Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Review

Is this game strong in the force? Or is its lack of faith disturbing

Back in 2013 fresh off its multi billion dollar buyout by Disney and news of a new movie trilogy, the Star Wars licence was handed to E.A in a deal that was meant to see a new era of Star Wars games. Now in 2019 with only a handful of controversial titles, EA is trying once more with Jedi Fallen Order, brought to us in combination with Titanfall developers Repawn Entertainment.

Fallen Order puts you in the role of Cal Ketis; a Jedi Padawn and survivor of the Purge featured in Revenge of the Sith (think, execute order 66). Portrayed by Gotham and Shameless actor Cameron Monaghan, Cal spends his days working on a ship breaking yard where his destiny seems to be dismantling ships and hiding from his past. However after revealing his Jedi powers in order to save a friend during a freak accident, he is forced to go on the run. Teaming up with former Jedi Master Cere Junda (Debra Wilson) and gruff handy pilot Greez Dritus (Daniel Roebuck) Cal finds himself in a race to retrieve a list of Jedi potentials from the Imperial Inquisition and in particular the sinister Second Sister.

The encounters with the Second Sister are one of the game highlights though they are hampered by unnecessary Quick Time event prompts that feel they are just there to keep your interest.
Source: Respawn Entertainment

While clearly an action-adventure game Fallen Order feels more of a mishmash of various other titles. From Dark Souls we get the familiar fighting pattern; after locking onto your foe to engage in combat you’re looking to mostly block, or if you can get the timing right, parry enemy attacks to open them up to a counterattack. Of course its melee combat against varied enemies, but don’t worry you can deflect blaster fire back to the enemy in classic Jedi style. We also get the exploration element where as you traverse your surroundings you open up shortcuts and find Meditation Points (serving as the Bonfire for you Dark Souls fans out there). A quick rest here will heal you up and replenish your healing items but respawn all the enemies. Like most RPGs this is great for getting experience to spend on skills, such as the ability to throw your Lightsaber at distant enemies or even a burst of speed to close the gap.

The issue however is combat doesn’t feel as fast pace as it should be. Cal is sometimes too slow to react in combat often leading to frustrating and often cheap hits. Quite often we would try to avoid an attack only to find ourselves being hit by it anyway due to hit box issues. Melee can be fun however after gaining the Force Push ability it becomes all to easy to just knock enemies off the ledge and call it a day.

The upgrades themselves don’t feel as powerful as the game would like you to think, with more only being unlocked as Cal learns a new power. It feels (perhaps rightly so) like the game purposefully wanted you to feel weaker at the start in exchange for an endgame where you wield the full might of the force. Though by that point there isn’t much point in using later abilities as by and large the early ones get you through just fine. Changing your Lightsaber also feels a bit pointless given all it does it affect it’s appearance for a couple of cut-scenes. Honestly giving the option to change your blade’s colour from the get go would have been a better instead of waiting until almost 3/4’s of the way through.

The other big influence is The Uncharted games. Temple exploration, puzzles and climbing sections are all present, but despite incredible visuals they never quite hit Uncharted’ s heights. Climbing in particular is a struggle at times with a camera that seems to fight you every step of the way to make those leaps. Simple jumping is also a pain as Cal will simply not make the jumps you think he can, causing you end up second guessing his ability to make them. Though thankfully unlike Dark Souls missing a jump only puts you back where you fell off minus some health. A small kindness.

You do unlock a double jump later in the game that helps. However even then often you’ll find yourself missing jumps as the Camera struggles to keep up with your antics.

The puzzles of Fallen Order however are a delight to be savoured, particularly as they are few and far between. Most involve pulling or pushing objects with the force however quite often than not you’ll have to rely on physics as well to see you through. Using force blasts to catapult steel balls around a ramp might seem easy but when you can slow objects down or push them around the solutions might not be as simple as you think. Good thing you have a hint system to keep you on the straight and narrow.

Whilst there are positives from these two franchises, overall the main issue of Fallen Order is the feeling it was going to be a full Dark Souls esqe adventure before changes were made. The initial areas have an extremely pleasing gameplay loop of firm but fair combat encounters, discovering useful but not overpowered shortcuts and then finding another mediation spot to heal and buy a new skill. As the game progresses it begins to add more action set pieces and becomes unsure what game it’s meant to be. The Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk in particular starts with a set piece featuring Rogue One character Star Wars character Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker returning to the role) before descending into a generic platforming section broken up by the occasional slide down a hill which the game likes to throw at you. Though Cal has no sense of traction and it becomes too easy to slide off the edge and into frustration.

The characters and overall plot of Fallen Order suffer as well from this mishmash of mechanics. The first half seems more focused on just letting you enjoy the gameplay loop, but when the revelations and characterisation start it’s all a bit rushed. At one section of the game the plot is convinced we should be upset at a certain character where they’ve done nothing to gain that ire. Too often conflicts are swept under the rug and you struggle to really care for anyone as characters simply don’t feel like they have much going for them personality wise (Expect for your tiny droid friend BD-1 who is just adorable).

BD-1 is your loveable droid companion who will be able to hack droids, carry you across zipwires and open previously locked doors. Though you need to find those upgrades first.
(Source: Respawn Entertainment)

From a production perspective, at times Fallen Order does have some technical glitches. Playing on the PS4 version we often found it would slow down or freeze if we went through a door too fast and quite often clothing would start to go all over the place on it’s own accord and a couple of textures didn’t load in. Quite often this would break the emersion if not flat out ruin pivotal moments. This is probably a symptom of Fallen Order really testing the limit of the PS4 hardware, and we can’t help but think the PS5 and PC will do a much better job of handling the beefy requirements.

Because boy, when things did run smoothly the worlds of Fallen Order were something to behold. Each with a unique colour scheme and palette that helped make the locations more memorable. Our favourite was Zeffo with it’s combination of Mountains to climb, ice caverns to explore and imperial facilities to navigate. Very rarely do we get to explore a full detailed and realised Star Wars universe, but Respawn have done a fantastic job here.

We may have focused on the dark side of the game just a little too much here, but all in all we aren’t giving into our anger; its a satisfying experience. Clocking in around 25 hours you’ll find plenty to do and once you get into the flow of combat it’s enjoyable throwing Stormtroopers about and the gameplay loop at the start is easily it’s best part. We only wish they had just stuck to that as the strong start could easily have made for a really amazing game. Fallen Order is definitely the best stepping stone we’ve seen to taking the Dark Souls formula and making it more accessible as a whole, bringing the best parts of that genre and introduces them to a new audience. I wouldn’t be surprised if people who finish this go on to try games like Dark Souls, Bloodborne or Sekiro.

All in all Fallen Order is not the New Hope we were after however it isn’t a Phantom Menace either. Hampered by a unclear vision it struggles to know what sort of game it wants to be and the story it wants to tell. Though with a rousing score that captures the aural feel of the films, Lightsaber Combat that feels rewarding, puzzles that will challenge you it’s a game of ups and downs. Star Wars fans will have an excellent time though overall in this case the Empire has most assuredly not struck back. Enough Star Wars puns now.

Or so they thought…

8/10

The force is strong with this one.

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