Star Wars games are a dime a dozen and quite frankly, a lot of them are complete rubbish. There are a fair few which sit in the box of mediocre, where they are playable and can be quite fun, but are lacking something; be it in the gameplay department, graphics or story. Very few can actually be considered something truly great and special (especially nowadays with EA and all their loot boxes and microtransactions in control). Enter; Jedi Fallen Order, the newest attempt to create a great star wars experience on this generation of gaming machines. Can it be the game to break the mould and force push its way to be something special?
Firstly in a surprising turn of events from EA, the game is entirely a single-player, non-online experience featuring no in-game microtransactions (apart from a couple of pre-order cosmetics). This is a nice change from what we’ve come to expect in recent years from EA and not just with Star Wars games but in general. I feel they learnt their lesson with Battlefront 2 which killed itself with the random in-game loot boxes and too much focus on making more money out of the players. Having a single-player focused Star Wars game is exactly what the community has wanted and its what has generally worked best over the years.
Secondly, this game is an entirely original story set after Star Wars episode 3 but before episode 4. It features mainly brand new characters and develops the time period of when order 66 (the order for clone troopers to kill all Jedi) was in effect. It’s a period touched on a little in some of the Star Wars lore of old and new canon but here it feels much more fleshed out. The story follows our hero Cal Kestis (a Jedi padawan hiding from the empire) as he tries to save the names of all force sensitive children from falling into the hands of the empire. The story hits all of the usual beats you’d expect but it does feel very much like a new and grand Star Wars adventure (more so than pretty much all of the new films). There are surprises in store and some familiar faces but for the most part the story focuses on and really develops Cal into what is call one of the best Star Wars characters in recent years. He is supported by an equally good assortment of characters who aid him on his quest, each being surprisingly fleshed out in terms of dialogue and back story. The main villain of the game is for the first half pretty awesome until she turns into your stereotypical over the top evil person about halfway in. She’s not a bad villain and stands above all of the bad guys in the newer films.
The writing is top-notch and is far superior to the travesties released at cinema after episode 1 (which wasn’t great but was an enjoyable adventure). Compared to the likes of something as terrible as Rogue One this is an Oscar-winning script (which isn’t saying much considering how abysmal that film was). The adventure the player goes on is pretty compelling and definitely has enough to keep fans of the franchise happy for its reasonably lengthy playtime.
Gameplay-wise the game is a massive departure from the usual hack and slash or shooting game that usually gets churned out with the Star Wars branding. The game is really something more akin to Sekiro or Dark Souls mixed with the exploration of Uncharted or Tomb Raider Legend (not the new reboot series). It’s an odd combination which strangely works remarkably well. The combat side of things is such a change from what you may expect if you’ve played games like Star Wars Jedi Knight or Force Unleashed, that it can be quite jarring getting used to it. Whereas in those games when you are given a lightsaber, you can pretty much kill everything without much of a fight apart from the bosses, here you have to take your time and learn your enemies attacks. In this game, even the most basic of enemies can prove your downfall if you are careless. The combat is a graceful art of finding and opening and exploiting it, but is equally about knowing when to back away. It’s about learning from your mistakes and succeeding next time. I found there were a couple of enemies early in, blocking doors, which I just couldn’t beat but returning later I had no problem. I learnt ways of dealing with each different enemy and this, in turn, opened new paths for me in the game.
While you never get to wield a gun in the game, you do get access to different force powers which unlock as the game progresses. These start with the likes of force push which at the start allows you to push one enemy backwards slightly. By the end of the game, you can throw whole groups of enemies hurtling backwards. This was always my favourite way of dealing with big groups. There is little as satisfying as sprinting towards a load of troopers and pushing them off a ledge to their doom. You also get force pull which does as you’d expect, the opposite of push. I did find myself using this occasionally to pull annoying enemies towards me and dropping them down holes. Not the coolest of kills but still satisfying. As you defeat enemies you gain so which can be used to buy new skills and powers which really helps you feel like Cal is getting stronger the further you get in the story. By the end, you truly feel like some awesome Jedi ninja who can take on anything.
Dying in the game is another thing that is really reminiscent of dark souls. When you die you can respawn at the last save point (meditation points littered around the map). If you do you lose all of the unspent so that doesn’t equal a skill point. You can then regain it all by killing the enemy that killed you. It’s a system that works and one that does keep you trying that one extra time. By resting at a meditation point you also respawn all enemies meaning you have to think wisely about if you want the challenge all over again. Having played a lot of the Dark Souls games, I was used to the mechanic and felt it quite a nice fit here. Challenge-wise I found the game as a whole had a nice balance of difficulty, with only a few fights truly testing my patience (especially the final battle). It is during these moments the nuanced combat slightly unravels. For the most part when you die, you can see it was you at fault, but when fighting some of the bosses who so am unlockable moves it feels a little cheap. It almost comes down to luck in these fights and not skill. I found one boss, in particular, changed the whole mechanics of what we had learnt and forces you to pretty much button last your way to victory as taking your time lets them heal. It’s nothing game-breaking but puts a little downer on what for the most part is truly solid combat.
The exploring side of the game is done both really well and really frustratingly. The first time you explore a planet is a thrill as you discover secrets and winding paths on your way to an objective. The second and sometimes third times not so much. The levels are a maze of passageways which give an illusion of open-world but in fact serve to funnel you from A to B. There are save spots located throughout the map but these literally serve as a slight respite. I would have loved to see some sort of fast travel system set up allowing you to travel from one save point to another. The maps are so convoluted that getting to a certain place often requires constantly looking at the map and trying to figure out which route you next need to take. It takes a lot of the fun out of traversing the beautiful locations. Even unlocking shortcuts doesn’t cut much time out of getting places. This for me was the biggest annoyance of the game as later in the game when you need to revisit certain planets, I found that most of that visit was just trying to figure out my way back through the map. The map itself isn’t the easiest to read as the different floors all kind of merge into a mess of complicated labyrinth tunnels.
The actual traversing of the levels is great and as you unlock more moves it gets even better as it also unlocks new roots around. Once you finally unlock the double jump it really opens new paths. I found myself nimbly dashing through the levels cutting through troopers left and right. It all feels very fluid but some sections can be annoying. I found myself dying by falling off platforms or missing jumps to ropes a more common end then to enemies themselves. There is also a weird emphasis on sliding sections which aren’t too bad but can be frustrating when having to line up a jump at the end. None of them are more than slight frustrations though. I also experienced very few bugs while playing, with most being my fault in trying to explore sections that aren’t explorable and getting stuck inside the map. Only once did I have to reload the game.
The set pieces that litter the game are for the most part amazing with the opening train sequence being truly memorable and awesome. They feel like they’ve been torn out of a game like uncharted but are much larger due to the fantasy setting. These sections help reinforce the Star Wars adventure you are partaking in. The graphics and sound further draw us into the world and quite frankly feel like how the franchise should feel.
Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order is a magnificent game and one of the best games I’ve played in recent years and possibly the best Star Wars game I’ve ever played (I think the graphics and soundscaping push it ahead of things like Jedi Knight for overall awesomeness). The few flaws the game does have don’t impact on the overall quality of the game. It is a pretty lengthy adventure, but it’s definitely one fans of the franchise and games of this ilk should check out.
Ps4 version reviewed