Platform: PC/PS4/Xbox One | Release Date: November 15, 2019
“Failure is not the end. It is a necessary part of the path… Hope will always survive in those who continue to fight.”
The initial announcement of Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order was unsurprisingly clouded with scepticism from fans of the franchise. After all, seeing as there hasn’t really been a ‘decent’ Star Wars game since 2008’s The Force Unleashed (if that), many were expecting another Battlefront 2 to hit the shelves and wither away in controversy and disappointment. However, the force works in very mysterious ways, as we are treated with a game that stands as a very strong contender for Game of the Year.
Developed by Respawn Entertainment (the great minds behind Titanfall and Apex Legends), Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order is perhaps the darkest and most intense addition to the franchise canon since Rogue One. Set five years after the initiation of Order 66, the story follows the character of Cal Kestis, a Jedi padawan turned scrapper living secretly among the denizens of the planet Bracca. Through some unforeseen circumstance brought forth by occupational hazard, he unintentionally exposes himself to the Empire and draws the attention of its Jedi-hunting inquisitors. Left with no choice, Cal sets off on a journey to confront his past while venturing out into the galaxy with the hope of restoring the Jedi Order.
A lost hero who finds new purpose and faces off against a great adversity, all while getting help from friends he gains throughout his journey. Sound familiar? This has been the plotline of every major Star Wars story minus the prequel trilogy. While the basis of the plot is fairly generic, especially within its universe, it’s one that is welcome none the less. This gives the narrative a sense of linearity that both new players and fans could appreciate, as it gives them a chance to immerse themselves with the character and the journey rather than worrying about choices and outcomes.
Despite being a new character, Cal Kestis gives us a close insight to the aftermath of the Jedi Purge. He bears both the physical and mental scars of Order 66, which has also left his relationship with the force in a damaged state. The portrayal and characterization of the hero and his companions are both enjoyable and relatively memorable. They take clear inspiration from the partnerships forged in other Star Wars stories like Rogue One, Rebels and the original trilogy. Respawn’s development of each character is definitely commendable, as they are able to shape each one with unique personalities that make them likeable or relatable. Personally, BD-1 has become one of my favourite droid characters within the franchise, which is a testament to its characterization despite only speaking in beeps and boops. The voice and motion acting provided by Cameron Monaghan and Debra Wilson also lend a very strong cinematic feel to the game, which gave cutscenes profound significance to the narrative’s immersion.
A lot of people like to compare the gameplay to the likes of the Dark Souls and Bloodborne, but it honestly felt closer to something like 2018’s God of War. Depending on the level you choose at the beginning of the game, combat tends to be a little more forgiving than the aforementioned titles. Abilities are split between three main categories: Force, lightsaber and survival. Developing them will require exp, which you can obtain by defeating scores of opponents. While you can definitely hack and slash away with your sabre as you so please, you will find that timing a good parry is both beneficial and utterly satisfying. The combination of force and lightsaber abilities also come a-plenty, giving you a chance to experiment on the wide selection of enemies that appear in the game.
Perhaps the most Soulsborne-esque element present in the game comes in the form of the death mechanic. Upon defeat, you will lose all of the exp you had accumulated up until your last skill point. You will be able to regain it by striking the opponent that killed you, which again, is a very forgiving mechanic. Players will also respawn from the last ‘meditation circle’ they used to heal and access the skill tree, and previously defeated enemies will also respawn in the same positions as before.
The worlds you can visit also reminded me of God of War, as they present a variety of different environments filled with beautiful and haunting scenery and fascinating fauna. While these planets aren’t entirely ‘open-world’, it has many areas that beckons players to explore. This also introduces an element of platforming reminiscent of the Uncharted franchise, as players traverse through caverns and ruins by climbing vines and swinging through ropes. The world entices players to access all its hidden areas by promising loot and hidden secrets. However, this is also where the game’s shortcomings come to light. Despite going through the various obstacles being both fun and exciting, the pay-off wasn’t always as good as I’d hoped. There is very limited customisation present in the game, with many (like Cal’s outfit or the Mantis’ exterior) being delegated as strictly cosmetic only. This means that finding a new poncho or BD-1 skin will have no effect to the character’s overall stats or aesthetics. So, if you’ve jumped through hoops looking to find some game breaking equipment or an alternate costume for Cal, then prepare to be met disappointment.
The lightsaber customisation is perhaps the only saving grace in this category, as they give you a wide array of emitters, sleeves and materials that can really make the lightsaber your own. However, you are limited to only blue or green at the beginning of the game, with access to the other colours being locked until mid-way through the story.
A notable element to the game’s success that must be mentioned is in the music. Composers Stephen Barton and Gordy Haab have clearly drawn careful inspiration from John Williams’ work from the franchise, as they have created a masterful ensemble that exudes excitement, emotion and grandeur that can only be found in Star Wars. The placement of music during tense scenes in combat and cinematics really accentuates your role as a lone Jedi fighting against an entire Empire.
Score: 9 Imperial Credits out of 10
Overall, Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order is one of the best titles to have come out of 2019. It’s also one of the best Star Wars games we’ve received in a very long time, which is a credit to the quality that Respawn as a development studio is able to produce. While the game isn’t entirely perfect, it takes many steps in the right direction. I hope they continue this path forward and regain the trust of eager fans that lost hope during the Battlefront 2 fiasco.