EA alongside Respawn Entertainment have just produced a solid Star Wars game with the very authentic Jedi: Fallen Order.
It's been 6 years since EA acquired the exclusive rights to produce video games for the Star Wars franchise. In that time, the publisher and its treatment of the license has linked the company to the gaming industry's worst practices. As you probably remember, their first game (Star Wars Battlefront) could best be described as a bare-bones experience with an insultingly expensive season pass and most of its content being released as DLC. 2 years later, EA debuted Star Wars Battlefront II; a game that was criticised by many fans and critics for its predatory loot box system which arguably single-handedly destroyed the glorified gambling mechanic for non-sports games. I bring this up because it's important to highlight the drought that the franchise has undergone in the video game realm for the past decade.
If we're being perfectly honest with ourselves, the franchise hasn't had an exceptional video game release since 2011 with the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic from BioWare which itself had a very rough launch as well as its fair share of criticism. When looking at it through this lens, you can easily say that Jedi: Fallen Order is one of the best Star Wars games to come out in nearly a decade. However, it is still one that falls into the unfortunate category of good but not quite great.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order takes place 5 years after the events of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith and follows Cal Kestis; a Jedi Padawan who survived Order 66 and has been living in hiding from the empire as a scrapper. However, after an unfortunate encounter with an Inquisitor, Cal is forced to flee the planet with a former Jedi. He is then recruited into her mission to rebuild the Jedi Order as the Inquisitor, The Second Sister, hunts them both.
In all honesty, the plot can be described as an almost formulaic Star Wars story which proves to be its greatest strength and weakness. It's basically a story that involves a milquetoast guy reclaiming his heroic destiny and a mentor figure who can no longer fight as they try to restore the Jedi Order in their own way. Along for the ride is a snarky ship captain with debts to shady figures and a cute little droid who holds information that could save the universe. Hunting our heroes is a dark side force user who may or may not be redeemable with a legitimately tragic back-story and a closer connection to the main characters than is initially let on. We've seen these kinds of characters before and while they are likeable and sympathetic, it does tie into a much larger problem that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has.
Namely, it clearly draws far too much inspiration from other sources and this affects nearly every aspect of the game. If you're a big Star Wars fan and have taken in as much of the media as I have, you're going to see more than a few retreads here and there. The battles with the Inquisitors and surviving Jedi feel like something out of Star Wars Rebels while the plot involving an older Jedi trying to revive the Order by finding a Holocron that maps out force-sensitive children is ripped straight from the Charles Soule Darth Vader comic. The plot points involving Kashyyyk were obviously inspired by Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and there is even a sequence at the end that is ripped from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It's hard to tell what's simply Star Wars tradition and what's lazy retread.
Thankfully, it's all done well with enough variation on these recycled story bits to keep you interested. Plus, it arguably does a lot of these familiar plot points better than before. For example, there is legitimate tragedy to the Second Sister's back-story which puts it above the Inquisitors in Rebels who often felt less like fleshed out characters and more like bad guys of the week designed to sell toys. Variations like this are spread pretty evenly throughout the plot and it changes these things just enough so you're never bored. It's clear that the developers were fans of a lot of these ideas and wanted to put their own spin on them. The end result is something that may at times feel familiar but also fresh and it could easily be described as the first authentic Star Wars game that we've had in a long time.
This is very much Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order's biggest boon. Regardless of what else you can say about it, it does feel like a legitimate Star Wars experience. It doesn't break any molds or subvert expectations the way that Star Wars: The Last Jedi did but it also doesn't feel like the safe recreations as seen in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It also has a lot more ambition than Rebels ever had. It's a very bizarre balancing act that it's trying and while it doesn't always land perfectly, it succeeds to the point where you're going to grin from ear to ear while playing it, especially if you're a hardcore Star Wars fan.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order's gameplay is very much in the same boat as the plot. It's a bizarre hodgepodge of elements taken from other games while still offering its own thing with mixed results. Overall, the core gameplay can be aptly described as a mashup of Uncharted and Sekiro. The combat primarily draws from the latter as it relies on deflecting and wearing down your enemy's guard before nailing them with critical hits which will take down their health. It just happens to use lightsabers and blasters as opposed to swords, bows, and arrows and it lacks the absurdly high difficulty factor as well as features platforming puzzles to break up the fights.
That being said, the implementation of the combat feels a little off. It's a bit difficult to put into words because the battle system isn't objectively bad. However, it feels a bit wrong when a stormtrooper with a stun baton has as much chance of defeating you at an arbitrary point as the Inquisitors do in the boss battles. It's a system that simply doesn't feel like it belongs in a Star Wars game and it probably should have taken a bit more inspiration from something like Devil May Cry rather than Sekiro.
This system does work extremely well when it comes to the boss fights, though. The slow and deliberate pacing of Cal and his opponents makes it feel like you are participating in a duel between 2 master swordsmen. You have to think about when to attack and when to dodge which equally requires both strategic thinking and quick reflexes in order to claim victory. The battles in The Force Unleashed may have had a more epic feel to them but the duels in Jedi: Fallen Order mark the first time that lightsaber fights feel truly fluid and it's going to be interesting to see how other developers tackle this in the future.
In the end, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order ultimately lacks a sense of identity and that's what holds it back from being one of the greats. However, it's an authentic Star Wars experience so if you're a fan of the franchise then this is definitely a solid game to pick up.
- + Fantastic boss fights
- + Likable cast of characters
- + Authentic Star Wars experience
- - Lacks its own sense of identity
- - Borrows a bit too heavily from other established Star Wars sources
- - Combat with regular enemies feels off