It feels like a long, long time ago in a galaxy far away since we had a Star Wars game to shout about. We’d had the Battlefront series and Amy Hennig’s cancelled Star Wars game. Over the past few years, we’ve had a deluge of Star Wars properties with mainline Skywalker movies and the spin-offs, and it’s all fallen a little flat. But now we have Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order that comes out with the lightsaber swinging.
Respawn, famous for Titanfall 2 and more recently Apex Legends, are trying their hand at a new genre – the action/adventure game that often feels like the greatest hits of features from the best games over the past 5 years. There are hints of Uncharted, Sekiro, Tomb Raider and Metroid in here all blended together with a topping of Star Wars. It doesn’t excel in anything in particular but it definitely provides a satisfying feeling and pulls you along at light speed.
The story in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order goes back to the roots of Star Wars tales with a group brought together to restore the Jedi. We have our gang aboard a ship travelling from planet to planet, we have secret plans hidden inside a droid (the loveable BD-1) and we have our Jedi hero learning about the force and regaining his powers. The story takes us across a number of planets – from the homeworld of our hero Cal, where engineers have become scrappers workers are knelt on by the Empire. There’s the rocky Zeffo with it’s hidden tombs and the lush planet of Kashyyyk filled with Wookies. The story may sag a little in the middle, but on the whole, it’s an action romp that’ll leave you wanting to find out the conclusion of this very ‘Star Wars’ story.
The events take place just after Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, where the Empire is hunting down Jedi. You play as Cal Kestis, a Jedi in hiding as a scrapper on a planet filled with junk. Early in the game, Cal’s Force sensitivity is revealed as he attempts to save his work pal from a fall while trying to do an ad hoc job instructed by the Empire. As they attempt to flee, Cal’s train is stopped by The Second Sister and she informs the group that they must reveal the hidden Jedi or face execution on the spot. After facing down against the Second Sister and the Empire, Cal makes his escape with help from former Jedi Cere and pilot Greez.
Gameplay in Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order is a pic n’ mix of some of the best games in recent years. There’s Tomb Raider style climbing and exploring, there are the skill tree abilities from God of War and the battling system from Sekiro/Dark Souls. It does all of these things adequately, but not one thing really well. Smothered over the top of this gameplay is a layer of Star Wars-like icing on a slightly dry cake, so to the laymen, you probably wouldn’t notice the cracks. They are there, but you have to dig under a few layers of fun to find them. The influence of FromSoft games is surprising. This is Sekiro light for the masses – certainly not as punishing as Sekiro from earlier in 2019. You more than likely won’t throw your controller down in frustration.
As well as the combat system there’s also the meditation points where you can level up your skill tree. You have a few branches to fill out – Force, Lightsaber and Survival. You learn new skilful lightsaber moves like an overhead slash, a neat little kick and running block. As well as learning new skills through the skill tree you learn new skills out there in the wild through flashbacks with Cal as a young Jedi Padawan learning from his master.
The combat system isn’t perfect, far from it. Enemies rush you, bosses shoot and chase you. If you’ve never played Sekiro or Dark Souls then this might be quite surprising. Someone used to these games or the FromSoft collection may find this implementation of the combat system a little clunky and imprecise, however, if you’re new to this type of game then you’ll likely find this challenging and fun. Respawn have attempted their interpretation of a poise meter, whereby you can ‘break’ and opponents poise before hurting them with attacks. The poise meter is like a shield, which needs to be broken by either repeated attacks or the right timing.
As a Star Wars fan, there’s a real sense of fun and realisation of a Star Wars experience here. The combat is a little janky, there are some bugs with environments/characters popping in, but you can’t deny this is a really fun experience. The sound of the lightsaber, the boss fights and taking off from planets to fly into space feel really visceral.
The graphics in the game are pretty good. The character models, in general, look fine, it’s not quite up there with the standards of some of the other latter stage PS4 games like Red Dead or God Of War. The Wookies, in particular, look a little odd and stuck out to me as quite poor. The audio, however, is spot on. As soon as you start up the main campaign the Empire ships do a fly-by and you hear the familiar screech that is distinctively Star Wars. The score feels distinctively like the Star Wars franchise and all the sound effects from the ships, to the character sound effects and the lightsabers add up to an immersive Star Wars experience.
I really enjoyed my time with Cal and the gang. The exploration, levelling up skills with new force powers and the fighting system really engaged me and gave me the Star Wars experience I feel like I have been missing over the years. For me, the last 2 mainline films had been disappointing but this feels like an adventure through space which we haven’t seen from Star Wars in many years. There’s definitely room to improve in many areas, but as the first pass from Respawn, this is a solid effort.
I didn’t enjoy the backtracking in the game. For example, you search through a planet, find a temple and discover it’s secrets. You then have to find your way out and trackback, which can take up to 20 mins to get back to your ship. Yes, there are short cuts that can be opened up, but it would have been nice to be able to travel back to your ship much faster. As I have mentioned before there were a few bugs in the game too, characters and textures popping in and out and loading times were a bit of an issue (I was playing on an original PS4). These certainly weren’t game-breaking bugs or problems, but they are worth noting and could have been tidied up by Respawn.
Overall, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is one of my top games of 2019. It’s simply just a whole lot of fun to play and I wanted to come back time and time again to discover the secrets, to listen to the music & sound effects, level up my Jedi skills and experience the set pieces. It may straddle a few styles of gameplay and perhaps it doesn’t do any one of these super well, but the way the game blends it all together with that Star Wars sheen it’s very impressive and you’ll be left with a feeling of satisfaction.
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Release Date: 15th November 2019