I had heard a lot of things about the latest Star Wars game. Uncharted like, Dark Souls like, metroidvania like, it was hard to know what to believe. It turns out while this list sounds incompatible, they all are true in their own ways, and somehow the game met the high expectations that had been built up by the media about this Respawn Entertainment venture.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a single player Star Wars game (sorry Amy Hennig) that is set soon after the prequel trilogy, and before A New Hope where a young Jedi Cal Kestis is working as a scrapper. He has been in hiding after the Jedi were wiped out in Episode III, until one day when he has to use the force to quickly keep his friend from falling to his death. This triggers some silent alarm that has Storm Troopers lead by the Second Sister hone in on their location.
Cal soon discovers that the Second Sister is a Sith badass and he escaped with his life thanks to great timing from Greez and Cere who swoop in to get him out of trouble. Cere kicks off his journey to rediscover his Jedi training taking him to an old temple where he meets his new companion BD-1 who is a little bi-pedal droid with a lot of personality. This is where the story to try to rebel against the empire kicks in.
The story is much better than I was expecting. Some of the characters, like Cal, land a bit flat but the supporting cast in generally above average to great. This is at its best with the villains, especially the Second Sister. Early on she is an anonymous badass, then in the middle she changes to a badass with an important story. Thanks to a villian being that damn good and conflicted it helps elevate the story from decent to great.
The gameplay is key to the whole experience here and despite a few minor flaws it is something special. Initially the game has an Uncharted feel as you platform around with some moving environments as you climb, which looks and feels like the sci-fi outtakes from A Thief's End. Once you get the lightsaber the game takes a big shift from that feeling, quickly opening up its spaces removing that single player corridor feel of other action titles.
Once these sections open up you find yourself coming up against a lot of places you can’t enter that appear in red on BD-1’s digital map which is a super useful feature. Seeing something that appears accessible stops you wasting time by quickly pulling up BD-1’s map. If it’s green keep trying, if it’s red move on. This aspect of the game definitely gets its inspiration from metroidvanias, but that’s as far as that genre contributes.
The other commonly mentioned comparison is Dark Souls, and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has definitely taken a page from them here. The obvious inspirations are the use of save points where you can heal up, but the cost is the regeneration of all enemies, and when you die you lose any experience you haven’t spent on skills yet. To regain this you need to go back and hit the enemy that finished you off once, or grab the floating orb of experience if you fell off a cliff. These ones are obvious but the best element they borrowed is the use of shortcuts. Because of the amount of backtracking you will do when you make your way around a long or especially challenging area, you can unlock a lift or a door, or force-bend some metal and the game will tell you that a shortcut has been unlocked. This gives a regular feeling of accomplishment and allows the game’s areas to bend in on themselves regularly.
The game’s combat is good, and will change the game’s feeling depending on your difficulty setting, which fortunately you are never locked into. I initially started the game on the hardest difficulty out of morbid curiosity and enjoyed it but the game didn’t feel quite right so I jumped into the start menu, dropped it down to the easiest mission and the whole experience changed. All of a sudden with better reaction times, especially for firing laser beams back at StormTroopers with my lightsaber, I suddenly felt like the Jediest of Jedi.
The game isn’t totally perfect. There were some significant load times, especially early on but this has been improved with patches, but was especially jarring mid level when the game would stutter despite playing on a PS4 Pro. There are some annoying sliding on ice stages that had me frustratingly falling to my death, and platforming on the whole isn’t quite as polished as I would expect as gravity quickly became Cal’s greatest nemesis.
Despite some flaws, I had some unreasonably high expectations for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and the game massively exceeded them. A few bugs are easy to overlook when a game does something new, and the mashup of these different game design elements was absolutely new. Mixed with a story that is worthy of Star Wars Fandom it’s an easy recommend for Star Warts and 3rd person action games alike.