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The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Review


For years now, Electronic Arts has owned the rights to the Star Wars franchise in terms of Video Games, licensed by Disney. They’ve released plenty of less-than-stellar games with bad fan and critic reception. They even went as far as to say that single-player games were no longer in demand. So, when it was announced that a new single-player Star Wars game was being released by EA, and developed by Respawn, a company known only for first-person shooters, my hopes weren’t the highest. This is a case where it’s nice to be wrong. 

Jedi: Fallen Order takes place about a decade after the events of The Revenge of the Sith. Order 66 has already happened, the Jedi are mostly gone, and the Empire is in full control. The protagonist and main character, Cal Kestis, is a Jedi padawan who was in training during The Revenge of the Sith but is now in hiding as a scrapper and fully grown up. Exposing his force powers to save a friend forces him to move and ultimately begins the story and the game. 

It’s apparent right away that Fallen Order is heavily souls based in terms of gameplay design and combat. I don’t mean simply because you can dodge and lock on. There’s so much more to it that borrows from the FromSoftware formula. Metroidvania levels, ‘bonfires’ and health stims that resemble estus flasks. And of course, the intense boss battles. Fallen Order does however borrow more of the “thoughtful” combat ideas from Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Parrying and breaking an opponent’s guard becomes a critical mechanic, and spamming attacks will only end up getting you in trouble. That is if you aren’t playing on story difficulty. 

Unlike the Souls games, Fallen Order has separate difficulties to choose from, ranging from story difficulty to Jedi Grand Master. There’s no doubt the options open up the game for a much wider range of players who would otherwise skip a Souls game due to difficulty. Of course, as a Star Wars game, a wider audience is intended. I have nothing against the difficulty. In fact, I played through the game three times on three separate difficulty settings. Each time was a vastly different. In story I was able to sprint to the end without a worry in the world. On Grand Master, I needed to scrounge for every upgrade I could and spent far more time being punished with death.  

The point is, the difficulty setting does make a difference for the way the game is experienced. Especially with a “thoughtful” combat that encourages careful play under more stress. Like most games, the default setting is generally the intended way to play, and I would stress that with Fallen Order. 

One of the main components to any successful Star Wars release is the tone and the “feeling.” Is the new release, be it a game, a show, or a movie, able to capture the Star Wars universe? Respawn does a stellar job in every sense of the property. The game even opens up with tie fighters screeching past a broken-down star destroyer. As the camera pans past the busy scrap yard, we hear music get louder and the camera stops on Cal, who takes his ear buds out, and the music is muffled. Within a minute, we get iconic sounds, familiar camera cuts, and new music that gives us insight into what it is that a Jedi listens to. This immediate immersion into the Star Wars universe is a constant throughout the game. 

The sound design on everything, from the lightsabers and blasters to the wildlife and atmosphere, is spot on. The same goes for art and design. The levels have an obvious attention to detail and plenty of sights that made me stop just to take a photo. The visuals and the sound are top tier. 

Apart from the addictive combat, what truly held a grip on me as I progressed was the story and characters. I wouldn’t call the story groundbreaking. At the end of the day, it’s still a Disney-owned Star Wars story, and there isn’t anything too wild. However, the characters are as compelling as ever. Each one had their own developmental arc carried along by great dialogue that fit perfect in the game. Cal Kestis became loveable in no time, and his droid BD-1 became a favorite of mine. What the story lacks in surprise and unique ideas it makes up for in strong narrative and great characters.  

Considering Cal is a Jedi, and the player controls a Jedi, the character power progression is also important. As Cal learns more and remembers his past, plenty of satisfying abilities are opened up, and they don’t disappoint. His light saber will even progress and become modified by the end, both practically and visually. It’s in the visual customization and mods, though, that I felt some disappointment. 

Almost all chests or crates in the game hold customization items, be it lightsaber pieces or new poncho colors. Sure, it adds some depth and incentive to the overall game. But there is an undeniable feeling that Respawn could have gone further with the cosmetics. What bugged me the most was the lack of color options. More lightsaber color options open up toward the very end of the game. Even if they nailed the look of them, there isn’t enough time to use them, and there is no new game plus to truly appreciate the differing colors. Which means either green or blue for most of the game. Not a massive hit to my experience, but a nagging feeling as I neared the end. 

What genuinely was a hit to my experience in the game was the sheer number of bugs. Fallen Order is a game that clearly needed a bit more polish, and even now, still has bugs. The texture bugs look dumb but aren’t game breaking. It’s the environmental clipping and collision that affects the game. Considering the player spends so much time climbing around the planets and levels, it’s a problem that Cal will often latch on to things and simply fall. A climbing animation will be seen and all of a sudden, he lets go. Sometimes his legs will just fall through the ground. There were plenty of times that I would even die due to some bugs, resulting in XP loss here and there. The technical flaws are largely what keep Fallen Order from reaching pure enjoyment. 

Looking beyond the bugs, my experience is Fallen Order was still fantastic. There’s a reason I played through three times. The game is great, and Respawn nailed a Star Wars game for the first time in a long time for EA and Disney. What makes it even better is the fact that it proved to be a single-player game that would put Star Wars games back on track. 

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