When you think of the major events of ten years ago, you may say things like Barack Obama’s inauguration or perhaps the death of the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson. You may even bring up Swine Flu, or when Rage Against the Machine became a Christmas number one in the UK charts. These are all major events, without question, but there is one event that beats them all. 2009 was the last time we had a single-player Star Wars game! Yes, it has been a decade since Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 hit the shelves. Well, thankfully after those ten long years, we have Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
A quick note of worth before we get cracking with this review. A lot of fans in the Star Wars community were rather upset when Disney announced that all the previous Expanded Universe content (now referred to as “Legends”) would not be considered official canon by Disney moving forward after their historic purchase of the franchise. What they did say, however, is that all additional content out of the movies moving forward would be. The huge benefit of this is that everything released now is a part of the overall Star Wars story.
Set five years after the events of Revenge of the Sith and the Great Jedi Purge (codenamed Order 66), we meet Cal Kestis. He is a former Jedi Padawan in hiding from the Galactic Empire, working as a scrapper in a junkyard. While on the job, Cal had to use the Force to save his apparent only friend from falling to his death. Unfortunately for Cal, an Imperial Probe droid captured the event, and he soon finds himself pursued by the Empire’s secret Jedi hunters, the Inquisitors. Cal is rescued from the same fate many Jedi suffered at the hands of the Empire and is soon whisked on an adventure that takes him across the galaxy, and (in typical Star Wars fashion) discovers his destiny could change the fate of the galaxy.
The story in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Empire is, well, adequate. Cal himself is fine as a protagonist, and the supporting cast do a good job, with some familiar faces popping up throughout your journey. The main issue with the story is that it is just adequate. Star Wars: Battlefront II may have had its issues, but the (albeit short) story was brilliant. There are some good moments throughout the story in this game, including a heartbreaking flashback to when Cal was a young Padawan, but the story for the most part takes a back seat behind the action.
And with the action being as good as it is, that fact that the story seems like a second thought could be excused. I suppose the story will only really matter to us die-hard Star Wars fans? But yes, the action in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is rather good, indeed, but not entirely original, it has to be said. If you are familiar with the Uncharted games, then exploring the various locations will feel extremely familiar. Respawn did add their own little touches to the way Cal explores his environment as he, ya know, is a Jedi, so he is capable of doing things Nathan Drake can only dream of.
Exploring each planet’s main area, you will be faced with numerous environmental puzzles, with many of them leaving you completely stumped on how to get past them. This happens for one of two reasons. Firstly, the answer is staring at you straight in the face and you just don’t realise it, which happened to me a lot. Secondly, it is because you have not learned a particular skill to help you get past an obstacle. Cal had to go into hiding after Order 66 and completely disconnect himself from the Force, so he has simply forgotten a lot of the Jedi tricks he did learn as a Padawan. When you come up against such a puzzle, then it’s time to head back to your ship and return to that area later. If it is a main part of the story, then you are told when to return to the Mantis (your ship), but if it’s an area that just contains a chest or a Force Echo (Cal has the ability of Psychometry, a rare Force ability that allows him to sense the past while touching objects), then you’ll have to remember where that is and come back to it when you have learned the relevant skill.
It is worth remembering where these locations are as sensing Force Echos is a great way to boost your XP and learn new techniques, and also each planet will have subplots of the inhabitants, the Imperial occupation, told through Force Echos. The various chests you’ll find will contain cosmetic upgrades for Carl’s lightsaber, his poncho and also the adorable droid who will accompany you throughout your journey, BD-1. That’s right! Apart from a pre-order bonus or what came in a deluxe version, EA were true to their word and added no paid extras in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. This is a game that rewards you for exploring and heading away from the obvious path to the next objective. The rewards might only be cosmetic or XP, but it makes a huge change for that to just appear within the game itself.
The planets and areas themselves mean the constant backtracking is not a chore at all. Each planet looks and feels completely different, to the claustrophobic forests of Kashyyyk to the eerie uneasiness of Dathomir (that’s right, the home of the Nightsisters and Darth Maul himself makes an appearance). Within each planet, you’ll also navigate through ancient tombs and Imperial facilities.
The set piece sequences in Fallen Order are amongst the highlights of the game. They will range from sliding down a trench while being fired upon by a chasing ship to falling and landing on a giant bat-like creature during a mid-air battle, to also scaling an AT-AT. They are big, loud, full of explosions and push Cal’s Jedi abilities right to the limit, and thanks to the ease and responsiveness of the controls, the set piece sequences are not a major pain in the backside like they could have been as a lot of the time they require pinpoint jumps or button presses; otherwise, you’d meet a grizzly fate.
And by a grizzly fate, I mean dying, which is something you will be doing a lot of in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order as, surprisingly, it’s a bit of a Soulsborne-light game. Unless you put the difficulty to its highest setting, it is nowhere near as difficult as a Soulsborne game, but even at the standard difficulty, Fallen Order can be a tough game. There are also a number of other elements from Dark Souls/Bloodborne. Firstly, the way you learn new Force abilities and regain your stim (health) packs is straight out of FromSoftware’s playbook. You meditate at various locations on the map where you can spend points on new abilities or rest to replenish your health and stim packs. The consequence of resting, however, is that all the minor enemies will respawn. It doesn’t make a great deal of sense in a canon Star Wars story to have enemies respawn, but let’s not get bogged down in what makes sense in Star Wars here. The enemies you’ll face also mimic the ones you’ll come up against in Dark Souls as they will vary in difficulty. You’ll also be able to unlock shortcuts throughout the areas you explore, so if you do succumb to an enemy, then it’s a quick trip back to try again. If you do find yourself trying a number of times to tackle a particularly tough enemy, the loading times will drive you as insane as constantly dying will. If you’re playing a game with testing combat that will result in multiple deaths, having shorter loading times is essential. If there was no way for Respawn to shorten these loading times, then simply having something to read or look at on the loading screen could have helped with that issue.
Even though you may find yourself dying a lot in combat, it is a hell of a lot of fun, and this for me has been the best Star Wars game to actually make it feel like a lightsaber is a deadly weapon as opposed to a wet baguette, which is how they tend to feel like in other Star Wars games. Simple enemies, like Stormtroopers, can be dealt with by a single blow from your lightsaber, and while tougher enemies will require more than a single stroke, it still feels like it’s a damaging and important weapon. Along with your lightsaber, Cal has the usual Jedi tricks (once he’s learned them again) of pushing and pulling with the Force, and also he can slow down time around him, which will help with dispatching Fallen Order’s tougher enemies. Using the Force like this does bring into question Cal’s allegiance to the ways of the Jedi, however, as Force-pulling an enemy towards you to kill them in a single blow is a rather aggressive technique for a Jedi, no matter the urgency of his mission.
To go back to the Soulsborne elements in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, much like in Bloodborne, you are rewarded for your aggression in combat. If your Force meter is low, preventing the use of your powers, then attacking an enemy will recharge it. You are also rewarded for successfully parrying an enemy’s attack, which most of the time is quite easy to do as you need to hit the parry button just before their attack lands. Recharging your Force meter is vital in the various boss battles you’ll come up against as simply using your lightsaber won’t do it in these testing battles.
Speaking of testing, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order will test your patience with some of its performance. You’ll encounter frame rate drops and rendering issues constantly, and you possibly may have to deal with the game completely crashing; I dealt with this issue twice while on the Wookiee home world of Kashyyyk. Apart from the two times the game completely crashed, the performance issues won’t stop you from playing the game, but they are incredibly annoying when they make enemies suddenly just pop into view or the frame rate stutter during a battle with multiple enemies on-screen. It is a real shame these performance issues are encountered throughout your adventure in a galaxy far, far away, but hopefully these will be patched at a later date.
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Platform: Xbox One, PS4, PC
Release Date: 15th November 2019
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