Star Wars has had plenty of ups in its 40-year history, but creatively, there’s no denying that we’re at a low point in the revered franchise, after the disaster that is The Last Jedi on the movie front, and just about everything stemming from the seemingly ill-fated partnership between Disney and Electronic Arts when it comes to Star Wars games.
But recovery is on the way, with the success that is The Mandalorian and surprisingly, the latest offering from EA, Respawn Entertainment’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a well-put-together title that brings balance to the Force. Although the bar for recent Star Wars games is not particularly high, Cal Kestis’ adventures post-Revenge of the Sith help bring a new hope to future entries.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is an ambitious third-person action-adventure that combines the iconic traits of several high-profile games to make up a uniquely Star Wars experience.
There are traversal elements and amazing set pieces like the Uncharted series, exploration dictated by abilities like a Metroidvania, and a more accessible combat system akin to the Soulsborne games. It is truly one of the more original Star Wars games for a long time now, only bogged down by persistent bugs and a general lack of polish that is hard to ignore.
While you can jump in blind, the plot of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order will make more sense if you are well-versed in the lore and stories of the original six films. Taking place right between the two trilogies, the story follows Cal, a survivor of the ominous Order 66 from the rising Galactic Empire that wiped out the Jedi, as he tries his best to evade the attention of the Empire.
Things predictably take a turn for the worse, exposing Kestis to the Imperial Inquisitors and setting off on an interplanetary adventure, alongside ex-Jedi Cere, the charming but gruff Greez, and of course, one of the cutest additions to the franchise (outside of Baby Yoda), the ever-helpful BD-1 droid.
The overarching story of scouring ancient tombs, searching for a MacGuffin, and obtaining lost knowledge is definitely not the star of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Instead, it is the development of Cal and his crewmates as characters against the backdrop of the destruction of the Republic and the fallout from the Clone Wars that commands the attention.
Both Cal and Cere go through eventful arcs, and the entire supporting cast is given enough depth and story to warrant a sense of connection for the player, and more importantly, fans of Star Wars. Even the Inquisitors, the game’s primary antagonists, have their time to shine, all contributing to the grand idea of a universe with the Empire’s iron-fisted cruelty and the people’s indomitable will to survive and overcome the chaos in their own ways.
It would be fair to anoint Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order as more in line with the franchise’s original ideas and tenets than more recent entertainment properties, and Respawn’s use of flashbacks and dream-like sequences are a huge part of that. The ever-changing blend of past, present, and future often subverts the expectations, and help sell the drama that is synonymous with Star Wars.
Thankfully, the gameplay sections are still strong enough to accompany the weight of the story. Piloting Greez’s ship, the Mantis, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order allows players to freely explore the various planets introduced throughout the story, to a certain degree. While the option is there, it is advisable to only go off the beaten path after a few hours in lieu of tougher enemies, as well as the need for Force Powers to truly explore a planet.
This non-linearity comes into play as Cal slowly regains his powers like the Force Push or Pull, opening up previously unreachable sections of the map. Unlike most Metroidvanias, however, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order certainly does not want players to get lost, with bright coloured iconography reminding you of blocked off areas, potential routes, and secrets.
It removes much of the mystery, and can either be a boon or a bane depending on your preference, Considering how some of the bigger maps can get too messy, with multiple overlapping paths and levels, some help is always appreciated.
Plenty of secrets and puzzles lie in wait, often with rewards such as customisation items and the occasional health or Force upgrade. It pays to explore in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and will give fans plenty to chew over with touches of lore every once in a while. That said, the lack of fast travel means players have to sometimes make a long trek across the map, and feels cumbersome more than anything.
In between, be prepared for climbing sections, some ice-skating/sliding sequences, and more environmental puzzles. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order truly wants you to look at the worlds Respawn has created, and they are often rewarding in their own ways.
Of course, it would not be a Star Wars game without some lightsaber or blaster action. Despite the initial hoohaa over the combat bearing a resemblance to the notoriously difficult Soulsborne games, it has largely been overblown. Consider it a lite version of sorts, with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order requiring more patience and tact than their predecessors.
Dodging, parrying, and utilising your Force powers are important tools to master, especially when your enemies are not just cannon fodder. Except for the Stormtroopers who insist on shooting their blasters at a Jedi who can deflect the bolts, other humanoid foes have a block meter, attack patterns, and often unblockable attacks.
Weakening their block meters will open them up to damaging attacks, and the occasional parry and execution is always fun to watch. Enemies tend to telegraph their attacks, and fighting with control will yield the best results. This applies to the dangerous flora and fauna as well.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order’s combat is not at the same level as those of From Software titles, not as smooth or seamless, but the challenge is still there, especially on the harder difficulties.
The only gripe is that the combat can often fail to keep up with you, usually at moments where multiple enemies gang up on you. It is never fun to be continuously dodging aggressive melee enemies while getting shot at from off-screen. At least give this young Jedi a fighting chance, or the fun simply dissipates.
Defeating opponents feeds into the game’s upgrade system, with skill points being used to unlock more powerful skills and upgrades for Cal. Be it for survivability, Force powers, or lightsaber mastery, almost all the skills count for something, especially at higher difficulties.
For another analog to the Soulsborne games, meditating at specific spots allows Cal to restore his health and BD-1’s rejuvenating Stims, but at the cost of reviving all the enemies. It makes for a satisfying loop of practising and gaining precious XP, but otherwise makes zero sense for a game like this to have enemies constantly respawning.
All these elements make up for a fun and engaging time, even if they are not exactly at the peak conditions of their inspirations. It definitely helps that all of it contributes to driving forward Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order’s wonderfully constructed plot, but unfortunately, the game is not without problems.
Missing textures are a common sight, and overall the game does not convey a high quality of visual fidelity, even in cutscenes. There are moments of stuttering when moving from some areas to the next, and the regularity of enemies in a T-pose floating down steps to engage Cal has gone from hilarious to downright frustrating.
Crashes have also reared their ugly heads, the camera can sometimes be erratic, the interaction between elements in the world and Cal can be unreliable, and the lip-syncing goes awry from time to time. These problems are by no means permanent, and fixes are surely on the way, it just sucks that they are still alarmingly frequent in a Star Wars product.
That is the conundrum that surrounds Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order ultimately. Like both the Light and Dark side, the game has plenty going for it and against it.
No other Star Wars game has taken on the mantle of putting a character front and centre in telling a story since Starkiller in the Force Unleashed games. Add to that a potent blend of action, platforming, and replayability, and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has already come close to being the crown jewel. However, the lack of polish and bugs remains an impediment to its rightful place amongst the brightest stars.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Respawn can seemingly do no wrong, and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order easily becomes one of the best Star Wars game ever made.
Gameplay - 8/10
Story - 10/10
Presentation - 8/10
Value - 9/10