fun – especially the ice and the ball puzzles – but the majority of the mechanics you’ll be using are the same few you’ll use throughout the entire game.
Jedi: Fallen Order has a decent amount of customisation options for you to play with and not a single microtransaction in sight (other than the Deluxe Edition which contains some exclusive skins). All of the clothing, parts, and paint jobs are found in chests which BD-1 helps you scavenge as you explore. You can change the colour scheme of the clothes Cal is wearing if you don’t fancy his standard colours, or even give him a poncho to keep him warm/cool – again, in a variety of colours and designs. In terms of paint, you can change the colour and design of both BD-1 and your ship, allowing you to personalise them to your preference.
The best customisation though has to be your lightsaber. You can change the colour, switches, sleeves, materials, and emitters as long as you’ve found new parts within the chests. The DualShock 4 controller even changes its light-bar colour based upon whatever beam colour you choose to have, which is a nice touch as not many games have used the light-bar recently. Although you initially start off with a single-bladed lightsaber, it won’t be too long before you have a double-sided one, like Darth Maul, as well a bunch of special attacks which allows you to break it in two to deliver a devastating attack and even throw it at the enemies like a boomerang!
Although you can change the colours and printed designs on the clothing, ship and droid, you can’t really change their appearance. I would have loved it if we had the option to wear various costumes or swap out parts of BD-1 so that he looks completely different – it’s not a deal-breaker and it doesn’t change my opinion of the game but it would have been fun to have more customisation. On a side note, I know the Unleashed games were by LucasArts Games and not EA, but in one of those, you could unlock the skin of Guybrush Threepwood and play the entire game as him! It would have been cool if Jedi: Fallen Order had similar full-on skin swaps.
The best Star Wars Game in years?
Do I think Jedi: Fallen Order is the best Star Wars game in years? By default, yes. The only game I can think of from this generation, which isn’t a microtransaction-ran multiplayer game, is Lego Star Wars – which I loved. But, that came out around four years ago, so ‘technically’, there’s not been a good game since then. I still personally think that Unleashed was a better game due to the badass Force abilities you have in that game and the much more exciting and fast-paced combat, but clearly Jedi: Fallen Order is a much prettier game. I did find Cal and Cere to be incredibly boring though, the best character with the most emotion throughout the entire adventure was BD-1!
Jedi: Fallen Order isn’t a bad game, I really enjoyed it, but the majority of my fun was had once I’d unlocked all of my Jedi powers. Having the game as a Metroidvania with Souls-like combat may sound good on paper, and there’s a bunch of people out there who love that kind of combination, but it made Cal feel useless. Sure, he’d suppress certain Force abilities due to hiding from the Empire and fleeing whilst still a Padawan, but having to wait until near the end of the game to be able to double jump and pull objects was rather silly. The constant backtracking and having to remember where you saw something so you can return once you’ve obtained a new ability for yourself or BD-1 (when a thrust from your lightsaber should be able to do the job) simply stretched out and added lots of padding to a game which would have been over in less than half the time if I was a capable Jedi from the start.
This is me simply nitpicking though as the game delivered what it set out to do and the story was interesting enough to have me excited to see what happened next. Although I wasn’t a fan of the combat, the difficulty options allowed me to customise it to my own personal preference so that I was able to proceed without too many rage-induced tantrums (I’m looking at you Sekiro). I’ve certainly played games, in general, which I enjoyed more from the start, but now that I’m a fully-trained Jedi, I’m having a lot of fun in the post-game clean-up process – more than I was when I felt like I was a newly discovered Padawan with nothing but a lightsaber to show I’m a Jedi.
Jedi: Fallen Order looks beautiful, as I mentioned above. Jumping to the Unreal Engine means there isn’t that much destruction in the world, unlike in the Frostbite where almost everything can be broken, but in this case, I wasn’t too bothered. Your lightsaber left accurate burn marks on the walls, ground, and bodies, as you slashed away, objects had real physics in place, ragdoll bodies were fun to play with, and the world felt ‘alive’. However, the price of prettiness lies within the performance.
There are two options on the PS4 Pro, Quality and Resolution modes. In Quality mode, the game runs between 1080p and 1260p at a stable 30fps, with the odd dip here and there as you get further into the game. In Performance mode, however, the game is between 900p and 1080p with an unlocked framerate, fluctuating from 30fp to 60fps depending on what’s going on. I played the majority of the game in Performance mode and I hated it. At first it was fine, but towards the final few planets and major battles, the frame rate was almost unplayable for me – it felt worse than Control did at launch in certain areas. However, because I was now accustomed to the smoother gameplay (in parts), switching to the 30fps mode felt janky and not very nice – even though, according to Digital Foundry, the 30fps is stable and evenly paced.
The voice acting was great throughout, no issues at all with the quality delivered – same with the music. Although, I would have liked more alien languages being spoken as everyone seemed to talk English (unless it just sounded English due to my Jedi skills?). The only aliens I could recall were the Wookies and BD-1 (if you’d class the droid as Alien) as Cal could understand both of these without presenting us with subtitles, only rather funny “Bleep”, “Bloop”, “blop”, subs – in case you missed the noises he made!
On a side note – as of yesterday, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was updated to include a Photo Mode. I’ve had a dabble with it and it’s a competent one, offering various filters and visual options to allow you to take the perfect image. It also pushes the game up to it’s highest resolution (due to the dynamic scale), allowing you to get a great picture. However, why this wasn’t added before the launch is anyone’s guess – if it was a time constraint, why not try and implement this earlier to ensure it was there for launch? I love that they’ve added it but for the hardcore, they will have finished with the game by now, so adding it later almost defeats the object for most gamers. Also, I noticed the same issue which appears in Need For Speed: Heat, when you go into Photo Mode, after a short while some effects tend to vanish like particles, making your images look a little flat.
With an interesting story, beautiful visuals, and a great soundtrack, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the best Star Wars game in years. The game has its flaws with performance issues, boring characters, the occasional glitchy jump, and overuse of the sliding mechanic, but the positives easily outweigh these, resulting in a very enjoyable and entertaining 15-20 hour narrative adventure. If you’re a fan of Souls-like combat and Metroidvanias, you should already have this game, whether you’re a Star Wars fan or not, as the gameplay alone is worthy of picking it up. Free of Microtransactions and focused on the Single-player experience, THIS is how you make an engaging and interesting Star Wars game.
STAR WARS Jedi: Fallen Order£59.99
- - Visually stunning whatever console and setting you play on
- - Really fun to play once you have all your powers and abilities
- - Customisable lightsaber, including the beam colour which changes the DS4 light
- - Interesting story
- - Best Star Wars game for a while
- - Performance issues when you get further into the game
- - Not enough aliens with their own language
- - The main characters are quite boring
- - Until you get all your powers back, Cal feels very underpowered and 'not special'
- - I personally wasn't a fan of the Souls-like combat mixed with Metroidvania backtracking